So - how do I pick a winner? What to look for when buying SaaS software. (Part 2)

In my last article, I talked about gathering and understanding requirements. This time, I will move on to making sure that some hidden requirements are considered, and then how to ask the questions that make it much easier to get the rest of the firm onside (especially those pesky senior managers and board members who tend to hold the purse strings).

What is the matrix within which we want to solve this problem?

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It's not enough to know what the business needs are, some thought must also be given to the surrounding situation. Below I have a number of lenses and views to get you started:

  • Is the business investing in growth or spending the minimum to fend off competitors and stay afloat? Will my new SaaS service either help cut cost, improve efficiency or offer new services and revenue streams. Which of these messages will work better with my CFO? Since companies move between these states, it would be wise to think through not only what the software offers now, but how it could meet requirements in future when the business conditions are different.

  • What are our competitors doing? Are they growing into our markets with radical new offerings? Are we looking to grow into theirs? What would it take to start taking market share from them? Does this solution move the business towards leading the pack?

  • Is my IT department able to take full advantage of a new platform, or do they prefer to access a turnkey solution? If they have preferred platforms and models, do they mesh with my vendors? There is no value in sorting out all the business requirements if the technical ones become blockers. Again, even if now there is a preference for a bespoke solution, could we adopt an out of the box conditions change?

  • Does my team and that of other stakeholders have time and desire to reshape the business or is this just a point fix? Could this solution work for us either way? What resources (other than "hey let's just do this thing") can I or my team put behind the solution to make it a success. Is that going to be enough?

  • Is this the right time to commit to changing the business? There is no point implementing new software just before the busiest business period - implementation and bedding in time is needed. In my experience, marshalling people throughout the business to get legal, commercial, technical, organisational factors all lined up takes more time than you might have thought.

Can we afford to do it, can we do it right, and can we afford not to do it?

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If you have asked all the questions above, from the previous article and many more, you have a reasonable idea of what you want and how it fits into your business. Now you need to look at the products in the marketplace again, this time asking yourself three sets of questions.

  1. Can we afford to do it? As ever, money is critical. Will the entire project be funded this year? Is this a deployment that can be staged to allow it to be spread over a longer period (and more funding pools)? Can I get this signed off? I would assume that some budget was available at the start of the process - but with the right knowledge that comes with questions and time, you need to validate the work.

  2. Can we do it properly or will it be hacked together? This will frequently be driven by the technical and process questions. If it is a bodge, will that matter? If there is enough business value, even a terrible bodge might be worth doing. But knowing what you are committing to is going to be important in getting every ounce of value back out.

  3. Can we afford not to do it? A set of questions that should be asked more often than it is. If a competitor is gaining market share, how long can you defer investment? If there are security or process problems with the current process, how much damage is your business suffering while the investment is delayed? If you can show answers to these questions, it can make a board decision very easy. To use an industry example I am familiar with - if missed appointments cost thousands of pounds a time because a surgical team and theatre aren't used to capacity, and you can save £150k per year, an investment of £70k has paid itself off in less than 6 months. The business case practically writes itself.

Now make it happen because its just so easy. There is more ... there is always more. And large decisions are not easy to make. But the thoughts above and in the last blog should have helped.

As you go down the path of internal buy in and weigh your options on how to select SaaS software you may also need to weigh the options of build vs. buy. Check out this whitepaper on the pros and cons of build vs buy.