SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools

A critical look at the promise and practicality for SMBs

First published: January 2012

By Andrew Buss

KEY POINTS

Email and office tools are business critical, so decisions cannot be taken lightly
It’s easy to dismiss the importance of email and office productivity tools when you think of them in isolation, but feedback gathered during a recent online survey of 348 IT and business professionals confirms that these facilities are ingrained in most core business processes, and critical to their operation. Major upgrades or migrations therefore cannot be taken lightly, and regardless of the ‘subscribe and go’ rhetoric of providers, this equally applies to any proposed move to SaaS.

Existing office capabilities do the job, and few are interested in a major switch
While everyone likes to gripe about various aspects of the office productivity facilities they use, such as word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools, the results of our research suggest that most people are on the whole very happy with them – they are familiar, and get the job done pretty well. When looking at changes in this space, there is therefore little need or motivation to revolutionise the nature of this core capability, although extending them to include more advanced communications features such as collaboration, voice and video, is frequently of interest.

Benefits of the SaaS option are broadly acknowledged, but so are the migration challenges
Cost reduction is the most widely perceived benefit of moving to SaaS based delivery of email and office productivity capability, though more rapid access to new functionality and the potential boost to flexibility are also broadly acknowledged. The evidence suggests that SaaS adoption goes hand in hand with operational efficiency within IT, with better performing organisations being significantly more likely to be using hosted email and productivity services. However, it is generally perceived that moving core services such as email from on-premise to SaaS is a significant undertaking that should not be embarked upon without proper evaluation, planning and execution.

Requirements analysis and selection of the appropriate solution mix are key to success
With options ranging from pure on-premise systems at one end to pure web-apps at the other, it is necessary to take a requirements-led approach to solution selection, bearing existing investments and constraints in mind. The research suggests that for the majority interested in SaaS, the preferred architecture is likely to be a hybrid one, e.g. with locally installed desktop office applications running against hosted back-end email and collaboration hubs in the cloud. Pure web-app alternatives are generally seen as being complementary to this.


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