Over the past ten years in particular, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) has become increasingly popular for a wide range of business applications. It provides an infrastructure which allows of high levels of accessibility, security, and scaleability.
“Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a software licensing model in which access to the software is provided on a subscription basis, with the software being located on external servers rather than on servers located in-house. Software-as-a-Service is typically accessed through a web browser, with users logging into the system using a username and password. Instead of each user having to install the software on their computer, the user is able to access the program via the internet.”
A study by Gartner estimated that 36% of businesses will use cloud services to support their transactions and processes. SaaS can potentially change the way in which a business operates. It is therefore essential, after identifying the need to invest in SaaS, that businesses choose the right service providers to take their business forward. In this article we take a look at some of the key elements organisations must take into consideration when choosing their SaaS providers.
1.Identifying SaaS needs
Prior to engaging with SaaS providers, organisations need to identify what utilization the SaaS will have to their particular business. The fact that most organisations are moving to SaaS solutions reflects its feasibility, however, such a transition must be planned within the scope of the particular business activity and its plans for growth. Organisations may reach out to SaaS providers without fully understanding what they require from the service that they are subscribing to. Therefore, the initial step into choosing an SaaS provider should be essentially to map out the business requirements and the specific deliverables and parameters for delivery of the SaaS solution required. This calls for a clear understanding of the organisation’s business model, how it adds value to the different customer groups and its internal workflows, how it delivers on its promises to customers. It needs to link these perspectives to current operations and what its plans for future growth and development. In so doing, the organisation will have a better understanding of what is required to meet their current and future needs. This will help them in identifying which service providers have the required infrastructure, capabilities, resources and experience to meet these requirements. This process will help to narrow down the selection of potential SaaS providers into a more specified segment depending on the organisational needs.
2. Identify, Define and Agree upon Reliability
Different SaaS providers have different processes in the way they run their businesses. Some SaaS providers take pride in having support staff available 24 hours a day and are able to meet client requirements for such support. Other organisations do not need such comprehensive support and may rely on SaaS providers that do not offer such round-the-clock support but have excellent support during the various live support times they offer. Amongst the live service support times offered are 8, 12, 16, 18 or 24 hour support service windows. Whatever the service bands, these need to be defined and the range of support services available clearly specified. SaaS providers also make reference to “Uptime” in their sales pitch, this refers the amount of time their services are online. For instance, some SaaS companies confirm 99%, 99.9% or 99.99% uptime over a twelve month period. These translate to 87.6 hours, 8.76 hours and 0.87 hours of downtime respectively over a period of a year. “Downtime” can occur when there are scheduled maintenance activities, however, should not include other activities that may interfere with the uptime. Consequently, it is important to know and understand the implications of how providers monitor and tackle this issue in any comparative review of SaaS services.
3. Having a detailed Service Level Agreement
When entering into an agreement with a SaaS provider, organisations need to make sure that the Service Level Agreement covers all facets of the business relationship including, set-up, operation and exit processes. Different SaaS providers may have different packages and levels of availability and performance depending on different price scalers. In an article published earlier this year in our June Newsletter, we looked at some of the key elements a service level agreement should include to safeguard the interest of all parties involved.
Service Level Agreements need to be equitable, protecting the interests of both parties. This means that the service provider needs to know what level of service they are committed to provide and the customer needs to know what is the cost of the specified level of service and the costs of any variations or amendments to the standard services.
4. Determine whether training is provided for the Software being purchased
One of the key issues organisations face when subscribing to new SaaS solutions is the level of support in onboarding and the level of training to employees. Today’s SaaS solutions are designed to handle vast amounts of data and to deal with the minute details of an operation. This calls for the proper configuration and set-up of a solution. Such set-up may be deceptively simple, and in reality calls for seasoned expertise to ensure that the system functionality is optimised for the particular business. It is vital for organisations to understand the complexities of the set-up and request technical support wherever appropriate. Similarly, training of staff is key to the successful implementation. The training needs need to be defined and communicated to the SaaS provider. SaaS providers’ should be pro-active in getting client feedback on system utilisation and in recommending training and development of client staff where appropriate. It is in their best interest for clients to get the value from the utilisation of their SaaS solutions and this inevitably depends on an appropriate set-up and competent staff correctly using the system. Ensuring these processes are effective will ensure a smooth running of the business and can reduce support time and costs.
5. Identify security SaaS offers
Utilizing SaaS ultimately means that your data is being hosted by other parties other than the organisation itself and accessed through the internet. For a lot of organisations, that data is key for their success, and ensuring that it is private and secured is essential. Organisations should have this issue at the forefront of their considerations when choosing their SaaS provider. Some questions organisations should ask regarding security are;
- What are their physical security safeguards?
- Do they have more than one server location
- Can the SaaS employees access organisation data?
- How often do you perform penetration tests?
- Is data in your platform encrypted both in transit (while it’s moving between users and servers) and at rest (when it’s stored in the cloud)?
- Who Owns This Data if We Stop Using You as a Vendor?
eBusiness Systems was launched in 2000 to focus specifically on what was then a major innovation in business solutions – Software-as-a-Service. In many ways, this was too radical for the local market and for many years the main clients eBusiness Systems were international firms. Local firms were certainly not prepared to let go of their servers or data! Yet, with twenty years of experience in the development, deployment and customisation of such solutions for sectors as diverse as elearning, financial services and business operations, eBusiness Systems has a wealth of experience and resources which it is able to provides to its clients.
eBusiness Systems prides itself on the service and quality it delivers to its clientele. Our business is not transaction based but relationship based with clients having been with our firm for 5, 10, 15 even 20 years. Our philosophy is based on the development of business relationships that provide win-win solutions for both parties. This is the basis of any long-term business relationship. Through years of client support in various industries, our drive remains to develop and implement best practises in SaaS activities. This commitment is what sets us apart as a reliable SaaS provider that can meet the client’s need for growth and development over a long-term involvement.