Can SaaS Applications Streamline Your Business?
The Software as a Service (SaaS) business model has revolutionised the way businesses interact with and develop software applications.
SaaS apps have made it easier for businesses to use software by removing the need for expensive hardware and large teams of software developers. On the other hand, SaaS has seen a slower uptake in some business sectors due to the lack of customisability.
New SaaS apps are quickly entering the market to cover the shortfalls of their predecessors. This now makes SaaS the first option for companies looking to buy software for their employees or operations.
We will discuss the pros and cons of the Software as a Service business model from a corporate customer perspective, and how it can change the way that businesses operate.
Software as a Service Applications
Software as a Service refers to software that is licensed on a subscription-based model and is accessible through the cloud.
From a business-to-customer perspective, this includes applications such as Spotify for streaming music over the cloud and Dropbox for the storage of personal files in the cloud.
Customers pay for a monthly or yearly subscription which gives them access to the service being offered. The customers often will not need to download any software to use the service, which can be accessed through their web browser, ensuring they always have the latest version and best possible user experience (in the case of Spotify, customers can download an app but will not need to download the music they stream).
SaaS is not restricted to B2C situations, and corporate customers can also take advantage of the wealth of SaaS apps available. These include SurveyMonkey for online surveys and market research, and the popular cloud-based inbound marketing and sales platform, HubSpot.
SaaS now accounts for a quarter of all software and is expected to continue growing.
SaaS vs Self-Hosted Software
Complete ownership of software comes with many technical considerations. How will the software be maintained? Where will it be hosted? How can the security of the software, data, and business be ensured?
If the software is going to be built in-house, there are several stages of planning and development that need to go into making the software fit all of the requirements. Team members and leaders must have meetings to discuss what needs to be in the software. This stage alone could take weeks or months.
The design and development teams must then agree on what the software will look like, how it will function, and how users will interact with it. When the software is not the center point of the business, which is often the case for inward-facing apps, this takes away valuable time from software engineering teams who will already have mountains of work.
Once the software has been built, it must be signed off. If requirements have changed during development, a common problem during software development, then it can prolong the project even further.
Even if you are going to buy off-the-shelf software instead, some problems could appear.
The most notable of these is security. If you are handling sensitive data or secret documents then you need to be constantly updating your software. Otherwise, you run the risk of competitors stealing your USPs, or falling foul of costly data protection laws. With more reputable software (or software you have built in-house), you will need fewer updates but you must still keep an eye out for them.
The other issue is with bugs in the program. In-house software can be patched quickly providing that you can stress the priority to your software development team, but off-the-shelf software might not be updated for a long time.
All of the problems that we have just discussed can either be removed by Software as a Service, or their impact can be lessened. This, of course, comes with the cost of not having complete control and ownership of the software.
The business will be less dependent on software developers, as they will not be needed for coding and maintaining the SaaS apps - they have already been built. The software developers are therefore free to work on more important tasks, or the business can choose to cut costs by having small development teams.
Instead, the software in the cloud is being managed by a dedicated team of professionals, with specialised knowledge to produce the best solutions for the task. All that you have to do is pay for the subscription.
When it comes to updates (either because of a security flaw or because there are bugs in the program), the SaaS software will be updated automatically. Because some of these SaaS apps have a large customer base, you might not even need to request a fix.
Moving from complete ownership of the software to being reliant on SaaS does not come without downsides though.
If you need a unique feature, it may not be possible to get that implemented. For example, if a market research team wanted to be able to ask a new type of question (perhaps a question recorded on the participants’ webcam) through their SaaS survey software, it would not be possible. They could only use the existing tools available.
There are ways around this. The market research team could request a new feature, although there is no guarantee that this will be implemented.
Some SaaS providers will be more capable of meeting unique customer needs than others, so the implementation of extra features may be possible.
The market research team would still have to wait days, weeks, or months for it to be implemented if the new feature is not highly-requested. However, compared to an in-house team working on completely owned software, there is little difference in timeframes.
Another issue is data privacy. If you work within the government or healthcare sectors, then you might have restrictions on what third-party vendors you can share personal data with.
This is not an outright problem with SaaS because some SaaS apps are highly secure and recommended by government entities. However, when selecting the right providers in these sectors, you need to make sure that the SaaS app is compliant.
Is This The End of Bespoke Software?
Over a decade ago, it was common for businesses of all sizes to request bespoke software. They would do this by hiring teams of software developers or paying a software company thousands (or millions) of pounds for new software.
Before cloud computing was mainstream, this was the accepted way of using software within a business. With little means to access complex programs through a web browser or file-transfer client, it was one of the best options for software.
But with the explosion of artificial intelligence and data-hungry programs, the hardware costs to run this bespoke software have also increased dramatically. This also comes with increasing staff costs, as teams are needed to maintain the software.
It is no surprise that bespoke software is now taking a backseat to SaaS. 85% of small businesses have adopted SaaS software. 93% of CIOs have either already adopted SaaS, or are planning to do so in the near future.
Among small businesses, bespoke software is dying out.
That is not to say that bespoke software will disappear completely. Large enterprises, such as those in the Fortune 500, will continue to develop bespoke software as they have near-unlimited budgets and unique needs.
Likewise, certain sectors and clients will continue to use on-premises software. This is more common in the government and healthcare sectors, although with recent improvements to cybersecurity, even they could shift more towards Software as a Service.
But for most businesses, they are better off with SaaS. Most of the important software can be accessed through SaaS for a fraction of the cost. This is why businesses now look to SaaS first to see if it can fit their requirements.
The Future is Software as a Service
Software as a Service is revolutionising the way that businesses buy and interact with software programs. They allow businesses to get access to high-quality software without the need to develop it, plan for security issues, or find a suitable place to host the software.
These benefits help businesses cut costs in times of financial hardship, and during a time where a team of software developers can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. With the SaaS providers having already built the software, it also means that companies can be up and running with SaaS software almost instantly.
This does come at a cost of not having complete ownership of the software. Large enterprises with huge budgets may find that they have the resources to develop and maintain software that can meet their unique requirements.
But the ease of receiving a small monthly bill use of a SaaS app is enticing for many small businesses. That is why most small businesses are now moving towards the use of SaaS.
Every business is unique, and they need to weigh up their needs when deciding how to source software. But Software as a Service is now becoming the number one choice, and it is not hard to see why.