We live in the age of SaaS. Rather than purchasing software and storing it on the company's internal servers and workstations, more and more businesses are opting for using cloud-based apps and services, generally paid for on a subscription basis and accessed with a web browser.
SaaS has several distinct advantages for businesses. Companies don't need to pay a large upfront fee for their software, nor do they have to worry about investing in continual upgrades or maintenance. Instead, they pay more affordable monthly fees for continued use of the tools.
This reduces IT needs, making it easier to access and scale the programs needed to help a company run more effectively. When used right, SaaS tools can go a long way in helping brands achieve their long-term goals.
Just like with streaming services, however, the initial success of SaaS platforms has led to more and more providers jumping into the fray. The result is a sense of sprawl. To get all the features they need (or think they need), companies have to sign up for more and more services — just like a TV aficionado needs to sign up for an increasing number of platforms to catch all their favorite shows.
Though SaaS has a lot of potential for good, this is a situation where businesses can get too much of a good thing. Here's a look at some of the problems and solutions surrounding SaaS today.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
Writing for the Informatica blog, Graeme Thompson notes, "The challenge with SaaS sprawl is that the necessary data is scattered across dozens of cloud apps, making it tough to find, analyze and deploy. Think about it: Do you know exactly which cloud apps hold your customer data? Your employee data? Your supply chain data? These are table stakes but how about: How are customers using your products? What are they saying about you? What's the most profitable way to deliver your service?"
Survey data shows that this problem is widespread. A 2017 report from McAfee reveals that the average employee uses an incredible 36 different apps as part of a normal workday. In a survey from Productiv, 83 percent of employees reported that their business had at least two redundant applications. 57 percent said their business used at least three redundant SaaS tools.
Each time you add a new SaaS tool to your business, you add to your IT budget. You complicate the security of your digital data. You increase the complexity of your employees' work. You even run the risk of creating new data silos that hinder, rather than help productivity.
Finding More Cost-Effective Solutions
SaaS is a necessity in today's business world — but it is clear that companies can't afford to allow software sprawl to hinder their success. So what can your company do to cut spending and streamline operations? Here are four things to consider:
• Look for an all-in-one SaaS solution. For example, if you're in the business of selling information products, you'd do well to opt for Kajabi, a website builder combined with a learning management system (LMS), which also provides comprehensive marketing functionalities to help business owners design landing pages, run email marketing campaigns and integrate it all with contact management and subscription billing tools. If you go the all-in-one route, you'll have less subscriptions to manage and less workflow friction.
• Remember that more features isn't always better. You may not need Photoshop if you only need to make infographics. Something like Venngage could cover all your graphic design needs. Most apps come with free trials that let you experiment to see if they meet your needs.
• Aim for in-depth functionality around a common theme. For example, ContractZen combines contract and meeting management with digital data rooms, creating a hub for all of a business' digital document governance needs. This platform goes deep, too, with features that support appointment booking, file search using tags and OCR, e-signatures and assigning follow-up tasks.
• Don't be afraid to look for cheaper options. AlternativeTo is a great resource for finding peer-recommended, cheaper SaaS products that do what you need.
Such solutions combine multiple features into a single platform. When features like web design and email automation are managed through a single system rather than multiple SaaS tools, it becomes easier to share data and insights. The lack of digital silos helps employees save time and collaborate more efficiently.
Another important action is to evaluate the SaaS tools your company currently uses and identify where redundancies exist. Speak with employees to get their insights about where different programs overlap so you can find ways to cut costs and streamline your organizational processes.
Planning for the Future
As with other business operations, the use of SaaS tools should be reevaluated on a frequent basis to ensure your company is making the best use of its available resources and truly driving productivity.
As Praerit Garg, CTO of Smartsheet notes in a white paper, "At a high level, the organization needs to know what the app is, what impact it is driving, who is using it, how it's being used, where it's running and whether it's secure. And this rigor should be applied not just to existing applications and investments but to new ones as well."
A SaaS tool may offer great promises of automating mundane tasks, unveiling new insights and improving worker efficiency. But stakeholders must consider how the adoption of a new tool will affect their budget and digital security. They must evaluate how it will interact with current SaaS programs—including whether it can replace one or more currently-used programs.
Employers must also consider what the adoption process will look like for their employees, who will be expected to use the program on a daily basis. By keeping things simple with a limited number of SaaS tools, employees will be better able to maximize their efforts on your behalf.
Implement SaaS the Right Way
Cloud connectivity and SaaS are transforming the business world ...
But if you want these changes to have a positive impact on your business, you must be mindful of the way you are using these tools. By carefully evaluating your use of SaaS and finding ways to streamline and cut costs, you will be better equipped to fully harness this tech in your company.