The software as a service, SaaS, tide is rising with every passing day.
More and more companies are turning away from locally installed software and turning toward cloud-based solutions and other products that turn software into more of a service.
Large companies may have a jump start on the SaaS bandwagon, but small business owners are following suit as well.
When you own a business, or are considering launching a SaaS start-up, chances are good that you have been visited by or researched numerous SaaS vendors.
These SaaS salespeople are experts at what they do, and when they visit, they tout a host of supposed benefits.
From the security of the cloud and a steady stream of updates to the ability of employees to work from anywhere, SaaS salespeople will tell you all about the great things this emerging technology has to offer.
Should you jump on the SaaS bandwagon or create your own proprietary software?
Here are some key things to consider when thinking about a SaaS solution for your small business.
Emphasize Ease of Use
Many business owners assume that SaaS products will be just as easy to use, if not more so, than their existing desktop applications. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
While some SaaS products are exceptionally user-friendly and simple to use, others are overly complicated, requiring extensive training to get up and running.
When you choose a SaaS product that is harder to use than the software it is replacing, you could incur significant training costs. These expenses could negate the savings you hoped to achieve.
Going with an off-the-shelf SaaS solution forces you to fit your business into the SaaS model; contrast this with creating custom software that works how your business works.
With all the switching cost, training, and shoe-horning your business that is involved when going with a cloud based SaaS provider, often, it is better and equal or cheaper in cost to take the plunge and get your own software built that works the way your business already works. With this method you can avoid many of the headaches involved with an off-the-shelf SaaS solution.
Weigh the Benefits - and the Risks
Those of you who have been hosting a steady stream of SaaS vendors, you have heard all about the supposed benefits.
From security and easy updates to cost savings and value of the cloud, these advantages have been hammered home time and again.
These benefits are very real, but there can be hidden downsides. And, there is a reason so many companies have moved from SaaS solutions to in-house proprietary software products. Therefore, it's critically important to consider both the advantages and the risks before implementing any SaaS solution that wasn't custom-built to work with your business model.
There are risks to a SaaS implementation, and it is important to recognize and prepare for them.
One of the most significant risks is that the software will be harder to use than you anticipate, resulting in high training costs and lower levels of productivity.
There is also the risk that the software will become outdated, or that the company providing it will go out of business and leave you without those promised updates. This is especially a heightened risk for SaaS products that are new or created for super niche industries.
Some of these risks are easier to predict than others, but all of them are worth considering.
When you are considering a SaaS implementation, you need to do so with your eyes wide open.
Be cognizant of what other software your SaaS provider integrates with. Many vendors have jumped on the Zapier bandwagon, this is often convenient but results in yet another cost, more complexity in setup, and more points of potential failure.
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Budget for the Up-Front Costs - and Cost Overruns
The sales pitches of most SaaS provide suggest that implementing a SaaS solution may save you money in the long run, but it is important to consider the cost of implementation.
These implementation costs can be quite high, especially for a comprehensive SaaS solution. Knowing what these costs will be, and building in a cushion for potential cost overruns, will be critical for almost any business.
It is important to build these implementation costs into your overall budget.
Do not rely solely on implementation cost predictions from the SaaS vendor; do your own homework so you know what to expect. The more information you have, the easier it will be to make the right decision.
Focus on Benefits to Your Customers
No matter what the nature of your business, it is your customers who keep you in the black. When thinking about any type of SaaS solution, always place the focus where it belongs: on the customer.
Think about how the implementation of the proposed SaaS solution will benefit your existing roster of customers, and how those solutions could help you attract new clients.
- Will the cloud-based nature of the SaaS solution make it easier for salespeople in the field to connect with their prospects?
- Will allowing employees to work remotely improve customer service?
The answers to these questions could make a big difference in what type of SaaS implementation you choose, or even whether a SaaS solution is right for your business.
Most businesses, no matter the industry, have been hounded by service-based software solution providers for some time now, and many more companies have tested many products and found them wanting.
While, in the background, many smart buinesses have found that creating their own proprietary solutions give them a business advantage and allow full customization as costs competitive to the over-hyped platform products.
Before you get locked-into an expensive SaaS product that may require a ton of work arounds, you'd be wise to consider the feasibility and strategic advantage a proprietary solution can provide because the decisons you make at this crossroads willl impact your customers, your employees and ultimately your entire business.
The more you know, the easier it will be to make an intelligent and informed technology investment; when done correctly, you will future proof your business and gain an edge against any competitors who thought an easy off the shelf solution would work for them.
When you look beyond the current SaaS hype, SaaS is more often than not, an imperfect solution for the price when compared to working with an experienced software development firm that can build technology around how your business works.