The Secret to Rolling Out SaaS Solutions More EffectivelyAugust 6, 2018
Many enterprises are going all in with software as a service (SaaS) for things like their collaboration tools, customer relationship management, and beyond. But implementing SaaS can be a bigger challenge than the solution vendor might have initially led you to believe. So here are five key things you can do to make sure your implementation goes off without a hitch.
1. Choose the right implementation partner
One of the top things you can do to roll out your SaaS solution more smoothly is to partner with an expert to walk you through the process. There are many companies out there that specialize in this type of service. But not all SaaS implementers are as adept as others. Gartner cautions you to do your due diligence in choosing a partner, with as much vim and vigor as you did in choosing the SaaS solution itself.
“While SaaS adoption increases, organizations are still less rigorous in selecting their SaaS implementation provider than the solution, leading to implementation failures.” —Gartner
As an example, just because a partner sold you on the software in the first place doesn’t mean you have to use them to set it up and roll it out. Nor should they necessarily be the one to help you drive adoption. After all, they might not be experts in every facet of what you need on this project. For more, see a previous post Tough questions to ask your SaaS implementation vendor.
2. Prioritize change management
This is a huge part of any SaaS implementation, so you need to make ample room for it in your schedule and budget. All too often, organizations spend most of their time and effort on the implementation and migration phases. But that’s only part of the picture. You can’t merely roll out new software and hope for the best. That’s when you find yourself in a situation where few to no users bother to adopt it.
So make sure to plan ample time and budget for change management—and dedicate a team to mastermind it. You have several options here:
Option 1: The easiest thing is to find an implementation partner that’s also a whiz at change management. But don’t just take their word for it. Make sure to talk with actual clients and see how their change management went.
Option 2: Another option is to assign internal folks to run the change management part of the project. An upside of this is that these people might have closer relationships with everyone involved. But that can be a downside, too, as they might get more push-back from opinionated users. So if you go this route, you need to make sure that these people have executive support and plenty of time and space in which to do the work.
Option 3: Yet another possibility—but often the most expensive one—is to bring in an independent third party to take care of the change management. That way, you can choose the most qualified person for the job. But you might get some push-back from the implementation vendor, so you’ll need to set expectations about why you’re going this route. And make sure to clearly assign roles and responsibilities across both vendors.
“The greater the extent of process change, the better qualified your team should be.”
3. Resist the urge to customize
Often when a SaaS solution doesn’t do exactly what your users expect, the temptation can be to customize it yourself. But tread carefully. Gartner says that the cost of this customization can start to really add up over time. That’s because SaaS vendors tend to release code updates often (and in fact, that’s one of the big selling points of SaaS). But then there’s a risk that their updates could break your customizations. Which means you can find yourself spending much more time than expected keeping your customizations working.
“For every dollar spent on customization, organizations could face long-term costs of up to 1-2 times the cost of customization for every year the solution is deployed.” —Gartner
4. Review non-standard processes
As you roll out a SaaS solution, you might also find yourself needing to take a step back and look at your own business processes. Are they compatible with the workflows in your new software? Over time, organizations tend to develop their own custom ways of doing things, maybe based on limitations in legacy software. Whereas SaaS solutions tend to adopt industry standards and best practices. So your solution might encourage users to do things a bit differently, which means you’ll need to focus on change management in those areas.
5. Avoid islands of SaaS
When you’re adopting an enterprise SaaS solution, you’ll get maximum benefit from it if you adopt it across the enterprise. Otherwise, you can wind up with inconsistent processes across teams, resulting in multiple versions of the truth. For example, if you’ve got one team managing customers in a legacy tool and another using a SaaS solution, you end up with different master lists of customers.
As another example, if you’ve decided to adopt Microsoft Office SharePoint or Teams as your document repository, it won’t be as effective if people keep storing files in many different places. This makes it harder to do backup, archiving, and even eDiscovery for litigation.
A best practice here is to have your implementation vendor help you integrate your SaaS solution across as many teams as possible, rather than just focusing on a standalone implementation. This might mean integrating with other APIs, which you’ll need to discover in an early phase of the project.
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Source: Gartner. Improve Your Enterprise SaaS Implementation With This Three-Step Process and Checklist, January 2018