Why Are We Still Debating The Benefits Of SaaS?

Another day, another article about how Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are going to revolutionise business. I don’t disagree, far from it, I don’t understand why some people still need convincing of the benefits!

In fact, I was stunned to hear today of a director of a large MNC (who shall remain nameless) saying that he didn’t get cloud applications, thought they were really expensive and suggested businesses should build all their applications in house. Clearly there are some dinosaurs still out there!

The idea behind SaaS is nothing new. It’s been around in various guises for a long time starting with the Application Service Provider (ASP) model a decade or so ago. Since then improvements we’ve had a plethora of applications from sales force automation and CRM through to finance, service desk and HR management. Not to mention those that we’re so used to in our personal lives such as Hotmail and social media.

The two really compelling business benefits have to be cost and flexibility.

Software is traditionally charged on an annual licence basis and the fee is fixed, whether it’s used once a year or every day. SaaS pricing is generally usage based so you only pay for what you need. More cost efficient and you can give access to all staff who need it, however infrequently. The other issue is that licences are usually for a single device – but that’s not the way we work anymore. I can work from the office, home or on my PDA, but that might require three licences!

Being online, SaaS applications can be used securely from any device with internet access. It’s the user accounts that matter, not the device. This is not just cost effective, but simpler for staff and more flexible too. Businesses grow, merge, acquire or get bought out, staff come and go and management changes – all of which require complete flexibility to ensure systems keep pace with the requirements of the business.

Nothing needs to be installed, hosted or maintained on your network so services can be implemented quickly and easily and you can be up and running in weeks, days or even hours. With no software to install, host on the network or maintain, IT resources are freed up and you don’t need to engage expensive consultants when changes are required as this is all done by the service provider.

In fact in most cases you’ll actually benefit from more frequent updates and enhancements as the SaaS platform can be updated centrally. SaaS providers also understand that business applications don’t operate in a vacuum and so they’re designed to integrate with in-house applications such as finance systems, email, intranets and payroll.

Security may have been a concern in the past, but today most respectable SaaS providers know it’s vital, and often have significantly more advanced security, access and resilience measures than most corporates! A range of standards have appeared to give reassurance and prove security compliance from basic levels right up to banking grade security.

SaaS, the cloud, ASP …. call it what you will, it’s all the same idea. Remotely accessing corporate systems is here to stay and becoming firmly established at the heart of business processes. The cost and flexibility benefits are numerous and for organisations like Rio Tinto and Anglian Water, it’s a must have requirement. Businesses need to be quick, nimble, able to change – If you’re not then chances are your competitors will be. Are you moving ahead or sticking with the dinosaurs?

Robert Kirby has more than 20 years experience in the expense management and payments industry, and has led business operations from three different continents. Prior to co-founding Spendvision in 2001, Robert held senior executive positions with Globeset, where he was initially based in Austin, Texas as VP responsible for B2B transaction services. Later he moved to Australia to become VP and general manager of the APAC and Japan business unit. Prior to Globeset, Robert held senior management positions at Telstra and led the development and implementation of eCommerce and payments products and services. Robert has held a position on the Board of the Australian Payments System Council – a body charged with advising the Australian Treasurer on the efficiency of the Australian payments system. He is also a member of the Commercial Payments International advisory board.