Research Report: How SaaS Adoption Trends Show New Shifts In Technology Purchasing Power

Published on June 21, 2010 by R "Ray" Wang

SaaS Adoption Surveys Often Overlook Audience Composition

Over the past year, analyst firms, tech media, and even mainstream business media have happily showcased positive news about SaaS adoption.  The common theme remains clear – SaaS adoption moves beyond the tipping point in 2010.  Cloud adoption will reach a tipping point in the next 12 months.  All this bodes well for customers and SaaS providers as organizations now embrace SaaS as an acceptable deployment option in their apps strategy.  Unfortunately, recent SaaS/Cloud adoption surveys continue to provide confusing and sometimes contradictory data about adoption.  Close examination of these surveys reveal that not all adoption surveys are equally created.  The unspoken question, who’s answering the surveys?

SaaS Decision Making Firmly In The Hands Of The Business Buyer

Anecdotally, business users drive SaaS decisions, while IT leaders remain skeptical.  To validate this hypothesis, Software Insider conducted a quick survey of 100 Global 2000 organizations.  Starting with the most senior IT leaders, the question was posed, “Are you using SaaS in your organization for major business processes?” (see Figure 1).  Of the 46 organizations who responded, the procurement leaders were then asked the same question (see Figure 2).  After comparing survey results, the following conclusions emerged:

  • IT leaders aware but hesitant on SaaS adoption. A little under a quarter of IT leaders (23.91% or 11/46) responded that they were using SaaS applications.  Key applications deployed include CRM, strategic HCM, expense management and project based solutions (PBS).  Delving deeper into these verbal and in-person interviews highlighted a desire to learn more about SaaS.  As one CIO at a major food and beverage concern stated, “The business heads keep showing up with these SaaS apps and then want us to integrate them.  We need to get a handle on all this!”  Key concerns included, “I don’t know if we can integrate all this in the future”, responded the CIO of a large Fortune 500 retailer and “I think we need better governance and security”, remarked the Director of Enterprise Apps for a Top 25 banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) entity.
  • Procurement leaders reveal surprising adoption by business leaders en masse for SaaS solutions. Conversations with the procurement managers highlight how business users have taken matters into their own hands.  Every one of the surveyed organizations (100% or 46/46) had an existing SaaS contract, contradicting the IT leaders who did not respond that they ran SaaS solutions.  In fact – these contracts ranged from five seat deals to 2000 seats at one organization.  As the procurement head at a large professional services firm indicated, “The teams will buy whatever they need now.  IT has no clue!”.  “Business has to go around IT because they are too busy keeping the lights on”, retorted a procurement manager at a global 10 pharma.  A procurement manager for a large multi-national manufacturer stated, “Our main issue with SaaS is finding enough solutions that will support our needs.”
  • Business leaders take charge but fail to communicate with IT leaders.  The key finding – lack of coordination among business, IT, and procurement.   Amazingly, the 35 IT leaders who stated they did not run SaaS apps for major business processes still may not know about the CRM, HCM, Project Based Solutions, and Finances deployments in their organization.  When some of them were shown the results, these leaders expressed amazement and surprise.  Organizations should be alarmed but not surprised by this lack of coordination between business and IT.

Figure 1.  IT Leader Responses Show Muted Adoption

Figure 2. Procurement Leader Responses Paint A Completely Different Picture

The Bottom Line For Users: Successful SaaS Strategies Will Require Business and IT Cooperation

Next generation CIO’s, technology leaders, business leaders, and line of business execs should build SaaS apps strategies that:

