The promise of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model is very attractive for a variety of business applications, as opposed to acquiring, implementing, and maintaining software as well as the associated infrastructure.
The benefits of SaaS are clear:
Faster time to deploy
Reduced operational and capital expenses
Smooth software and hardware upgrades
The ability to shift staff to more strategic IT projects
However, these benefits are outweighed if SaaS-delivered applications don’t deliver a quality end user experience or meet the needs of the workforce relying on them. Especially given the vast array of options that SaaS can function within as delivery model for business applications, including accounting, office software, CRMs, talent acquisition, and ERPs.
Therefore, given the increasing reliance on SaaS as well as the benefits it provides, how can you hold your SaaS vendor accountable?
1. Have a robust pre-contract process.
Before embarking on a software selection, having senior management support is key. A clear vision of what problems you are trying to solve and the business benefits you are seeking to realize are critical to success.
As you begin to organize the process, consider the following steps to enable you to clearly communicate your needs and evaluate solutions and vendors against your requirements. Pre-contract activities include:
Define Business Requirements
Establish RFQ / RFP
Complete Vendor Selection
Complete Vendor Risk Assessment
Complete Software Risk Assessment
Establishing MSA / SOW
2. Rely on experts in systems implementation.
You should rely on experts in your organization or externally who have broader systems implementation experiences. Relying only on the SaaS provider could put you at risk, as your inexperience could create gaps in expectations or worse, put your organization’s data and business at risk because of vulnerabilities in the software or poor vendor practices.
Many SaaS providers are eager to have you “sign the contract” and want to jump in and start building their solution without knowing or fully understanding your requirements. Be cautious of this, and you should partner with others in your organization, such as legal, procurement, risk, compliance, and IT early in the process to ensure that not only are you selecting the right solution, you are selecting the right vendor.
3. Make sure they take accountability by establishing SLAs and KPIs.
SaaS vendors offer Service Level Agreements (SLAs) governing availability goals, incident response time commitments, and penalties. However, these metrics are insufficient to guarantee excellent end user experience. Penalties paid after the fact won’t help the end user whose app is slow when they schedule a class, run a report, or look up a customer.
Instead, accountability with your SaaS vendor means establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and dashboarding that provide insights into how the tool is being used:
Identify critical business activities
Determine what constitutes acceptable performance for the activities
Monitor SLA compliance across the enterprise
Isolate and resolve the cause for poor performance
The key to application performance SLA and KPI for SaaS – insights to the end user’s perspective
4. Know when to seek help, even if you have an IT department.
Systems implementation can be a big project. Depending on your organization and the expertise and capabilities it has, they may not be able to help navigate you through this journey. Some functions of IT narrowly define their role, while others may have a robust end-to-end process.
Having someone you can trust and provide you with objective insights, outside the political fray of a company’s internal dynamics, is invaluable. Specifically, having one point of contact with the end-to-end expertise and capabilities to bring together all facets of the project together in one place, saves you and the SaaS vendor’s time.
This sort of methodical approach can be applied to other strategic partners. Check out our tips on how to create accountability with consulting partners.
Any questions or feedback? We'd love to hear from you.
Paul is the Senior Director of Business Development & Partnerships. He works closely with peers in other service lines to create solutions for clients in the following areas: business development, sales, resource and vendor management, resource hiring/termination decisions, account management, service line P&L forecasting and management, and specific project delivery. He manages a team of employees and partners across a diverse technology platform from around the world who serve our clients to provide PMO services to Fortune 500, mid-range, and small firms in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the UK, and Northern Europe.