Archive for July, 2011

Using SaaS to Grow Your Business

July 31, 2011

To meet their changing business needs, organizations of all sizes are adopting web-based, on-demand, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions: ranging from ‘front office’ applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing systems; to ‘back-office’ applications, such as cash flow and money management systems; to collaboration; IT management solutions; and industry-specific applications.
In a recent survey by Information Strategies, Inc. we saw a marked upswing by small businesses using SaaS for a variety of functional areas to grow their businesses.
Because SaaS offerings reduce maintenance costs and are device agnostic, they offer significant savings plus they are usually updated by providers in ways that are transparent to the users.
Small business leaders are not early adapters and it will take some time for them to totally adopt SaaS for all applications.
This jumped out at us in the survey with a majority (63%) of respondent reporting they had not moved any applications to a SaaS environment.
Only 11% said they had significant resources committed to a SaaS application(s) and just 4% saying they were totally “in the cloud.”
One in five respondents expected to put a SaaS application into their mix within the next 12 months. Less than five percent expected this to happen before the end of the year.
Whether you have never heard of SaaS or utilize various offerings, here is a brief rundown on what our respondents said about their utilization in four areas.
Marketing – It’s about more than features of your offering: you will want to promote the entire customer experience. Your target market includes existing customers, not just prospects. Market to the existing customers to take advantage of new features delivered over the life of the subscription. If they’re satisfied, they’re more likely to renew. You will want a unified view of your customers across social media, email, web, mobile and other channels and platforms.
Cash Flow in terms of how you pay for SaaS, and how it will help you better manage your cash flow. A SaaS offering at its most basic it will show you where the money comes from and how your company spends it, other offerings will provide details of net income, operating activities, expenditures and financing activities with historical, current and projected data. Some SaaS applications allow you to look pricing, terms, etc. of contracts you set-up to determine the effect on your cash flow. While some customers are willing to pay up to three years in advance for SaaS contracts, you should negotiate payment based on utilization or on a monthly basis.
Money Management is a key component of any small enterprise. Keeping funds working for the company can generate additional profits. Day-to-day lockbox and other functions can be better managed through SaaS applications that often offer more secure communication protocols. Some SaaS products are more robust and provide additional layers of protection than those resident on enterprise systems.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a widely-implemented strategy for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes—principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. In addition to product features, consider speed of deployment, ease of purchase, access to support and other benefits in our selection process. A good CRM application will enable you to grow your business through a higher sales completion rate, better servicing for improved retention, which could lead to purchase of multiple offerings and referral to others.
There are many SaaS offerings available. When selecting an application consider the source, think about if the provider (or the host they might outsource to) is reliable, secure and high performing. Ask a peer company what SaaS applications and providers they are using and what has been their experience; you should get some really good advice.