  1. Begin with the business process and desired business value. Understand the desired business value and outcome.  Map back the key performance indicators (KPI’s) to the business processes. Identify what processes will be covered by the SaaS solution.  Determine overlaps and hand-offs between on-premise and SaaS to SaaS that are required to measure the desired KPI’s.
  2. Engage stakeholders early and often. Today’s apps strategies must constantly evolve. Change is happening so fast that line of business leads and IT leaders must collaborate in real time.  The result – an ever changing list of requirements.  While SaaS allows business leaders to make go-it-alone decisions, success will require close collaboration on short term and long term requirements, dependencies, and strategy.
  3. Bet on future suites, SaaS platforms or PaaS (Platform-as-a-service). Winners and losers will emerge in this wave of Cloud computing.  Vendors such as Netsuite, Workday, Zoho, Epicor, and SAP have built or will be building suites.  They provide safe bets as more and more functionality will be rolled into their offerings. Concurrently, organizations should also choose vendors who bring a vibrant and rich ecosystem to the table because those vendors will win in the market.  Salesforce.com and NetSuite already provide users with a platform to build on apps.  Other vendors such as as Google Apps Engine, Microsoft Azure, IBM, VMWare and Salesforce.com (via VMforce),  and Zoho provide rich developer communities.  Partner and customers will drive innovation which is why platform adoption (i.e. today’s middleware) makes a difference.
  4. Augment with best of breeds, but avoid best of breed hell. No one platform can provide every solution, but choose wisely.  Best of breeds provide deep vertical capabilities and rich last mile solutions.  However, no one wants to manage hundreds of vendor relationships.  Create frameworks that allow business users to work with vendors which support open standards, integrate well with your existing integration strategies, and follow the bill of rights.   Reduction in the number of vendors will become a priority in 2010 going on into 2011.
  5. Assume hybrid will be the rule not the exception. Prepare for hybrid deployments throughout the decade.  Despite the benefits of SaaS and broad adoption in 2010, legacy apps will not go away.  Just count the number of mainframe and client-server apps still in use today.  Many on-premise apps will take time to migrate to SaaS. In some cases, legal requirements will prevent data from being stored off-site.  Software plus services offerings from companies such as Infor, Lawson, Microsoft Dynamics, and SAP may become the norm in 2010 as companies seek private and public cloud solutions.
  6. Design with good architecture. Keep your enterprise architects (EA’s) or hire some more.  Inevitably, more and more SaaS solutions will enter the organization.  EA’s will proactively plan for new scenarios and account for future business requirements.  Organizations should keep some rigor in terms of standards for solution adoption while accounting for the need to rapidly innovate.  Business leaders will need some frameworks on which solutions to adopt.
  7. Choose the right integration strategy for the right time. SaaS integration strategies will evolve based on the organization’s SaaS adoption maturity.  The first set of solutions will probably require point to point integration of data.  Over time, users often migrate to centralized integration services that account for process.  Some will go full enterprise service bus (ESB) and look at business process orchestration as well.  Consider solutions from CastIron, Boomi, Pervasive Software, Informatica, and SnapLogic.  Going forward customer data integration and master data management will be more important than ever.
  8. Minimize long-term storage costs with archiving. Storage represents a significant long term SaaS cost.  Savvy clients can reduce the cost of SaaS storage with a myriad of technologies such as EMC, IBM Optim, and RainStor.  By archiving, organizations will experience faster transaction times, maintain compliance, and reduce storage fees.
  9. Hedge risk with SaaS escrows. Most SaaS vendors will require 5 to 7 years to achieve profitability.  End users often demand software escrows in the on-premise world when they are concerned about vendor viability, takeover threats, and other related breaches to performance or service level agreements.  Software escrows vendors serve as the trusted third party independent organization which holds a copy of the software code.  This often includes user data, source code, documentation and any application executables. SaaS escrows work in a similar way.  Vendors such as EscrowTech, InnovaSafe, Iron Mountain, NCC Group. and OpSource can provide such services.
  10. Protect your rights. Client – vendor relationships in SaaS are perpetual.  Organizations have one shot to get the contract right and begin the relationship with the right tenor.  Apply best practices from The Customer Bill of Rights: SaaS. Work with vendors to find the right balance in approach.

The Bottom Line For Vendors: Focus On The Technology Spend With Business, Not The IT Budget

IT budgets should now be viewed as business technology budgets.   As with the mainframe to PC shift in hardware, SaaS/Cloud represents the shift in buying power to the operating and business units.   Business leaders are going to procure solutions because the price points allow them to.   Keep in mind, most IT budgets are 1 to 2% of revenues of a company.  While that may be a good chunk of money,  the operations side has about 4 to 5% of annual revenues to spend on technology.   With greater power in the hands of business leaders and a bigger budget, business technology budgets are what sellers/vendors should be aiming for as that’s where the money is.

Your POV.

Considering SaaS/Cloud in your apps strategy as a deployment option?  What products are you looking at?  You can post or send on to rwang0 at gmail dot com or r at softwaresinsider dot org and we’ll keep your anonymity.

Please let us know if you need help with your apps strategy efforts.  Here’s how we can help:

  • Evaluating SaaS options and vendor selection
  • Assessing apps strategies (e.g. single instance, two-tier ERP, upgrade, custom dev, packaged deployments”
  • Designing end to end processes and systems
  • Comparing SaaS/Cloud integration strategies
  • Assisting with legacy ERP migration
  • Planning upgrades and migration
  • Performing vendor selection
  • Providing contract negotiations and software licensing support

Resources And Related Research:

20090714 Sandhill.com – R “Ray” Wang – “Opinion: Moving to a SaaS Offensive”

20100322 A Software Insider’s POV – R “Ray” Wang -“Understanding The Many Flavors Of Cloud Computing/SaaS”

20091222 A Software Insider’s POV – R “Ray” Wang “Tuesday’s Tip: 10 Cloud And SaaS Apps Strategies For 2010″

20091208 A Software Insider’s POV – R “Ray” Wang – “Tuesday’s Tip: 2010 Apps Strategies Should Start With Business Value”

20091012 A Software Insider’s POV – R “Ray” Wang – “Research Report: Customer Bill of Rights – Software-as-a Service”

20090602 A Software Insider’s POV – R “Ray” Wang ” Tuesday’s Tip: Now’s The Time To Consider SaaS Software Escrows”

20081028 A Software Insider’s POV – R “Ray” Wang “Tuesday’s Tip: SaaS Integration Advice”

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Copyright © 2010 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.

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