Walking down the corridors at work last week I overheard the comment “That girl’s got SaaS!” Hell yeah she does, and here’s ten reasons why you should too.
When I joined the tech industry, solutions had to be built. Clients would invest capital expenditure on software licenses, the physical hardware required to run the software, the services to make it work, and the services to keep it working over time. Not only was it an expensive way to invest in technology, but it required extensive research and an excruciating tender process because you had to be 100% confident that what you were investing in was going to work for your business.
Then came the era where consumer is king. The way in which we consume products and services in our personal life set the expectation for how we would consume technology in the world of Enterprise. Clients began asking: “If I can rent a car, an office, a mobile phone – why can’t I rent my software too? If I can simply turn on my tap when I need water, and turn it off when I don’t, why can’t I turn my computing power on and off when I need it too?”
Hence the birth of SaaS – Software As A Service – where clients can simply pay a monthly charge for access to an application hosted on the Web. SalesforceCRM were one of the first pioneers to make SaaS a reality for Enterprise clients – when their Customer Relationship Management application was packaged up and offered “on tap” – clients simply paid a monthly charge for access to the application. Many other single-focused applications shortly followed, but the availability of complex analytical solutions took longer to be SaaS-ready.
Data is a highly sensitive asset, and it requires absolute confidentiality, and iron clad security. The last thing you want is someone else logging into your system and seeing all your customer data. Reading stories of high-profile security fails the likes of Sony and DropBox, you can easily understand the implication this has to your customers, and to an organisational brand.
In addition to the security elements, there is the complexity on the source of data streams – structured and unstructured, coupled with the need to analyse hidden trends and patterns, and be able to visualise and communicate insight to business users. You can’t just secure the final report – you have to secure every byte of data as it is stored, managed and passed between various components of the solution.
The good news is with the rapid mainstream adoption of Cloud technology and increased security standards, what once were complex analytical solutions are now available using a simple SaaS model – covering everything from planning, budgeting and forecasting, to self-serve business insight and industry-specific analytical applications, through to complex big data platforms.
Customers getting SaaS-y today include:
Mueller Inc, based in Texas, is a leading retailer and manufacturer of prefabricated steel buildings, roofing and construction products. To remain competitive, Mueller Inc must be as nimble as small companies and as scalable as larger competitors. It reduced time to value on processing new data by 90 percent, gaining insight at unprecedented speeds and uncovering answers to questions it had not yet considered asking, using an enhanced cognitive analytics platform with IBM Watson Analytics technology. Mark Lack, Manager of Strategy Analytics and Business Intelligence at Mueller, describes “using conventional BI often feels like hitting a golf ball down a fairway with a putter – it’s a lengthy, multi-stage process. The cognitive analytics approach feels more like teeing off with a driver – it cuts out all those intermediate stages and gets you onto the green in one. I just load up my data and within 20 seconds, the solution presents me with visualisations of correlations that it has identified. This doesn’t just mean that I skip many steps involved in conventional data analysis – I also get answers to questions that I hadn’t even thought of.“
FreshDirect is one of the leading online grocers in the US, fulfilling over 12 million orders since its inception. FreshDirect use IBM ExperienceOne software as a service to identify customer preferences across their digital channels and perform accurate customer segmentation in order to recommend the next best offer and encourage repeat business.
Hothead Games is an award winning, independent games development studio, famous for creating games such as Scarface, Sea Stars, Zombie Ace and the Big Win Sports series. Hothead Games tapped into the IBM Cloudant SaaS platform to ensure the best experience for their players with fault-tolerance and performance across peak demand being hosted and managed by the big data experts at IBM. “Leaving the database administration and performance tuning details in Cloudant’s hands has freed up our team to focus on what matters most: making a great experience for our users.” — Joel DeYoung, Director of Technology, Hothead Games.
The Mears Group, a provider of housing repairs, maintenance and services in the United Kingdom, used analytics software as a service to gain better visibility and deeper insight into its data and enable users to create insight without needing support from the IT department. Using IBM Watson Analytics, Mears Group were able to analyse its large volume of IT-driven data to predict where to provide its housing repair and maintenance services, faster and easier than using traditional methods.
When you are in the process of investigating your next investment in Enterprise software, consider these ten reasons you need to get SaaS-y in 2016:
1. SaaS is significantly more cost effective. Not only does it drastically reduce the upfront investment required, but you save on implementation and ongoing support costs. In the world of SaaS, the vendor is responsible for configuring and managing the ongoing availability of the system – saving you implementation and maintenance costs of both the software and underlying hardware.
2. SaaS gets you up and running faster. Significantly faster. In many instances, you simply sign up for an account and you are up and running within the hour – versus the 3-12 month period it may have taken in the past to build the solution yourself. That also means radically reducing time to value.
3. SaaS lowers your risk – that means less grey hair*!!! Because you aren’t responsible for supporting the system – if the servers go down, or the software fails – it’s the vendor’s responsibility to get the system back up and running. And for most SaaS offerings – that means 24×7 uptime without the drama have having to design and build a highly available solution!
4. SaaS solutions require less skills within the organisation. Without the need to install, configure and maintain the system – that means less technical expertise you need to develop internally. Your teams can focus on high value activities like finding nuggets of insight that will deliver real value to the business.
5. Wahoo – SaaS is OpEx, not CapEx! You simply pay-as-you-go. For many clients that makes it a lot easier to get CFO approval to invest, and it spreads the cost out over the life of the technology.
6. SaaS shortens your evaluation cycle. Many SaaS-ready solutions offer a try-before-you-buy or a freemium version – where you can evaluate whether the capabilities are going to meet the needs of your organisation. This perfectly lines up with the fail-fast mentality – why spend months evaluating theoretical capabilities when you can roll your sleeves up and test it for yourself?!?!?
7. SaaS gives you better performance. Underlying infrastructure is fine tuned for maximum performance by a team of technical specialists that know the technology better than you ever could, because more often than not, they helped write it in the first place.
8. SaaS gives you flexibility. At the end of the month when you need more processing power to close off the books, or run that specialised marketing campaign, the solution will seamlessly scale up to support the additional workload, and scale back down when it’s complete – making resources available for other users when they need it most.
9. SaaS means you can start small and grow with your business. Buy only what you need today, and increase the number of users or data volumes as your business grows over time – without having to migrate or scale the underlying infrastructure yourself.
10. SaaS gives you an escape clause. Because you pay month-to-month, you have the option to switch it off if the organsiation is no longer getting value from the solution. Now the reality is some solutions require you to commit for a minimum period, and you might have invested time and skills learning the technology, so there will always be some level of sunk costs. But it’s significantly less than if you purchased and configured the entire solution yourself, only to find it doesn’t meet your needs.
In reality, not all solutions are ready to be delivered using a SaaS model, and not all companies are ready to move to Cloud. Which is why we still see many hybrid-cloud strategies that leverage a mix of SaaS, cloud, hosted and on-premise custom solutions. At the end of the day you have to choose the right method of deployment that ensures successful delivery of the capabilities and business value – and you must always, ALWAYS, ensure SaaS offerings are underpinned by the level of security and governance you demand of all your Enterprise software.
Finally, make sure you do your due diligence on the vendor providing the solution. SaaS means you are putting your business in their hands – they are responsible for keeping the platform running that your business relies on to operate. You are trusting them with one of your most valuable assets – your data. Make sure they have the credibility that goes with that level of responsibility!
After all, they say data is the new oil. I wouldn’t be handing over my oil reserves to just anyone 🙂
Note: I can’t promise you won’t get grey hair caused by your employees, your clients, your kids, or the performance of your favourite football team.