Saba Summit

Alan D. Greenberg and Andy Nilssen, andyn@wainhouse.com

Saba Software this week held its annual user group / analyst day event in Orlando, called the Saba Summit, attended by many of what we call Sabanauts: the faithful (most of the time) fans of its integrated Learning Management System / Performance Management / Meeting platform. While the event was short on Saba Meeting-related announcements, the company announced its Saba Cloud Spring 2014 release, which includes WebRTC support for Saba Meeting’s video conferencing. Saba also announced a few other items of note, including TIM (The Intelligent Mentor) which leverages machine learning to provide intelligent and predictive recommendations across the entire Saba Cloud suite of products, and Recruiting@Work, a collaborative and predictive hiring solution. Any e-Learning advocates reading should note that Saba has added support for the TinCan 1.0 content standard. For those who pay attention to such things, CEO Shawn Farshchi also indicated in his keynote that the company should be done with its earnings restatements by the end of the year.

What Alan and Andy think: Think of Saba not how you think of any other web conferencing or UC&C player. While the company that bought / merged with Centra some years ago has flirted with freemium and low-pricing models and approaches to the web conferencing market in the past, it appears to have finally realized what it has with Saba Meeting — a compelling element of a larger unified learning / performance & talent management / social platform, where value from the real-time collar tech is added when (and only when) a customer employs someone with the snap to say “Hey, we can use this stuff for our communications, too!” Witness winner of the WR “cool customer award,” the California-based, international music store chain called Guitar Center. Using talent management features, social features contained in Saba PeopleCloud, and learning management features, Guitar Center has built out a remarkable universe of applications that includes internal training, its own university, employee management, and get this: retail sales. As only a retail company staffed by youthful music hounds can do, it reports “no guardrails” on how it throws the technology out to its employees. So imagine a webcam-enabled laptop or tablet in the hands of an employee showing off a specific Eric Clapton million dollar guitar to a wealthy collector — or a basic guitar to your novice rock student. Guitar Center told us it went from two Saba Meeting licenses to 12,000 when it realized what could be done with real-time communications (with recording included) integrated into its larger Saba software ecosystem. Microsoft showed off just such a real-time music industry application at its Lync Conference a few months ago — this appears to be the year of the guitar.

Farschi reports that Saba is well into transitioning its offering to the Cloud — 60% of its revenue is from the cloud, up from only 30% just a few years ago. Cloud delivery has brought with it the SaaS-typical rapid development approach — 900 features have been added to its services in the past year. The company’s challenges are in figuring out how to make its powerful HR / social capabilities appeal to the broader marketplace, and how to broaden its sales appeal beyond Human Resource managers and the occasional savvy CIO / CLO who gets what is possible with the full mix of offerings.