There’s a constant buzz about what the internet has to offer and SMEs are constantly bombarded with new software solutions promising benefits. But is it just another fad? And is SaaS just for the tech-savvy or can ‘normal’ businesses benefit? Here are 5 reasons why you should swap to SaaS.
For the uninitiated SaaS (pronounced “sass”) sounds like another fancy acronym that is only for those who are at the forefront of technology or early adopters but the reality is not like that at all. SaaS stands for Software as a Service and quite simply it is just that: software delivered to you as a service. SaaS are easily accessible tools, delivered over the internet, that allow you to access a wide range of software to help your business in almost any aspect you can think of, from CRM to cash management to email.
Many of the common software tools that you probably use, or should use, in your day-to-day activities, have been made accessible on subscription basis for a fraction of the cost of the traditional software model of buying the CD and installing the software on your own computers and servers. To set up a SaaS service you simply go to the provider’s web site, enter your details, including your credit card of course, and within minutes you are accessing functionality that was previously only privy to big companies with big IT budgets. To access your service you need a user name, password and an internet connection.
So now you know what SaaS is, why should you as a business owner consider it? At a really high level, the business case for SaaS is this: a cohesive set of SaaS solutions, selected carefully to ensure they suit your business, can lead to better sales, provide a better customer experience, allow for better management of your staff and operations and can reduce your costs and improve productivity. Not only that; none of it involves an upfront cost and the solutions are reliable and available from anywhere you can access the internet. Plus, nearly all services provide free trials of the systems so you can find the right one for your business. When you get into more detail there is even more weight to the business case and here are five top reasons leading SMEs are turning to the web to grow their business and are reaping the benefits.
Top five reasons to swap to SaaS
Reason 1 – Only Pay for What You Need, When You Need It
The traditional model of packaged software makes you pay up front and usually includes many features that you may not even use. That can be a huge capital outlay, which depreciates over time, with the associated cost of buying and maintaining servers and hardware adding significantly to the overall investment. The big problem with an outset investment in servers and software is that you are forced to plan for the future and to assume that what you buy now will be adequate to deal with your business growth over its planned lifespan. What if your plans change?
SaaS is a service, which you can change any time. If your demand for a service increases in a month then you can just adjust your spend. Services also allow you to scale back if there is ever a change in the business. By creating an environment where the majority of your spend on IT is shifted to services, you can far better align your business expenses with cashflow. This gives rise to an immediate tax-deductable expense instead of having to factor in depreciation on big upfront costs.
Reason 2 – Reduce complexity
Most SMEs in Australia do not have a dedicated IT support person on site so having complex internal servers and systems which require the attention of an IT person can be a big and often unexpected cost that needs to be accounted for.
By reducing system complexity you reduce the need for maintenance and the possibility of system failures, resulting in a more robust and productive workplace. Some ways to reduce system complexity are:
1. Remove as many physical servers as possible from your business’ IT equation.
2. Reduce the complexity and number of software applications running on staff PCs.
3. Reduce the need to maintain installed software on staff PCs and servers.
Reason 3 – Get Your Staff Mobile
There is an interesting spin-off when your staff can use a web browser to take care of business; they become empowered to work from anywhere connected to the internet. Whether your staff are on the road, at home or on the other side of the planet, SaaS allows your team to remotely access applications for email, sales leads, job quoting or time tracking, making them more productive and your business more agile.
An additional benefit is the complexity of any office move from an IT perspective is removed – once you have your internet connection up and running your IT move is complete.
Reason 4 – Get Green Credentials without the Headache
A big problem with operating your own servers in-house is that you have to keep them running 24 hours a day, seven days a week within a clean, temperature-controlled environment to ensure their lifespan is not cut unnecessarily short. Just a single server using a sustained 150 watts of power (most modern servers’ peak is between 500 and 1000 watts) generates about 1,558 kilograms of greenhouse emissions per year, not to mention the power used to air condition the server room. That is a big carbon footprint for even the most energy efficient servers, so even if you can just remove one server you are making a big difference.
