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Getting started with SaaSIf there’s truth in the mantra that standing still can often mean you’re going backwards, the implication for SMEs yet to deploy SaaS may be that their SaaS-adopting competitors are running more effective and efficient operations. SaaS can benefit your business in a number of ways from email to accounting and customer relationship management (CRM).

Whether lacking the experience in sourcing software solutions, overwhelmed by the explosion in the number of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications now available, or simply too busy running a business from day-to-day, the majority of Australia’s SME managers and business owners continue to ignore the benefits that SaaS can provide1.

In an effort to strip away the noise which often accompanies a newly heralded next big thing and give business owners a head-start in their journey into SaaS, here are three specific areas where SaaS can start to deliver a range of tangible benefits to your business today;  email, accounting and customer relationship management (CRM).


A SaaS email solution, such as Google’s Apps for the Enterprise (www.google.com/a/), offers the easiest first step for SMEs wanting to benefit from the power of Software as a Service. Google Mail offers all of the features of traditional email and calendar but by transferring the hosting responsibility to the “cloud” it eliminates the need for an in-house exchange server, saving even a small firm literally thousands of dollars in upfront and ongoing maintenance costs. And it’s not just the fact that your email is on the internet – it is about the reliability, scalability and security of leveraging a provider like Google.

Further, the annual cost-per-user is generally significantly less when compared to the traditional approach of purchasing software licences; the annual cost-per-user for Google Apps for the Enterprise is US$50, and the total number of users can be scaled up or down at any time depending on the needs of the business.

If you’re a new business about to purchase an exchange server, or an existing business about to embark on an exchange server upgrade, deploying a SaaS email exchange instead could prove to be a great cost saver.


For many small- and medium-sized business owners, managing the business finances and quarterly accounts is less enjoyable than a trip to the dentist.  But even if you’re from the ‘shoebox-full-of-receipts’ school of accounting, SaaS applications such as Saasu (www.saasu.com) and Xero (www.xero.com) can provide you with powerful finance and accounting tools for less than $20 per month.

Operating in the space traditionally filled by those small business mainstays MYOB and Quickbooks, SaaS accounting systems are designed to fill all of your accounting and book-keeping needs, including invoicing, purchasing, quoting, payroll and supplier and inventory management.

Furthermore, built-in import tools make transferring over your existing accounts both safe and easy; though choosing a start date of 29 June might make your accountant a little nervous.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

To many people, Salesforce.com (www.salesforce.com) is the biggest name in SaaS. With nearly 60,000 customers worldwide, Salesforce offers a customer relationship management (CRM) platform full of features that are the by-product of ten years of continuous development. It not only manages the sales cycle from end-to-end; but also supports a range of marketing activities, including email and search marketing.

Sitting underneath Salesforce’s towering colossus are a number of more lightweight alternatives, with Highrise being a good example. Highrise (www.highriseHQ.com) allows users to easily collate and share all customer and sales-related information, the premise being that even a small business can generate a torrent of customer and market information in brief period of time, and managing this data in an intelligent way can have a dramatic effect on the sales performance of the business.

For those yet to incorporate CRM into their business, the process can at times appear a little daunting, but the resultant increases in productivity and better targeted selling means it will quickly bear fruit.

Whether looking to reduce costs, improve productivity, or do both, there are a range of SaaS applications available that bring with them immediate advantages for your business without huge up-front licensing fees or hardware costs.

As SaaS continues to grow in stature, applications that are easy-to-use, can be quickly integrated and deliver real business firepower will be increasingly adopted by businesses across all markets, but particularly by SMEs.

– Joe Cincotta is the founder of SaaS Mentor (www.saasmentor.com.au), Australia’s first independent business consultancy dedicated to providing SMEs with guidance through the process of learning about and adopting Software as a Service (SaaS).

1 http://www.itnews.com.au/News/97849,cloud-and-saas-terminology-%E2%80%98confuses%E2%80%99-aussie-companies.aspx

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Joe Cincotta

Joe Cincotta

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