Archive for May, 2018

SaaS Cloud–It’s What’s For Dinner

The world over, folks ask the same two questions every day–what’s for dinner, and what’s the weather forecast? In the government IT space, every day we’re all asking about the cloud forecast. A recent report from P&S Market Research provides new insights on the global government’s cloud appetites.

Big and Getting Bigger Fast

According to the report, the global market for government cloud services is expected to reach $49.2 billion by 2023, growing at a compounded annual rate of 15.4 percent. It states that SaaS offerings will see the highest revenue growth because government agencies are attracted by the low cost of ownership and the pay-as-you-go model.

What Tastes Good?

Government agencies have been adopting cloud for storage, disaster recovery, identity access management (IAM), risk compliance management, and other applications. The P&S report projects that the largest growth in the next five years will take place in disaster recovery and IAM applications as agencies turn to cloud solutions to prevent transaction and data losses from disasters and vulnerabilities.

FedRAMP Breadcrumbs

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions have figured prominently as agencies have turned to a variety of subscription-based cloud offerings for customer relationship management, financial management, and human resource functions. Judging by the 60 cloud services currently going through FedRAMP security accreditation, the trend toward SaaS solutions is likely to continue–90 percent of these are SaaS solutions. And to date, about 80 percent of the 97 services that have received FedRAMP authorization are also SaaS solutions.

Agency Appetites

Recent agency requests for information give a view into what agencies are looking for in cloud infrastructures. For instance, the FBI is looking to acquire Platform as a Service (PaaS) and SaaS offerings from established cloud service providers with an existing, large-scale commercial offering that can provide resource pooling to support multiple government agencies. The cloud platform must meet intelligence community security requirements for handling secret data, assuring high availability, and providing significantly more cost-efficient computing than traditional approaches. The FBI is also looking for services that provide middleware, such as identity and security management, log analysis, and audit capabilities.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is also looking to migrate applications to a commercial cloud provider. CBP wants to migrate all its applications out of its National Data Center in Springfield, Virginia to the cloud by the end of October 2022. CBP’s objective is to procure FedRAMP-compliant services to migrate to the cloud service provider’s platform. The agency is looking for Infrastructure-as-a-Service, PaaS, and SaaS cloud providers.

DoD’s JEDI infrastructure cloud deal’s headlining the cloud menu–but look out for SaaS solutions to keep tickling Uncle Sam’s taste buds.

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Why Non-IT Employees Are Now Driving Decisions About SaaS And Cloud Applications

Ryan Duguid, SVP of technology strategy at Nintex, spoke with TechRepublic’s Dan Patterson about the role of non-IT employees in cloud transitions.

Watch the video or read the transcript of their conversation below:

Patterson: The cloud has had an undeniably transformative effect on the enterprise and SaaS, of course, is at the heart of cloud growth. Now, the growth of SaaS might be up to non-IT workers.

Ryan, thank you very much for your time today. I wonder if we could first define how SaaS has grown historically to this point, and then we’ll talk a little bit about why it’s up to non-IT employees to help the growth of the cloud, and cloud-based applications.

 Duguid: Certainly, so at the end of the day, the massive upswing in SaaS is driven for obvious reasons, right? There’s cost savings associated with it, a lack of requirement for as many IT administrators to keep the lights on, but fundamentally, I think it’s about speed of delivery of technology to the business, and that’s always been a problem in the IT sector, and SaaS really makes the promise to solve that problem.

Patterson: So what is it about SaaS that has either reached an apex, or what is it that is now demanding non-IT employees to buy in as well?

Duguid: I think there’s two parts to this, right? The first part is that at the end of the day, SaaS has largely been driven by demand from the business. IT historically has struggled to keep up with the requirements of the business, and so the business is constantly pushing for the latest and greatest technology.

I think the other side of it, is now there’s a proliferation of SaaS vendors out there, when in the early days it was the big boys like the Workdays, and Salesforce and the likes. There’s not a SaaS application for everything, for every business function, for every industry, no matter how large or small, and so as a result there’s really this thirst or appetite for the business to get in and self-serve, even if IT’s not willing to be a part of that journey.

