Beware. When it comes to achieving a positive Return-on-Investment, it's not all about cheap monthly licenses fees. A successful SaaS deployment demands so much more. 

In its infancy, the benefits of cloud computing and SaaS business models were simple; it all came down to cost and the ability for businesses to save on expensive infrastructure. Today, as cloud computing becomes ubiquitous and the preferred option for many new IT projects, measuring success has become far more nuanced.

Success requires organizational change

The metrics for defining success and measuring ROI now extend beyond simple infrastructure savings. An ability to spin up a new project in hours (not months), and to replace infrastructure costs with a seemingly low monthly subscription are appealing; but what happens to your ROI six months later when you discover that user adoption is just 10%? Calculate the real “cost per user” in such scenarios and all of the benefits promised by the cloud will simply evaporate.

This is becoming a real issue for businesses who bought on the promise of being more agile, or reducing infrastructure costs. In reality, success demands real organizational change, not just a cheap licence fee. That’s why, when evaluating cloud technologies for your own business, it’s time to look beyond the basic “sticker price” and understand that it’s people who drive the change – technology is just the facilitator.

Three success factors

Here are three key considerations for anyone looking at cloud technology and a SaaS business model.

1. User Experience

All enterprise systems, cloud or otherwise, need ownership and structure. IT teams need to understand how users and information move between internal systems. The minute workflows become broken, users will abandon the tool and default back to what (historically) worked for them. The result will be poor user adoption and even increased security risks as users try to circumvent the new process. 

That’s why it’s so important to work with your cloud vendor to educate users. In particular to answer the question they really want to know. “Why?”.

Cloud solutions are often sold on their ease of use, but business leaders often confuse usability with ‘Why’.  Both are equally important, but when purchasing an enterprise SaaS tool, you must be able to answer this question and have a plan for change management baked into your deployment schedule.

Not all vendors will include user education or change management services in their license cost, or even have the skills to offer this service at all. This can make price per user seem artificially low. Be sure to factor user adoption and build an ROI not against price per user, but cost per user.

2. Data security

There’s a thin line drawn between usability and security, and if forced to choose, security must always come first. However, be aware that in the age of citizen IT, too much unnecessary security can actually increase your risk. That may seem contradictory, but if usability is compromised too deeply, users will default to legacy tools, shadow IT or circumvent processes altogether.

Many companies still struggle with the concept of their data being stored offsite, but this mind-set is now changing and the focus for successful SaaS implementations is on enablement. Vendors must deliver not only robust data hosting controls, application security features and secure mobile working to meet required standards and compliance needs, but also enable this with a user experience that doesn’t present barriers to users. The most secure platform in the world serves no purpose if your end users don’t use it.

Ensure your vendor can provide the relevant security credentials, and also a communication and on-boarding plan for end-users. This will ensures users are trained and adequately supported as they begin using the solution. Remember, support requests typically spike in the first few weeks after initial deployment so make sure your vendor is adequately resourced.

3. Domain expertise

One advantage of a cloud deployment is an ability to scale quickly and drive business agility. But can your cloud vendor deliver on this?

Today, scale is not only a measure of infrastructure but also a measure of user readiness. This requires your vendor to respond quickly to your growth by delivering adequate user training, managing new user on-boarding, and even monitoring usage data and end-user feedback to help guide you in extracting maximum value as you scale.

Yes, SaaS removes the need for big upgrade costs but without intervention and support from a seasoned and expert vendor your ROI risks being damaged by poor user adoption.

SaaS is about service

Cloud-based SaaS solutions are a flexible, efficient and reliable way to deploy software for your organization. However, never forget that the second “S” in SaaS stands for service and that successful deployments require more than just a low “sticker price”.

Huddle are cloud pioneers and we are passionate about our clients. Our years of experience across commercial, government and public sector organizations are delivered through industry leading customer success services and a unique Change Management Methodology that’s proven to help clients meet their ROI goals.

Our secret? We invest in your business with our expert people to make sure you get maximum value for your end users.

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