What does your business need to consider when adopting SaaS?

Of all public cloud services, Software as a Service — or SaaS — is the offering with the biggest potential. It truly is IT-as-a-utility, like water from the tap or power from a socket.

SaaS applications provide end users with standardized functionality. They don’t require any involvement of the IT department. And every so often new features are added, usually at no extra cost.

So, if SaaS applications are so wonderful why isn’t everybody using SaaS? Well, actually, everybody is using SaaS. Google search and Google maps, Twitter and Facebook, and online email are all examples of SaaS applications.

But these are all consumer applications. The question really is, “What is holding back the uptake of SaaS business applications?” There are a few reasons:

Alignment with business processes

First of all, SaaS functionality is standardized, and the organization’s business process should align to the SaaS application, rather than the other way around.

Perhaps the best known example of a SaaS business application is Salesforce.com, a market leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Its success is related to two facts:

  1. The CRM business process is highly mature. In many organizations the process is well established and closely aligned to the industry standard.
  2. Many organizations have migrated to Salesforce.com from a package implementation like Siebel or SAP CRM. This means that the organization had already optimized and standardized the business process, reducing the impact of migrating to a SaaS application.

The most mature and most common business processes, such as CRM or HR, are suitable candidates for implementing a SaaS solution. It is no surprise that Salesforce.com for CRM or Workday for HR are among the most well-known SaaS business applications.

Integration issues

No SaaS business application can run in isolation.

Business applications are linked with other business applications. The various departments in an organization send and receive automated data feeds to each other, resulting in information spaghetti. Increasingly, external connections are added to the mix.

SaaS applications must always be integrated into the organization’s information architecture.

These integration requirements can be daunting, but organizations have to take them into account. Most SaaS applications recognize this challenge and provide multiple integration tools and options. As a bonus, by documenting all the data feeds and integration requirements, you get a head start on untangling the information spaghetti.

Other considerations

Of course, there are other requirements to consider for any business application, SaaS or not.

For instance, you will want to make sure that security, performance and stability of the SaaS business application meet your organization’s business needs. However, a SaaS supplier may only provide limited information about what’s going on “under the hood.” If this is the case, check for certifications and choose reputable SaaS application providers with a proven track record.

In conclusion, you can and should start using SaaS business applications. They are an attractive alternative for traditional business applications. I recommend starting with a pilot project that is not critical to your business to experience the potential and work through any issues. This will help you uncover the most challenging requirements you’ll face on your SaaS journey.

Thomas Boon is a Solution Executive in the Netherlands. Connect with him on LinkedIn.



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