818-216-7264 lynda@ljrcs.com

This morning I received a white paper about evaluating SaaS – Software as a Service solutions.  This has been a question that many clients have been asking in the last couple of years and one that I addressed for my own business.  There has been so much written lately about SaaS and it has been touted as the perfect solution for everyone.  Is it really?  I am not saying that it does not have its place in the smorgashboard of software options and it certainly provides numerous benefits but as the white paper points out, you must evaluate it objectively against all options and weigh which criteria are most important to your company.

The white paper is entitled ‘Evaluating SaaS Solutions: A Checklist for Small and Mid-sized Enterprises’ you can download it here tinyurl.com/2ua6qtd

The key evaluation criteria listed in the white paper are:

  • Solution Functionality which includes
    • Core system functionality
    • Customization and personalization capabilities
    • Integration capabilities
    • Workflow capabilities
    • Access to data for ad-hoc analysis and reporting
  • Solution Pricing Terms & Condiditons
  • Uptime availability, quality of service and responsivenes of the SaaS provider – in short the Service Level Agreements (SLA)
  • SaaS solution’s security and privacy
  • SaaS solutions backup and recovery capability
  • Saas solutions customization and personalization capabilities
  • Saas solution’s integration capabilities
  • Saas solutions workflow capabilities
  • Saas Solution ability to provide access to data for ad-hoc analysis and reporting
  • Existence of a community of SaaS solution users for networking and collaboration

I would add 2 other criteria to their list. 

1.  The ability to convert data from the SaaS system to a different system.  As the business grows or needs change there may come a time when the company decides they want their applications in-house.  What are the options for converting data from the system and loading it to a new system.  Included in this would also be what happens if the SaaS provider is sold, terminates operations and/or no longer supports the system. 

2. The technology platform.  While it is somewhat true that by definition a SaaS system will be on supported data base, programming language and operating system, that cannot be taken for granted.  Some software firms have created their own data base and/or programming language that would require dependence on the software firm or may end up obsolete in the near future.  For example several years ago I hosted my website with a company who at the time had a very state of the art editor so I could change my web content easily.  However, with the advancements today in web editors, my hosting company has fallen behind and I am now looking to move.  While this cannot be completely avoided as technology changes very rapidly, it should be a consideration just as it would be for a purchased application.

Today the selection of core business applications such as ERP, CRM, MRP are very much like selecting a long term partner.  The process should not be taken lightly weather searching for a SaaS, purchased or hosted solution.  Detail requirements need to be defined, potential solution options identified and evaluated against the requirements.  Since this is a critical decision and not something companies address on a regular basis, I strongly suggest bringing in a consultant experienced in system requirements, evaluation and selection to support your team.