Is SaaS better than an ASP? We live in an arcane world where acronyms rule. It's what makes us a part of the exciting world of technology. And it's what drives the rest of the population crazy when they try to figure out what we're talking about.

In this case, I'm referring to the fast-emerging, highly touted new trend known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which proponents say will "wipe out traditional software," according to an article in The Economist.

Whether the trend goes that far is debatable. But as contributing writer Chad Vander Veen points out in his article, The Best Resource Government Isn't Using, SaaS succeeded where its predecessor, the application service provider (ASP), failed, namely by providing a service that's as fast, safe and reliable as traditional software.

Vander Veen's article features various government users, but it took a lot of digging to track them down. Government's aversion to risk-taking has kept CIOs from pressing forward with this new trend. Not that they aren't interested. Our online Quick Poll shows that more than 58 percent of the respondents have considered using SaaS. But there may be something else at play here. Private-sector CIOs have expressed mixed emotions about a technology solution that essentially takes many responsibilities out of their hands. The same issue could affect how public-sector CIOs perceive SaaS.

There's also the fact that most large government entities have already made major investments in traditional software, such as enterprise resource planning, case management, e-mail and so on. It's the smaller jurisdictions and agencies that have the most to gain -- and often the least money to invest -- in new services, such as SaaS.

What's intriguing about the SaaS trend is how it illustrates what Anatole Gershman of Accenture calls the "industrialization of services." Gershman is one of several people working in the new field of study known as "services science." Writer Merrill Douglas covers the topic in her article, Are You Being Served?

According to Gershman, just as the advent of cheap energy, cheap transportation and standardized parts led to the industrial revolution, the rise of computing power (energy), the Internet (transportation) and standardized processes (standardized parts) is fueling a similar revolution in services.

A growing number of universities and companies are researching services as a scientific field of study. While some people question whether services can ever be considered a science, proponents predict that government could benefit tremendously as the application of science to services leads to the creation of better solutions -- involving IT -- to handle complex service needs.

If you have any comments on these stories or others that appear in this issue of Public CIO, please drop me a line at tnewcombe@govtech.net.

Tod Newcombe  |  Senior Editor

With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology and a columnist at Governing magazine.