Q and A with Edward Carbutt, Executive Director at Marval Africa on how to deploy SaaS in the enterprise for Brainstorm
- Why should the business bother with SaaS? What’s the point?
When the organisation looks at the concept of ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS), the word ‘service’ in this context means that the organisation would like to benefit from the software without being held responsible for the costs and risks associated with owning and maintaining the provisioning of that service. So, why should the business bother with SaaS? Well, SaaS decreases costs and lowers risk for the organisation. For example, Microsoft Office 365 provides a pay as you use service. As a result, the business is not forced to own a mail server and pay for ongoing maintenance of the infrastructure. It also means that if the company would like to switch from one provider to the next, they can do so without being trapped in a contract or move on having paid an exceptional amount of money for something that does not satisfy business requirements anymore.
- What are some of the most common challenges the organisation faces when it comes to taking the enterprise into SaaS?
There is an illusion with SaaS that the organisation can ‘log on’ immediately and start using the service. The cloud is one such example. Yet, there are a number of aspects that organisations have to consider before embarking on SaaS which affects cost and risk. These generally include security and accessibility, however, there is often a struggle of how to deploy the software and how the organisation should embrace new functionality.
- How can the organisation effectively prepare for, or address, these challenges? What are the best ways to mitigate their impact on an effective SaaS transition?
The advent of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) version 4 is a great way to prepare and deploy solutions in an Agile manner. ITIL4 includes organisational change management and stakeholder management. There are also seven guiding principles of ITIL4 which help address certain challenges with a SaaS transition:
- Value – Organisations must always ensure that what they are doing is creating value. The Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) should always be kept in mind. Organisations need to ask themselves what the customer or user is expecting from the solution and how will this service or SaaS create value.
- Start where you are – This means that the organisation does not need to scrap all the work it has previously done and start from scratch. Organisations should rather use existing platforms, approaches, etc.
- Progress iteratively with feedback – For example, if the organisation implements a new SaaS solution, the impact of that change can be detrimental, if it is done all at once. Organisations ought to implement the solution in a step-by-step manner – obtaining feedback at every point by asking the question ‘how can this be improved’ and adjusting the solution accordingly.
- Collaborate and promote visibility – When introducing the SaaS solution, the organisation should obtain early buy-in from as many people as possible, involving them in the success of the deployment.
- Think and work holistically – Always design big and start small. Otherwise, if the organisation only focuses on the moving parts then it might skew the outcome. Working holistically also goes back to the first point on focusing on the value of the service.
- Keep it simple and practice – Organisations should aim to simplify and steer clear of overcomplicating processes. They need to ask themselves: Are we doing the right thing? Are we doing them the best way? Are we doing the well? In addition, they should ask, are we seeing improvements – do we have the evidence?
- Optimise and automate – Only now does technology comes in – Once the process is simplified and made practical and the organisation would like to use a specific SaaS, only then does one eliminate anything that is wasteful and use the technology to its full capability.
- What mistakes or pitfalls do companies commonly fall into when embarking on a SaaS transition and how can these be avoided?
The most common mistake companies make when it comes to SaaS is that they do not necessarily address the cultural and people aspect of technology deployment. The organisation needs to simplify the process, obtain buy-in, eliminate wasteful process or infrastructure and ensure the processes are practical before implementing SaaS. It’s not purely about changing technology. It is also about the change management and stakeholder management associated with the process that makes the difference and lets the technology deliver its full potential. The other mistake that often occurs is that the organisation loses sight of the value they are trying to bring to the user. It is all about UX.
- If you were to give a business one piece of salient advice before or during their SaaS deployment, what would it be? Why?
With the general impression that SaaS will simplify everything, organisations ought to remember that any technology implementation is still about the people, processes and technology. These three aspects must be collectively considered to provide full business value. Organisations should also ensure that SaaS solves the problem that needs to be fixed. The business needs to ask themselves if they will obtain the preferred business outcomes by implementing the technology.
In addition, it is always good to look at the legal aspects of implementing new technologies. It is good practice to look out for contract periods and whether the organisation can exit these contracts if necessary and with reason. If the tool does not do what it is supposed to, then the business should be able to move on to another tool. A service is a consumable and should, therefore, be accessed on an on-demand basis.