What do I Ask When Evaluating SaaS?

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Deploying a SaaS application is new for many companies and there are lots of people willing to offer advice on how to evaluate and select the right SaaS solution.  Alistair Croll offered a good set of questions to ask when evaluating SaaS. I like his advice because it offers a good holistic view of SaaS and makes the point that a long term vision of the SaaS option is critical to making a good decision.

Alistair recommends asking the following questions,

  • Adaptability: How easily can you modify the application? This can be as simple as adding fields or building dashboards, or as advanced as a programming platform.
  • Reliability: How much can you depend on the system to function well? This boils down to four things: Performance, availability, scalability and security.
  • Task productivity: How effectively can your users accomplish their goals? How many cases-per-minute or entries-per-day can workers do, and how many errors do they make?
  • Price: How much will it cost — really? Because SaaS offerings are so varied in pricing, it’s hard to compare them. A better model is to create several benchmark subscribers (a 10-, 100-, and 1,000-person organization) and compare upfront and ongoing costs for them.
  • Back-end integration: Can you plug it in to other things? Any enterprise SaaS offering will have to work with other systems, for everything from authentication to data sharing.
  • Longevity: How long will the SaaS company be around, and what’s your exit strategy? With ISVs, you could ask for software in escrow. However, when a SaaS provider closes down, your entire IT systems can vanish with the flick of an “off” switch. Offers from Intuit and others to help stranded customers notwithstanding, this is a big problem.
  • Ecosystem: How many third-party developers and integrators surround a particular platform with plug-ins and add-ons, and how active are they? A vibrant ecosystem means a more extensible, flexible solution.

Drop me a note with your favorite questions to ask when evaluating SaaS.