Raising your game with Software as a Service

A guide for Small and Medium Businesses

First published: June 2013

By Dale Vile

Key Points

Most SMBs have significant IT capability gaps
A recent study of 501 small and medium businesses (SMBs) revealed a mixed picture in terms of the IT capability used to support the business. Most organisations do a pretty good job of meeting their needs in relation to essential functions, but when it comes to solutions that can enhance workforce productivity and business performance, the technology in place often falls significantly short of the mark.

Progress is inhibited by a shortage of time and resource, and operational overhead concerns
With limited IT expertise and bandwidth available, it’s hard to find time to keep up with technology related developments that might benefit the business, and even to properly investigate the options available when new business needs or opportunities arise. Added to this, SMBs are very wary of the cost and overhead of running new IT systems, which can become a distraction or burden over time.

SaaS cuts through many of the blockers, but the value is often not appreciated
Those with experience of SaaS highlight a wide range of advantages compared to traditional on-premise IT. Less distraction from core business activities, an ability to spread the cost of IT improvements, easier management of growth, and enhanced support for mobile and remote working are examples of areas in which the value of SaaS is confirmed. However, those that have yet to experience SaaS often underappreciate the benefits.

The level of challenge is over-estimated, and issues are sometimes misunderstood
Before they adopt their first SaaS service, many anticipate major issues in areas such as security, data management, cost predictability, and unfriendly contract terms. While experienced users say you need to be careful about these and other issues when evaluating services, they are also clear on there being no showstoppers, and say risks can be managed effectively if the right approach is taken.

Early adopters quickly get over any concerns, and are using SaaS to ‘raise their game’
Rather than trying to save money by migrating existing back-office systems like accounting and ERP into the cloud, most see SaaS today as an opportunity to introduce new capability that enables workforce productivity, enhances business performance, or reduces business risk. Solutions in areas such as collaboration, CRM, data management and security, are common targets for SaaS.

SaaS changes the way SMBs think about exploiting IT
If you don’t have to worry so much about up-front costs and the need for specialist IT skills and resources, the question changes from “What is possible?” to “What is valuable?” Decisions then primarily come down to comparing the ongoing benefit with the ongoing cost, and if the ratio is favourable, then acting on the potential is much more straightforward.

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