How do you can get the most value out of SaaS tools? Businesses often lack in-house expertise and services providers can help them with the project planning, design and up-to-date practices.
Many clients use a SaaS roll-out as an opportunity to start afresh and throw out their old, over-customised packaged applications — not just from a technology standpoint but from a business process standpoint as well.
Often, they do not know where to start, so they call in a third-party expert to help them with the design.
The provider can help them with up-to-date best practices for their industry or for a specific process area and can help them create the design in a way that takes full advantage of the tool and keeps customisation efforts low.
The best-fit providers will have a combination of deep industry and process knowledge, as well as deep technology expertise on the tools and modules you are using. SaaS projects generally follow a faster, more iterative timeline than traditional on-premises planning cycles.
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Improved project management
Release cycles can be much faster — in the range of weeks in most cases for each phase of the project. Project managers who have limited or no SaaS experience will benefit from third-party help for project planning and design.
Organisations that get the most value out of SaaS typically move to a much faster, more agile environment, with business playing a more active role. This type of disruption requires significant change to nearly all roles that the technology touches. While some clients may be able to manage this on their own, many will benefit from third-party change management help and a dedicated, focused initiative on making the change. SaaS is much easier to configure than traditional on-premises applications. But it still requires technical knowledge — and a growing breadth of this knowledge. Leading platforms like Salesforce.com are expanding in Ruby On Rails and Java for extensibility, in addition to their own proprietary languages Apex and sforce.
Most other SaaS offerings have a similar trajectory. Additionally, integration will either require coding or knowledge of integration tools such as Boomi, Cast Iron, and Web Methods. Many firms need third-party experts for this type of technology expertise. Even if the long-term plan is to build capability in-house, many lack these skills today.
Market crowded with global and boutique options
SaaS systems integration is not new; offerings have been on the market as long as SaaS options themselves, going back more than a decade. But the past five years have seen a significant rise in demand for SaaS systems integration. Today’s market consists of a wide range of services providers for clients to navigate — from large global providers to Indiacentric firms to smaller-focused boutiques. Today’s leading SaaS packages — such as Salesforce.com, SuccessFactors, Workday, and RightNow Technologies — are primarily horizontal in nature.
But the consultants who work in the ecosystem surrounding these applications offer deep industry skills, industry-specific templates, and know-how and lessons learned from deploying these applications within a particular sector. For example, Cognizant and Accenture have substantial expertise with Veeva, a life sciences add-on for Salesforce.com. IT departments have dozens of strong choices to use for SaaS services work, but their geographic needs may whittle down the pool very quickly. With smaller pools of resources at the consultancies, resources will be tougher to find depending on the geographic scope of project needs.
Organisations that get the most value out of SaaS typically move to a much faster, more agile environment
Liz Herbert, Forrester
Resources are easiest to find in North America, and additional capabilities are growing worldwide, with the UK and Asia Pacific (including India) leading the way. Some SaaS work can leverage offshore or off-site capability, but the heavy dependence on business process design and lower focus on technical elements such as customisation and testing may cause clients to look more toward on-site resources versus remote delivery. Global multinationals have leveraged deep pockets and breadth of technology and business process expertise.
However, boutique firms are highly dedicated to SaaS solutions, with Salesforce.com representing the lion’s share of their work today. Increasingly, solutions like Google Apps, Workday, Amazon, SaaS, cloud and mobile applications are critical to their strategy. These firms are typically more nimble in their approach and take more of an iterative approach than some of the larger systems integrators (SIs). When choosing a SaaS integration partner, bear in mind that technology expertise varies greatly, with many practices still emerging. You should consider your own SaaS roadmap when selecting a partner and evaluate your SI’s SaaS R&D strategy.
This is an extract from the Forrester report: Navigate The SaaS Implementation Partner Landscape. Liz Herbert is principal analyst at Forrester Research serving sourcing & supplier management professionals.
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This was first published in January 2013