Don't Think SaaS Won't Require Support - InformationWeek

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Commentary
2/26/2007
11:13 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Don't Think SaaS Won't Require Support

One of the selling points to management on software as a service (SaaS) is the assertion that it will eliminate internal support costs. A few companies I'm working with are finding that support costs don't always go away, and that's especially true for larger companies. Effective SaaS programs require more internal support than many realize. Here are three areas to consider.

One of the selling points to management on software as a service (SaaS) is the assertion that it will eliminate internal support costs. A few companies I'm working with are finding that support costs don't always go away, and that's especially true for larger companies. I'll explain.

Truth told, the SaaS approach does avoid core expenses like hardware and software maintenance, but it still requires local support to be effective. Many SaaS players get into an organization by having management buy subscriptions on their credit cards, thus bypassing IT, but more formal and effective enterprise SaaS deployment programs require more internal support than many realize.

Here are three areas to consider.Training. Many SaaS providers provide very good applications, but they do require a minimum amount of training to be effective. There are very effective online training programs available, but most will find that internal training is most effective. That will require consultants or employees to provide the training. It's a good investment because employees who receive hands-on training will be much more effective with the SaaS application.

Trouble shooting. SaaS is not immune to typical computing issues such as network connectivity problems. Remember: No network/Internet, no SaaS application. Thus, organizations must maintain people within the organization to kick the router from time to time. Also, hardware and software conflicts are still on the radar screen as some SaaS players leverage downloadable controls to make their applications work better. Finally, if you have an integration link between your SaaS vendor and your internal systems, those can be problematic and need on-site support.

Outages. SaaS outages are rare, but they do happen, and having a support organization within the enterprise that's in the know is much better than having 100+ angry salespeople calling your SaaS vendor all at the same time. Enterprises that I'm working with are reporting much better results when they funnel outage problems and other issues through a single support organization. That organization pays for itself with the efficiencies it provides.

So, does SaaS mean we can eliminate support people within our organizations? Nope. Indeed, the larger the organization, the more you're going to need living, breathing people to support your SaaS users. However, the other values of SaaS make it a compelling proposition; we just need to be realistic about expenses -- reduced but not eliminated. Anybody surprised?

Application integration and service oriented architecture expert David Linthicum heads the product development, implementation and strategy consulting firm The Linthicum Group.One of the selling points to management on software as a service (SaaS) is the assertion that it will eliminate internal support costs. A few companies I'm working with are finding that support costs don't always go away, and that's especially true for larger companies. Effective SaaS programs require more internal support than many realize. Here are three areas to consider.

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