Four credentials your SaaS vendor needs (hint: it’s not their software)

Advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Quantum Computing (QC) are rapidly redefining the capabilities within everyday applications and helping companies leapfrog their larger competitors. Many SaaS vendors embed these new and innovative technologies in their applications.  However, if you’re responsible for selecting new technology, you should consider that choosing the right SaaS provider can be just as important as selecting the right application. To succeed in business transformation, you cannot have one without the other.

While SaaS has become the default mode for business applications, the business transformation is not driven entirely by a software application. It’s simply a tool in the toolbox. Those organizations thinking of SaaS, should also look beyond the application and consider vendor credentials.

Here are four non-software considerations you should use when evaluating SaaS:

  1. Industry. Does the vendor possess the domain expertise, depth of staff, and vision that shows they are credible and current within your industry? It’s certainly useful to have diverse set IoT skills. But applying that to highly regulated sectors — finance, airlines or insurance — requires real depth. If you are speaking to a SaaS vendor and you find yourself talking with the same “industry expert” meeting after meeting, that’s a sign he/she is the only domain expert that vendor has available. What happens when they depart the firm? Who carries the product vision after that?
  2. Consulting Services. Does the vendor have a bench of consultants and business partners to train your staff, adapt your process, and support your unique business demands?  We are in the midst of a widespread skill shortage and widening skills gaps in IT. While SaaS does not put the same burdens on your internal IT resources, you might still find yourself struggling for outside support during on-boarding, data transfer and integration with existing applications. According to research by Robert Walters, only 11 percent of UK employers do not expect a skills shortage in the next 12 months.
  3. Thought Leadership. Does the vendor have patents and specialists who are leading in the fields of engineering, security and privacy?  Thought leaders are those  who inspire and offer innovative product ideas for today and the future. These leaders are the ones that translate macro changes in business, technology, and government regulations into new features — all delivered through SaaS.  If you’re like everyone else, you’ll be concerned with security and privacy so it’s vital you ask your SaaS vendor if they have a fully dedicated Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).  In 2017, only 65 percent of organizations had filled the CISO role. That’s why you need to ask your SaaS vendor who wears that hat (and be sure they do it full-time!).
  4. Financial Viability. Do you have a plan for when your SaaS vendor goes out of business? Hopefully, you’ll never need one. But you should ask the vendor about ownership, debt and business continuity. The danger that your SaaS provider could go out of business is real. Patrick Thibodeau quoted Gartner analyst William Maurer as saying he expected about one in four (25 percent) IT-service providers to declare bankruptcy, be bought out or go out of business in 2015. Take a close look at SaaS vendors who don’t invest or own their own data center or hardware but instead ‘rent’ from third -party cloud providers.

For those looking to find more innovation and value from SaaS, it will require more rigor than looking at software. In our next blog, we’ll share more of what to consider in security for SaaS solutions.

Have any questions or comments, you can reach me @Matthew_Mikell on Twitter.