SaaS: The Secret Weapon for Profits (and the Planet)

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Paperless Politics

The Obama primary campaign in California wanted to focus on community involvement and grass-roots efforts on a scale that would test even the best organizational strategists. To save money and solve logistical headaches, the Obama campaign chose Central Desktop, a web-based collaboration platform for teams, to simplify the process of managing and sharing critical information with the more than 6,000 precinct captains in California, who in turn each had a team of volunteers with which to share and manage information. 

According to Central Desktop co-founder and CEO Isaac Garcia, the company has always had a green bent: "We do not have filing cabinets. We scan or email all documents into the system." All of the code is written using open source systems that are, at least, free and possibly built using few resources. Further, Garcia claims that using his company’s collaborative system internally is allowing him to travel much less when it comes to managing his company. His travel has decreased from one or two trips a week to one or two trips a month, saving him roughly $3,000–$5,000 a week on his individual business travel. 

Garcia believes the success of Central Desktop, which was founded in 2005, is due to how rich an experience can be delivered through a browser today compared to as recently as 5 years ago, helping to make the company’s new product a success. 

According to Garcia, Obama campaign workers could "invite co-workers into their workspace" using Central Desktop and give them complete access to all documents. The system saved on gas and mileage for internal meetings. On any campaign, there is an exercise known as a "call down," which involves a massive outreach blitz that, in a political campaign, normally requires all volunteers to be in one room as calling priorities shift throughout the campaign. This is not so anymore. "It was all done via the technology," says Garcia, saving thousands of campaign dollars by allowing workers to work from remote locations. also has a call-down feature for corporate sales forces. 

For the Texas primary, the Central Desktop system co-opted volunteers who were states away. People who were not professional political organizers could log on to, pull scripts and telephone lists, and call constituents directly, in a massive phone bank effort. This was the first time in history that volunteers could participate in a phone bank operation without leaving their homes.


Green MD

The first purportedly all-green pediatrics office in America exists thanks, in part, to athenahealth’s system. Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, an athenahealth client based in Oradell, N.J., claims that he has doubled his patient appointment time from 15 minutes to 30 minutes due to his new level of efficiency and speedier access to medical data. In addition to saving a small forest’s worth of paper a year through his paperless office, all surface materials in the office are made from ecologically sustainable materials, such as recycled materials for the ceiling tiles and an organic paint that releases no toxic fumes, creating "an optimal healing environment" for his patients.

If an all-organic, paperless medical practice is the optimal healing environment, then what is the optimal, green, work environment for something as inherently resource-intensive as a political campaign? Under the usual circumstances, no matter what the orientation of the candidate, the frenzied communication blitz behind any political campaign is anything but green; thousands of miles are flown or driven, and millions of flyers and memos are printed and sent out to coordinate the workers all in
the name of getting the word out.

Even the emails that are sent to campaign workers are not very green as they often contain duplicate documents, wasting disk space in the rush to be sure everyone has the latest information necessary to do their jobs.

Companies Featured in this Article:

Aberdeen Group, Inc.

Alterian CMS

athenahealth, Inc.

Central Desktop, Inc.

Entuity, Ltd.

Industrial Color

Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, Pediatrics

U.S. Department of Energy, Industrial Technologies Program

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The cloud seems to be manna to most analysts, investors, and vendors these days. As my colleague Alan Pelz-Sharpe writes, "It's a great term, ‘Cloud Computing,' since it conjures up visions of an invisible internet—an ether-like zone in the sky where computing power and storage is unfettered by the petty restrictions of boxes, cables, and technicians. Cloud computing sounds fluffy, it sounds cool, it sounds limitless, it sounds like the future."