Why SaaS Trumps Traditional Software for LargeGlobal RolloutsApril 11, 2011 by Mary Hayes WeierI occasionally hear this doubt about SaaS: "How can a SaaS company handle a large, global software rollout?Isnt that a job for an ERP giant?" Its natural to have questions about a new software delivery model, but thisis among the most misguided doubts about SaaS—and where a key benefit of SaaS is often overlooked.Global software rollouts have become synonymous with a giant software vendor and its armies of employees,integrators, and consultants. That doubt about Software as a Service (SaaS) arises because there are no giantSaaS companies out there (Salesforce.com comes the closest, with about 5,000 employees). But the wholepoint of SaaS is rollout armies arent required, as a single version of the software is served up to every useracross the globe. Software isnt being installed on servers at customer data centers in London, Luxembourg,Bangalore, and Buenos Aires, but its served up to users in those parts of the world, just the same.A great illustration of a single version of SaaS in action is Avivas rollout of WorkdayHuman Capital Management (HCM). London-based Aviva is one of the worlds largestinsurance companies and has grown largely through acquisitions, with 46,000employees in 28 countries. Like many organizations, the companys core businessstrategy is to operate as a single global organization that rapidly responds tocustomer needs. Because Workday is a single version of software delivered to everyuser, Aviva sees Workday HCM as providing managers and employees with improved decision-making andcollaboration across the global workforce. That, obviously, ties right into the core strategy of operating as asingle global organization.Workday uses a phrase to summarize the value of this global insight with its Workday HCM offering: Visibility,Alignment, and Optimization. The idea is that once you have visibility into the entire workforce, you can alignyour employees to company goals, and optimize those resources for optimal business outcomes.In a typical scenario five years after a large companys global on-premise software rollout, some of its regionswill have upgraded to the next version of the software and others wont have for a number of possiblereasons—the upgrade wasnt in the budget, it wasnt a priority for those regions, or those regions couldnt findthe right talent to implement the upgrade. What is the companys visibility into its global workforce at thatpoint? Unfortunately, visibility is probably getting worse every day, as each region gradually drifts away fromthat initial "global rollout" intended to bring visibility—another ERP silo bobbing aimlessly in the sea.While its possible to do a single global instance of on-premise software, companies typically choose to roll outseparate instances by region to better support local needs. SaaS can be a superior alternative for globalrollouts when it provides companywide visibility while also providing local visibility and support of localrequirements such as languages, currencies, country-specific data formats, business processes, and otherlocale-specific needs.
Heres an example of what unity with SaaS looks like at Aviva, from the Workday case study, on the first phaseof the rollout completed last year: "In the past, if you sat in Vancouver, the only job openings you could see were in Canada," says Andy Moffat, Avivas European director of human resources. "Now you can apply anywhere online. Its about shifting behaviors, and helping people see and collaborate on information."Aviva, by the way, used to be a big user of traditional on-premise HR software. The organization wassupporting 112 different HR systems in Europe alone.How can a SaaS company handle a global rollout of SaaS? Lets turn that around and ask this question: Howthe heck does a massive, multi-region, multi-year, on-premise software implementation, requiring smallarmies of consultants and integrators, possibly make sense for a large global rollout? Given the more modernoptions available for global software rollouts, its time to rethink our doubts.- Mary