3 Steps to Take to Start Transitioning Your Business to SaaS
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
A big conversation these days concerns the debate between on-premises technology versus off-site cloud services. As subscription-based, scalable cloud software -- that is, software as a service (SaaS) -- becomes increasingly commonplace, more and businesses are trading in-house legacy systems for their off-site counterparts.
In fact, Gartner predicts that by the end of this year, the worldwide public cloud-services market, which includes SaaS, will have grown by 18 percent over 2016.
Certainly, moving to cloud software might seem intimidating to some business leaders. They might think they need data on-site for security or compliance reasons, or that a transition to SaaS products would be too costly or disruptive. So, the frequent result is that they simply stick with what’s working for (or familiar to) them. Because, well, change is difficult.
But the switch to SaaS is worth it, in most cases. Currently, major software vendors are investing most of their innovation and resources into cloud-based software products, so that's where you want to be long-term as a business owner.
For products such as Windows and Office Suite, Microsoft has been focusing on its cloud offering of Microsoft 365 and Office 365. That means that on-premises Microsoft Office won't keep innovating and evolving at the same pace; it's already lagging behind in evolution. Additionally, customers are also keen to use the newest technology, whether it be a fresh smartphone or the latest version of an app.
For companies, then, looking for the integration flexibility, scalability and predictable costs of SaaS, here are three steps you can take to ease the transition:
1. Find out what employees want to use.
Incorporating new tools sometimes isn't appealing to business owners because their teams are already used to other systems. Adjusting to another tool, after all, takes time and therefore resources, so why change what's already working? But chances are good that some of your employees or teams are already using SaaS software, meaning that the transition won't be so daunting.
Tools such as Box or Dropbox are becoming commonplace even in individuals' daily lives, with the latter boasting about 500 million users. Figure out where and why employees are using these applications instead of in-house solutions -- the reason is likely superior user experience and convenience -- and decide whether you want to formally adopt some of your staffers' preferred software.
2. Implement SaaS where it's needed most.
Seeing what your employees are already comfortable with is just one way to approach cloud adoption. Another track you can take is to examine your current workflows to identify inefficiencies, then see which tools on the market can address those gaps in productivity.
For instance, tedious or repetitive tasks such as setting appointments with clients, file-sharing or invoice processing can all be automated with a subscription-based tool. Examine what you and your team are doing -- which tasks hold the most importance versus what takes the most time -- and determine where you can outsource to the cloud.
According to Planview's Powering Productivity, a study on efficiency in the workplace, inefficient processes are the number one culprit behind wasted hours, so investing in a tool that addresses those kinks in operations can help reduce that loss.
3. Take it slow.
If employees are already using some SaaS products, congratulations -- you’ve already started easing into the transition. Don’t feel that all your operations have to go to SaaS, especially not all at once.
At my company, for example, we have several clients who will use our SaaS products as a customer relationship-management tool, but still use on-premise software, like Microsoft Office, for tasks like word processing and spreadsheets. As employees get more comfortable with the tools, many will transition to Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 at their own pace. Regardless of how you portion out various aspects of your business, it really is okay to take it slow and integrate SaaS at a pace that works for you and your employees.
People are often averse to change, but businesses can’t afford to be if they want to remain competitive. Legacy systems might work now, but in the long run, they become less compatible, less secure and more expensive. The reliability, flexibility and performance of cloud computing also come at a scalable price. All you need to do to take advantage of it is take the leap.