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"Software as a service – a faster, cheaper way to fail?"


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  • 1. INSIGHTS & OPINIONS “Software as a service – a faster, cheaper way to fail?” Too many SaaS initiatives fail to deliver. But a comprehensive focus on people, process and information change can ensure they fulfill their promise. By Nicole France, Barney Haywood and Paul Gilroy of Fujitsu UK & Ireland “ “The benefits The benefits of software as a service (SaaS) This tight focus on understanding the needs of a of SaaS are real applications for companies of all sizes have largely particular type of customer has been the founding but they are only sold themselves, leading to the success of specialist principle of many SaaS providers, including the likes realised when SaaS application providers and the creation of a of, Eloqua and the emphasis is multi-billion dollar industry. But a recent study by on an iterative Gartner suggests that customer satisfaction among Another critical selling point for SaaS applications is – not just rapid SaaS clients is only lukewarm. Based on our that because they are charged on a per-user, per-month – approach to observations, we believe that much of this basis, there is little up-front investment required. This implementation.” ambivalence is due to an overselling of five-day also means that they can typically be acquired through, implementation times and an under-investment for example, a sales director’s operating budget, without in clearly mapping work practices, processes and the need for additional capital investment and associated information flows to the SaaS application. approval cycles. Although SaaS promises to eliminate most of the technical In addition to requiring a much lower initial implementation generally required to get business investment, SaaS applications, due to the nature of applications up and running, it doesn’t prevent many their technology, can be up and running in a very short clients from falling into the trap of believing that period of time – weeks, rather than the months technology alone will solve their problems. We have traditional applications usually require. This is because seen from the experience of our clients that the benefits SaaS implementations require configuration rather than of SaaS are real, but they are only realised when the any high degree of customisation or application emphasis is on an iterative – not just rapid – approach development. Many of the SaaS providers themselves to implementation. would have you believe that a major CRM application can even be fully functional within five days – a boast Why use SaaS anyway? we’ll come to. One of the most important benefits of SaaS applications is that they are purpose-built. Because SaaS applications Finally, and although it is a politically incorrect have typically been designed to support particular observation in some circles, one major point of appeal functional or process areas – such as sales, marketing, for many functional or business unit directors customer relationship management or IT service considering SaaS is that such applications have few management, to name just a few – they are very well technical requirements beyond access to the internet. In suited to meeting the specific needs of the business many cases, decisions to implement SaaS applications directors in question, be they sales directors, chief are made with little or no involvement from the internal marketing officers, heads of customer service or IT department, much less their approval. The power of even IT directors. this appeal to any business director who has been stung
  • 2. INSIGHTS & OPINIONS “SaaS eliminates by bad experiences with traditional application Hard lessons from most of the time implementation projects should not be underestimated. “quick start” SaaS and expense of a technical So where does it all go wrong? The desire to get a SaaS application up and running as implementation, Time and again we have seen clients lured into believing quickly as possible can actually be counter-productive: that they can have a fully functional business application take as an example the experience of one of our clients, allowing a focus a large insurance brokerage. A major division within the on the really implemented and delivering benefits within as little as five business wanted to implement a comprehensive system important bit days. While we are strong advocates of the significant time to help manage the full scope of sales and customer – people.” savings that a SaaS option delivers, we think it’s time for a interaction. The client was sold on a 20-day “quick healthy dose of realism. It is technically true that SaaS start” implementation of to achieve this. applications can be running within a matter of days but it is simply wishful thinking to believe that all of the people, When they came to us to help implement their 20-day plan, we were happy to oblige, but raised questions about process and information flows required by even a key aspects of the plan that seemed to be missing. There moderately complex set of business processes can be was scrupulous attention paid to implementing the adequately accounted for and reflected in the configuration application itself, but very little regarding how data would of a SaaS application within a single business week. be transitioned to the new system, much less its impact on the working practices of the team that would use it. How can we ensure success with SaaS? Although adding these steps would have increased the implementation time, we were confident that it would Certainly rapid implementations have their place, also dramatically improve the overall success of the particularly as a pilot or proof of concept. In this regard, system and the project. such abbreviated implementations can also be very useful starting points. However, for any investment in SaaS Nevertheless, our client insisted on sticking to the applications to bear real fruit, the implementation process 20-day schedule. And we did. The application was must take into account the full scope of requirements. up and running, configured to the client’s specifications, right on schedule. The results, however, were less than astonishing. There were Realising the full benefits of SaaS applications, in our still issues with the accuracy and completeness of view, comes down to this fundamental principle: SaaS customer data in the system. Perhaps more eliminates most of the time and expense of a technical importantly, the sales and client services teams implementation, allowing anyone implementing it the using the system were not entirely won over by its resources to focus on the really important bit – people. benefits. The anti-climactic result was that our client learned the hard way that ignoring the full scope of what’s required to really improve sales and The most successful SaaS implementations we have seen customer interaction yields only limited success. are those in which the people who are the main users of the application are involved throughout in an iterative Happily, the story doesn’t end there. Over several implementation process. In order to ensure that this is months the issues with adoption and data were a constructive – and still rapid – process, we help our resolved and the client saw improving results. The clients to focus on four main streams: people, process, new system has been so successful that the other divisions in the company are now planning to adopt information and technology. This holistic approach isn’t it as well. With the benefit of some hard lessons, the necessarily a major revelation, but it does help our clients client is also taking us up on our advice. This time to maintain focus on the bits that are most important around, there will be a great deal more focus on an (and most difficult) rather than just the technology. iterative rollout that involves the sales and customer service teams throughout the implementation process. In short, SaaS delivers significant advantages over traditional applications – particularly in terms of l About the authors: Nicole France is shorter, faster, less costly implementations. Making head of Application Services Marketing, SaaS implementations successful, however, requires a Barney Haywood is a CRM ” consultative, collaborative approach that engages both Programme Manager, and Paul Gilroy is the business areas touched by the application and the Capability Lead and Engagement Manager implementation team. at Fujitsu UK & Ireland What next? l Contact the authors:, or l Contact Fujitsu: l Read more insights, opinions and examples of practical innovation that deliver real benefits at Fujitsu Services Limited, Registered in England no 96056, Registered Office: 22 Baker Street, London, W1U 3BW Copyright © Fujitsu Services Limited 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of Fujitsu Services Ltd. Fujitsu Services endeavours to ensure that the information in this document is correct and fairly stated, but does not accept liability for any errors or omissions.