If 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).