A CTO’s highlights from webinar featuring Forrester Research on making a business case for SaaS ERP
Recently I took part in a discussion with guest speaker, Liz Herbert of Forrester Research and Unit4’s own Mark Gibbison around creating business cases for SaaS ERP solutions.
It was a wide-ranging presentation, covering a variety of topics arising from Liz’s report for Forrester on Quantifying the Business Value of SaaS DOP Investments. A very salient topic considering more and more companies and organizations are looking to replace their legacy systems, with SaaS as the trending alternative to on-premises solutions.
75% of organizations are currently rewriting their digital approaches as a result of lessons learned throughout COVID and looking to improve their digital agility. As Unit4’s CTO, I’m very keen to make them aware of both the power of SaaS and its ability to drive real change and growth (and, of course to pay for itself), but also of the need to make choices very carefully based on specific high-level technical differences in the SaaS ERP market.
With this in mind, here are some of my highlights from our 45-minute conversation (which has now been shared as a webinar for you to view at your convenience). In particular, I’d like to highlight that not all SaaS solutions are created equal (and that it’s vital for organizations to learn the distinction and how to spot it as they go about making a business case and conducting procurement exercises), and the often undersold benefit of automatic upgrades made possible by true SaaS-native technologies.
How to tell the difference between SaaS and SaaS
Not all SaaS ERP solutions are created equal, and you should be aware of this as you build your business case and plan your procurement process.
Because there’s been such great interest in SaaS in every industry (governments even promote SaaS in many countries!), it’s very common to see vendors marketing their solutions as SaaS solutions when they really aren’t.
These “SaaS in name only” vendors are usually operating on what we call the “lift and shift” model of cloud computing. They’re simply taking an existing on-premises software architecture and porting it directly into a cloud environment.
While this does bring some of the benefits of a “true” SaaS solution (in the form of reduced infrastructure and hardware costs), the burden of software maintenance is still on the customer rather than on the provider. Forklifted on-premises solutions also lack a great deal of the architectural flexibility that makes improved business agility possible with a “native” SaaS solution. It’s this underlying flexible architecture that makes many of the benefits of SaaS – from automatic upgrades to extensive integration – possible.
If you intend to buy SaaS, make sure you’re getting the real thing. Demo the solution, research the vendor. Question them closely on how they’ve architected their solution, what their roadmap looks like for future features and integration capabilities, and how it can fit in with the broader IT landscape your organization operates in. You should also take the time to quiz vendors on their intentions around fostering future integrations. Some vendors will have a much stronger eye on making their customers ready for the future. Be ready to ask questions about their integration toolkits, developer communities, and integration and API documentation.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of not having to track version
Although vendors are very keen to have their customers using the latest versions of their software, it’s often an uphill struggle in the world of on-premises IT. Once a solution is embedded in a business and people have figured out its quirks and limitations, they’re often perfectly content to work around them and reticent to discover new workarounds. Upgrades – whether or not they substantially improve functionality, user experience, or efficiency – are seen as an unnecessary extra. Especially when they’re often accompanied by unpredictably long periods of downtime or disruption that stop everyone from getting on with their work.
SaaS solutions make this tendency to rely on obsolete software (that only gets worse as time goes on) a thing of the past through regularly scheduled automatic updates. Because all server-side changes are fully managed by the vendor and require no input on the customer side, downtime is avoided, and everyone in your organization can immediately take advantage of features and efficiency improvements, security upgrades, better UX, and innovations in what the solution can do are able to help innovate what you can do.
These changes might seem small in the short term, but over the 10-15 year lifespan of an ERP installation, they can add up to create massive value for your organization. And this is value you absolutely have to take into account when developing business cases for SaaS solutions.
Want to learn more?
These are just a couple of my highlights from the topics covered in our 45 minute session. To hear the whole thing for yourself and learn how you can start building an airtight business case for SaaS ERP in your organization, check out the entire on-demand recording.