SaaS Adoption Is Outpacing Business’s Ability To Secure It

Two-thirds of ITDMs at large organisations are concerned about keeping up with security requirements for SaaS adoption

As the rate of cloud and SaaS adoption increases in businesses, IT teams are primarily concerned with data privacy, new research contends, with 64% of ITDMs believing that their organisation’s SaaS adoption is outpacing their ability to secure it.

But nearly half agree that their organisation is hesitant to adopt SaaS-based security solutions, according to a survey of 200 ITDMs by cyber security firm iboss for its 2018 Enterprise Cloud Trends Survey Report.

In the early days of SaaS, security was one of the primary concerns limiting adoption because the SaaS delivery model was relatively new, and companies felt uncomfortable storing sensitive data outside their own security measures.

Although the SaaS model has matured and has so far proved to be highly stable and secure when compared to on-premises solutions, it is easy to understand why there are still outstanding concerns around it.

Three-quarters of ITDMs told iboss that their organisation’s data was more secure using on-premises, purpose-built appliances rather than a SaaS solution. The most likely reason for this is because they feel that their data is less secure when using a SaaS solution, because such solutions store their data on shared servers – a reason 66% of respondents agreed with. A quarter also thought that security wasn’t a priority for SaaS solution providers.

“While these concerns aren’t unfounded, they also aren’t completely legitimate,” argued iboss CEO Paul Martini, analysing the findings of the report. “There are an array of cloud types and delivery models that both laymen and tech pros aren’t aware of that address many of the top concerns found in the survey head-on.”

Of course, there are many vendors who are committed to security, and to keeping their clients’ data safe, with incoming GDPR data protection rules meaning that they could be held partially responsible for any breaches.  Part of the solution is being diligent when choosing an SaaS provider, especially if they will be processing personally identifiable information or financial data.

A good vendor will be transparent in their security practices and be able to demonstrate multiple layers of security to protect customer data. This can include physical site security of the data centre facility, as well as application and database security, where defenses are core to the software development process.

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Addressing IT Decision Makers’ Concerns About Software As A Service

For a long time, IT departments have had concerns about Software as a Service; the resistance can be traced to concerns about reliability and security, integration, customization, accessibility and job security. Find out how to best respond to the concerns

Service provider takeaway: SaaS-based products face an uphill battle in most IT departments. Service providers should take IT’s concerns about Software as a Service seriously and be prepared with answers that will smooth the path to SaaS sales.

In a recent story, I outlined how Software as a Service (SaaS) is changing the software sales process, giving more power to the business decision maker. But, of course, IT still has tremendous influence over software sales, and if you want to sell SaaS-based tools to IT departments, you’ll need to know how to best approach them.

As you know, IT departments have historically had concerns about Software as a Service (SaaS) systems, and that resistance has been a fundamental roadblock to SaaS sales. In order to sell SaaS-based systems to your customers, you’ll need to pay attention to their objections and be able to address them with solid advice. And, exposing your customers to a new generation of SaaS solutions specifically aimed at IT professionals could be what convinces them that SaaS is viable for their entire enterprise.

Resistance to SaaS

IT department resistance to SaaS has stemmed from a number of concerns, both valid ones and debatable ones. Among the valid reasons for IT departments to question SaaS is its reliability and security. They also are right to ask how a SaaS-based product will integrate with existing applications and databases or how it can be customized to meet a company’s needs. And they have a legitimate reason to be concerned about where their company’s data will reside and how they can ensure access to that data if their company decides to discontinue their SaaS subscription.

On the debatable side of the equation, many IT professionals simply refuse to consider SaaS products because they believe they cannot match the functionality of traditional, on-premise applications. Others are concerned that SaaS tools will alleviate the complexities of software deployment and day-to-day management to such an extent that they could threaten the IT staff’s job security.

Smart service providers will anticipate all of these potential concerns about SaaS and either proactively address them or be prepared to respond to them.

Addressing concerns about Software as a Service

If you take the proactive route, a good first step is to educate your customers’ IT staff about the potential IT and business benefits and real technical requirements of SaaS solutions. Carefully evaluate the functional capabilities of the SaaS offerings up for consideration to clearly understand how they compare with traditional on-premise applications. While some SaaS offerings may offer fewer opportunities to customize the applications, these shortcomings may be offset by quicker deployment capabilities and greater ease of use for multiple users, which brings greater productivity. Educating your customers on these tradeoffs is important.

