November 12, 2012, 1:23 PM — With SaaS (software as a service) having become a preferred deployment model for new software purchases, customers should be entitled to a clear-cut set of rights and expectations from vendors, a new report from analyst firm Constellation Research argues.
Despite a perception of SaaS being easy to acquire, cloud contracts require all the rigor and due diligence of on-premise licensed software, analyst Ray Wang [cq] wrote in the report.
"CIO's, CMO's, [line-of-business] execs, procurement managers, and other organizational leads should ensure that the mistakes they made in on-premises licensed software aren't blindly carried over," Wang wrote.
Current conditions make it all too easy for that to happen, with some 81 percent of new enterprise software license sales offering customers a cloud deployment option, the report states.
Vendor lock-in, always a specter of the on-premises licensing world, is just as scary and maybe more so with SaaS, according to the report. For one, SaaS is leased and not sold via perpetual license, limiting users' rights and control, the report states.
And while customers keep control of their data, it's expensive and difficult to switch cloud providers due to differences in architecture, metadata models and other factors, according to the report.
Third, "vendors currently eager for business may grow fat and lazy," moving away from today's "customer-friendly policies," it adds.
Meanwhile, SaaS' many benefits, such as quicker implementations, easier upgrades and more frequent product improvements stand to "trump potential fear of vendor lock-in," the report states.
Overall, SaaS customers should expect vendors to provide benefits and enact policies that fall into a number of key areas, according to the report.
One is general customer experience. "Customers should expect the management team's commitment and accountability for customer success," it states. "Product and sales accountability should be tied to specific individuals and customer satisfaction should be tied to compensation metrics."
Customers should also be kept abreast of major shifts and changes to product road maps, pricing models and personnel, according to the report.
Customers also "should not have to fight for access to their own data"; should be given an ongoing and clear sense of a vendor's financial health; must be given the opportunity to try out software before buying it; should receive pricing and discounting metrics up-front; and be provided with a one to two-year long product road map, according to the report.
Moreover, SaaS vendors must be helpful to customers when they want to move to another product, whether by providing "necessary transition tools" such as temporary hosting and data migration, or allowing customers to purchase the source code, the report states.