Control panel detail of a row of server cabinets with a computer network and digital displays full of data and numbers, and blue blinking lights and leds,  arranged in a rows around an aisle.  Servers are connected by a cloud shaped set of icons with symbols of services, activities and data driving a computer network and cloud computing cyberspace.  Communicating through the Internet of Things. Room is illuminated by blue light.

by Sunir Shah, President, Cloud Software Association and CEO, AppBind

Industry View from

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Software as a Service: taking advantage and avoiding the pitfalls

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It’s 2019. Everyone uses online software in business – from banking executives to farmers in Kenya. Why? Because it’s simple. A connected world has moved communication online. Markets and businesses have moved online with it, and so we need online business software to manage it all.

 

For many businesses, their core competitive advantage depends on the quality and depth of their operational software. So, the only questions are: what software do you use, and how do you manage it all?

 

Subscriptions shift the burden to the buyer

 

Online software is often subscription based Software-as-a-Service – or SaaS for short.

 

Subscriptions create a direct relationship between a customer and the SaaS supplier. This has resulted in familiar partners, such as retailers like Staples, who only stock popular software; or system integrators, managed service providers and agencies that research and implement software for a customer.

 

More and more software is being chosen, bought, implemented and maintained directly by the customer.

 

Finding software

 

Every day, hundreds of new SaaS applications come to market, with every product category full of competitors. How do you find the best software? Fortunately, there are excellent software review sites such as G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, and the Gartner family of Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice that can help you find solutions and understand the pros and cons.

 

Quite often you will need an add-on to an existing system, such as payroll to your accounting system, or SMS marketing to your marketing automation system. In these cases, you can almost always find a solution by asking your existing software vendors what is the best solution that integrates with them.

 

The critical value of integration ecosystems

 

Make sure you only pick anchor software that have extensive ecosystems of integrated software, either directly or through a connector such as Zapier or Mulesoft. Your operations depend on what software you can use. Anchor software with weak integrated ecosystems will lack the flexibility to adapt to your business’s needs as you develop. No software company can implement every single use-case for every single business.

 

Moreover, your data will be trapped in any SaaS vendor without integrations to get it out. Weak integrations lock you in with one SaaS vendor, with no means to grow – which, after all, is the vendor’s business goal.

 

Evaluating software for online risks

 

Buying online software comes with unique risks. First, because the software is not on your computers, you are relying on the software maker to stay in business. For critical software, make sure the company has the financial bearing to be able to stick around. To check the funding history for most SaaS companies, you can search Crunchbase which tracks venture capital investment in the industry.

 

Second, data breaches are a daily occurence. Confirm the SaaS vendor has not had a major (known) data breach by checking sites such as Have I Been Pwned.

 

And finally, privacy has come to the forefront of every software sale, thanks to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Any software vendor that holds customer data or employee personal information needs good answers to questions like:

 

• Do they have a data processing agreement (DPA)?

 

• Who is their data protection officer (DPO) to address problems?

 

• What information do they collect? Who do they share it with? How long           are they storing it?

 

• How will they let customers request a copy of their own personal data,            update it, or delete it?

 

Bring your own software

 

Because SaaS is ever-present and available, many employees will sign up for and even buy SaaS on their own, sometimes using their own money and credit cards. This is great initiative to improve their own productivity, but a headache for compliance with GDPR, security and operational risk. Tracking down the subscriptions to either discontinue them or to protect operations can be chaotic.

 

Create an internal policy of using a password manager like Okta, LastPass, or Dashlane to track all logins and passwords. Use services like Blissfully, Intello or Torii to keep track of what SaaS subscriptions your employees have signed up for automatically.

 

Credit cards are a single point of failure

 

We’ve all had the experience of updating subscription billing when our cards expire or are cancelled. Whenever you can, add back-up credit cards to your SaaS or cloud provider account. If you can’t, use AppBind to manage credit card subscriptions with a back-up payment source.

 

Delegation to agencies, consultants, system integrators, managed service providers

 

With all these risks, it makes sense to hire an agency to take care of SaaS management for you. AppBind also lets third parties such as a system integrator, a managed service provider or a marketing agency buy online subscriptions on your behalf, while letting you keep ultimate control of the subscription.

 


 

The Cloud Software Association is a network of 2,000 companies building the market for cloud software distribution.

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