Software-as-a-Service (or SaaS) is no longer the sole domain of early adopters. Small and medium sized businesses, government and enterprise users are all taking the SaaS plunge, moving from traditional ‘owned’ IT applications to more adaptable SaaS solutions. As the cutting-edge nature has dulled, much of the risk of SaaS solutions have been ironed out. While moving to a service-oriented solution is generally very successful, change can be difficult for any business. Let’s look at some of the traps that implementers of SaaS solutions commonly encounter.
Not having a vision
Change processes are disruptive, so it’s important to have a clear sense of what problem the implementation will solve and how it will improve on the status quo. Understanding the rationale is important when designing and procuring a solution, but it is also a crucial prerequisite to getting staff and stakeholders on board. If the senior leadership in the business do not have a precise understanding of key business drivers and performance outcomes, it becomes hard to critically evaluate success and to hold vendors (and staff) accountable for performance.
Not connecting with end-users
Approachable and honest leadership, comprehensive training and regular communication are all key drivers of a smooth change management process, and are all crucial to ensure user acceptance. There is a risk that the perceived simplicity of SaaS can blind implementers to the reality that the business needs to connect with end-users to build awareness and engagement.
Even the best SaaS product will fail in the field (at least at first) if the people in control of the transition have not planned the change in sufficient detail. While a change may appear well thought out in theory, soliciting feedback from the wider business is important to understand any unforeseen impacts that could occur. Functionality or systems that might not ordinarily be thought of as high priority could be critical in the right business context – the disruption involved in taking a system offline, even for a short time, can be very costly! A poorly planned transition can also erode goodwill and buy-in, both of which are important to the bedding-in and ongoing success of any new software implementation.
Technical risk and issues
Technical problems do also arise from time to time after a SaaS solution is implemented, just as with any complex system, however the risk to an organization is significantly reduced as the onus is generally on the vendor to remedy the problem. The frequency of issues is also typically lower with a best-in-class SaaS product than a bespoke, in house solution. Although end-users are typically affected less by technical issues under SaaS systems on an ongoing basis, the change team will still face some of the same issues during the initial setup. This is particularly the case when a business needs to heavily customize a standard solution, such as to integrate with a specialized plant and equipment.
One particularly important technical weakness of some (but not all) SaaS products is the need for a reliable internet connection. Uninterrupted connectivity is not usually a problem for enterprise or government users, but may create some challenges for small and medium businesses.
Service-oriented modes of delivery are a real opportunity for businesses to simplify processes, improve reliability and reduce capital spending. The benefits of SaaS are generally simple to grasp, but it remains important to understand and manage the risk involved, particularly during the early stages of the change process.