Most companies are sufficiently familiar with on-demand software – SaaS, Software as a Service – to identify today the basic criteria on which to judge a vendor; namely things like availability, performance or sustainability.
On the other hand, few are changing their SaaS selection criteria to focus on more recent and relevant indicators.
Fundamental indicators are unavoidable. Deficiencies concerning them can cause serious problems of implementation. For example, service interruptions, or even worse, security issues, can damage or negate the interaction you offer to your customers, even if the systems are not in direct contact with the customer.
On security, Forrester conducted a survey of 990 decision makers that concluded that 57% of them are concerned about cloud security. And according to the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), data breaches are among the main concerns surrounding SaaS systems, especially after the attacks against Apple’s iCloud.
It should also be noted that it is possible to simplify certain controls by ensuring that a SaaS provider meets standards such as Safe Harbor, is ISO 27001 certified and has the CSA seal of trust.
These traditional criteria remain unavoidable. But there are others.
Evaluation of small suppliers
Many current SaaS providers are small. What’s more, they often run out of money initially, partly because of the subscription-based SaaS pricing model. Companies would still be wrong to reject them from the outset because of their size.
That said, buyers must be cautious and consider other key factors related to the sustainability of suppliers: What is the amount of the annual turnover of the supplier? Is it particularly dependent on currency fluctuations? If so, what are the currencies and why? If it is a privately owned company, who are the investors? What are their links and their experience? Is the SaaS system just part of a software portfolio or is the company’s offer 100% SaaS?
These questions will help you to go beyond obvious evaluation criteria, and evaluate these suppliers fairly according to the maturity of the market.
In some cases, you may also want to inquire about protection relationships (escrow) for SaaS solutions, which may give you an extra layer of protection in case the provider goes bankrupt.
Results and business continuity
Forrester recommends evaluating actual performance and availability, including planned maintenance periods.
Increasingly, SaaS providers are making it easier to track these metrics by presenting the relevant data through customer portals or even on their public sites. You can also use third-party availability tracking tools, such as McAfee or HP Enterprise.
Also, ask your vendor what its recovery time goal is, the data recovery time after a failure, and its Recovery Point Objective (RPO), which is the delay between backups; both of these criteria reveal the level of risk of data loss.
In SaaS contracts, most availability guarantees are between 99 and 99.99%, but most often exclude planned maintenance. The set point in terms of recovery point is usually 12 hours, which means you risk data loss.
You can use SaaS backup tools, such as Backupify , to enhance control and redundancy for data backup.
SaaS providers have made great progress on the criteria that matter to businesses – such as access to new features and speed of deployment. As for the market leaders, they are pushing their limits to obtain even more business results. Another evaluation factor.
Of course, this implies that you have previously clearly defined your business goals and economic arguments for using SaaS; This is not always the case, especially when business buyers are deploying SaaS solutions with discretion .
Be aware that the true value of SaaS software is usually business value, not necessarily the cost savings.
Monitoring and benchmarks
But few companies are really trying to find out if the SaaS tools they use really enhance customer interaction, loyalty, or satisfaction.
Your customers’ satisfaction may be more directly correlated to some SaaS systems, such as e-commerce, and less directly to others, such as human resources management or sales force automation applications.
But it remains important to follow this indicator, especially if the initial rationale for choosing a SaaS was – precisely – to meet the growing expectations of your customers.
SaaS providers are increasingly offering proactive reviews and dashboards to track usage. Most are at a global level (the number of connections for example).
However, some SaaS products, such as Employee Central from SuccessFactors, as well as additional components, such as Gainsight and Applango , are starting to offer dashboards that provide a detailed analysis of rates and usage patterns correlated with the results of the program. ‘business ; for example, the connection and usage behavior of the best performing salespeople.
Nearly 15 years after the first appearance of modern SaaS systems such as Salesforce , Google Apps and NetSuite, the benchmarks we have on business metrics are still very limited. But on this point, expect change with the increased focus on analytics indicated by the emergence of tools such as Wave from Salesforce and Big Data Analytics from Workday . The latter offers a variety of compensation benchmarks, as well as “smart” recommendations based on machine learning and a technology that the company has bought from Identified, which identifies which employees are at risk of leaving. the
Other examples include IBM’s customer analytics benchmark for digital analytics and SuccessFactors’ Workforce Analytics product .
As well as taking into account the indicators, you need to evaluate the connection efficiency of your SaaS system to your ecosystem of customers and partners. SaaS providers are committed to facilitating the connection with suppliers and customers. Indeed, they use the Internet and open APIs .
Some even go further by pre-establishing connections (connectors) and creating communities. For example, Ariba is not just a SaaS version of a procurement tool: it’s a fully integrated enterprise network that you access as soon as you sign up.
Some SaaS providers also have connections with customer communities, which can be of interest to your business. SaaS market leaders, for example, can offer integration with Facebook or Twitter, allowing you to benefit from closed-circuit communication with your customers about the service or sales issues they face. Analyze the value of the community and determine if it meets the needs of your business.