If the SaaS Shoe Fits, Don't Buy It

Software as a Service (SaaS) users need to pay attention to the scope of applications available from the vendors they are considering engaging. If the SaaS vendor provides precisely the applications your firm is seeking to move into the cloud environment, do not sign on with that vendor. Why? As the numerous benefits of SaaS become obvious, your firm will seek to put additional applications into the cloud. You need to plan for growth.

As users develop their RFPs for SaaS services, understanding the roadmap for implementation is crucial. The firm might start with applications readily found on most desktops due to the cost savings associated with licensing, management and maintenance of those applications. There really is no value in purchasing a suite of applications for everyone if the majority of users only use a few of the applications in the suite. This is one of the most compelling arguments to move to SaaS, the pay-per-drink model coupled with the reduced licensing costs. But where will you go from there?

Here are three things to consider when selecting a SaaS provider:

1. What business processes does the SaaS provider support?

Does the provider support all of the applications of unified communications? What about CRM? Will HR-centric applications be available when I need them?

Understanding your firm's application rollup to the cloud environment will help determine an appropriate long-term SaaS vendor fit. You may not need these applications right now, but having them available for when you do will save you substantial time and effort.

2. Does the SaaS provider offer application integration support across business processes?

The SaaS provider may have a world-class unified communications solution suite, but if it doesn't integrate with the CRM applications, you are building silos of functionality. Silos of functionality are a problem when the applications are in-house; imagine the problems you will face when the silos are in the cloud.

Before you seek a SaaS provider, be sure you know how business processes and the respective applications flow and intersect. A critical inflection point (aka integration point) between processes that is not supported should be a deal breaker.

3. How many SaaS vendors can you manage?

This is one of those questions that is never considered until it is too late. Service provider management was one area that caused a drop in the adoption of managed services. Without forethought, firms brought on too many service providers and the orchestration and coordination became overwhelming.

You can avoid the negative fallout of failed vendor management by understanding the ideal number of vendors you and your team are capable of managing concurrently.

We can all agree that moving toward business process virtualization, cloud computing and SaaS has the potential to offer significant long term value and cost savings. Your goal should be to find a SaaS provider that can work with your firm today as well as allow room for your firm to expand within its application service environment as the company becomes more comfortable with working in the cloud. If the SaaS shoe fits today, keep looking for a larger size.

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