By incorporating the new generation of eco-networking equipment (such as D-Link Green Ethernet), removing a server or two and leveraging the benefits of SaaS, you can make a huge impact on your carbon footprint and demonstrate environmental sensitivity, which increasingly, many customers care about.
Reason 5 – Make Your Business Perform
One of the big advantages of the SaaS model is that small businesses can access best of breed software at small business pricing. Before SaaS came along these business tools were only in the realm of the big end of town who could afford them.
There are some truly outstanding SaaS tools available on the internet. Beyond solving business headaches such as dysfunctional email performance, there are tools for tracking staff time spent on jobs, keeping a track on sales leads and even tools for delivering monthly invoices and managing payments.
SaaS can benefit your business in many ways from cost saving to reducing IT complexity and making your business perform. It is important to do your research first to find out the best SaaS solution for your business needs.
-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).
Things to look for when choosing SaaS
- Try any SaaS application before you part with any money. Set it up and play with it.
- Speak to an existing customer and really get a feel for the relationship they have with their vendor. If you can’t find a customer then read reviews on the internet. The big difference between SaaS and packaged software is that SaaS is an ongoing relationship.
- Find, read and understand the terms of service the SaaS vendor provides. Compare them with other vendors to understand if certain terms are too lax or unusual.
- Find out about their track record of ‘uptime’. How reliable are your vendors systems? Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Understand their approach to user support. They should at least have a user forum where you will quickly get an idea of how involved they are with their customers and how happy those customers are.
- Find out the length of the subscription. Most will have a minimum so it is best to understand your commitment.
- Make sure you retain rights to your data and understand any termination process so you can always get your data out of their system.
- Think about your back-up strategy. Find out how easy is it to do a routine of download to archive your data stored with your SaaS vendor.
- Ensure that the SaaS you select for your business suits your business rather than having to change your business to suit a SaaS vendor.
Case Study: Mastertek scales its operations using SaaS
Mastertek’s management consulting practice is built on making strategy work for their clients through people-focused programs, so when it came to putting in place a succession planning and growth strategy for their business, the need to collaborate and share information internally became crucial.
“In growing the business to a team that’s three times as big as what it was, immediate information sharing was critical,” Mastertek senior consultant Jamie Anderson said.
“While we felt that we had the technology and systems to underpin this growth, we realised from talking to SaaS Mentor that we could spend less using online solutions to gain more reliable systems that are better suited to the way we want to work.”
Mastertek engaged SaaS Mentor to evaluate their business processes and identify a solution that would facilitate growth without adding to operating overheads.
“SaaS Mentor worked with us and mapped out our existing workflow and processes, which helped us to identify precisely how we could move across to a SaaS solution without us getting lost in the technical detail,” Mastertek founder and principal consultant, Graham Childs said.
SaaS Mentor recommended the project management and time tracking solution ‘Intervals’ from Pelago and a corporate collaboration solution from Google. Once the team at Mastertek was comfortable with the proposed strategy, SaaS Mentor configured and deployed the systems and initiated training.
SaaS Mentor’s recommended CRM solution also monitors traffic to Mastertek’s corporate web site, providing a powerful lead tracking solution.
“For a modest investment of $100 a month we have a new online IT structure that’s improved the business’s efficiency by 100 per cent – the alternative would have been to build an extremely expensive solution ourselves,” Anderson explained.
“The web-based systems were quick and easy to implement, taking about a day with SaaS Mentor’s help, and are really simple and intuitive for the team to use. They also allow us to work remotely as we have all the kit we would have in an office – this flexibility was a key attraction and fits well with our culture.
“For little outlay and no need for internal IT support, we have created a system that is giving us a meaningful and efficient way to measure our internal and business performance, without taking away from our client focus.
“As we continue to grow the business we will be looking further to SaaS to help us find better ways to share knowledge and support our staff with the best tools available.”