David Cummings has some interesting insights about the future of productivity applications. He argues that we will more and more see apps that focus on a specific job, with one application of record per job function:
Phase three is new vertical-specific SaaS applications as well as more specialized solutions that represent portions of more complicated products. One way to think about it is that there is an application of record for each job function (that is, a product that people in that job function spend a large number of hours per week to perform their job). [...] What job functions currently use a generic solution, but would be better served by a more specialized solution?
One specificity of such apps is that they will guide the user on how to do their job well, moving towards prescriptive solutions:
One of the biggest trends for SaaS over the next five years is new products that offer prescriptive solutions in place of general tools. What I mean is that there are a number of well-defined categories like CRM and ERP that are essentially customizable front-ends to specialized databases (e.g. CRMs are mostly contact management databases). These new products are still going to have the specialized database behind the scenes, but the front-end is more of a business process management system that actually tells the user what to do next.
This also corresponds well to the "First SaaS explosion" as described by Clément Vouillon:
As SaaS penetration grew (businesses of all sizes are ready to buy SaaS now) and as the technological barriers kept going down, many verticals saw an explosion of new players. These new startups very often focus on a more specific part of a vertical and offer products with better UX/UI than what the bigger players can do.
It's going to be interesting to see whether this leads to further fragmentation down the road, or whether big players will just gobble up smaller ones in order to beef up their offerings (the way Salesforce did it with Eloqua and Pardot in the marketing automation space).