To address concerns about job security, you should help the IT department identify how they can redirect the IT resources that will be freed up by Software as a Service from mundane daily tasks toward more strategic and valuable activities.

To address IT’s concerns about reliability and security, it’s important to ascertain that the SaaS vendor you recommend has provisions for SAS (Statement on Auditing Standards) 70 certification. This certification verifies that the SaaS vendor, or its hosting company, has implemented the right technology and business processes to ensure the reliability and security of its hosted applications.

It is also essential that you clearly understand where your customer’s data will be located, the security parameters that have been established to safeguard the data, and the policies that are in place to ensure that they have full accessibility to the data, especially if the SaaS vendor goes out of business or decides to discontinue service. In some cases, you might want to negotiate an escrow arrangement for your customers, in which access to the application code is guaranteed in the event that the vendor folds or discontinues a service.

In addition, it’s important that the SaaS vendor you align with designs its solution to permit users to reconfigure their format, workflow and data migration processes to accommodate their business requirements.

And to ensure interoperability with various legacy applications and data sources, make sure that the SaaS vendor you recommend not only architects its on-demand applications to include open application program interfaces (APIs) and Web services, but also leverages third-party integration tools and integration service providers.

Finally, you should work with your SaaS vendors to provide IT departments with detailed service-level agreements (SLAs) that clearly state their performance objectives, problem resolution policies and escalation procedures, as well as penalties for failure to meet these expectations.

Demonstrating the business case for SaaS

Once these concerns have been addressed, you can move on to building the business case for Software as a Service. You should develop total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) assessment tools that can help the IT department fully understand and appreciate the cost savings and productivity improvements that can be generated from a SaaS-based product. These tools should be designed with the goal of helping your customer better understand the additional hardware, consulting and staff support costs that are associated with deploying traditional, on-premise applications. They should also be able to document and measure SaaS utilization levels.

A new generation of SaaS solutions aimed at helping IT departments better manage their day-to-day operations can serve as an effective proof-point for demonstrating the power of SaaS. These new SaaS solutions include Web-based security, storage, desktop and server management services from companies such as Symantec, EMC, Dell and Cisco Systems. These SaaS solutions are designed to meet the needs of IT departments seeking to automate their management requirements. IT departments that adopt these services will gain a first-hand understanding of the power of SaaS and why it appeals to business users. This first-hand experience will have a significant impact on their role in the overall selection and deployment process and could produce a fundamental shift in the corporate sourcing strategy.

By exposing the IT staff to Software as a Service, addressing their concerns about the delivery model and demonstrating the business benefits, you can serve as a trusted advisor who helps IT departments select, implement and fully leverage SaaS solutions that can enable them to better align their work with their business end users and support the strategic objectives of the organization.

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The New Ultimate Question for Customer Success and SaaS

There seems to be a rigorous debate in the SaaS customer success space about the value of measuring customer satisfaction through various survey methodologies, whether CSAT, NPS or CES (customer effort score). While each of these methodologies have their merits, I believe there’s a better question to ask, maybe the ultimate question every SaaS (or subscription) company should use to best measure customer sentiment.

For a SaaS company, your customers ultimately speak with their feet and their wallet in the form of renewals. If they’re getting value from the solution(s) and experience you deliver, they will continue to purchase your product again, or renew. If they aren’t getting value, they’ll stop paying for your product, or churn. It’s as simple as that.

Can you imagine a world where every single customer success issue could be resolved simply by asking a single question? Unfortunately, no such world exists (at least to our knowledge), but there are certain questions that can make daily life much easier for customer success teams. While simple questions may not solve all of the challenges that accompany customers along their journeys with your company, they can help uncover hidden issues, start important conversations, and accurately gauge customer health and sentiment.

Engage Customers By Asking Pointed Questions

It all comes down to engaging customers to the point they feel comfortable talking and discussing difficult matters with their Customer Success Manager (CSM) or representative. Laying out discussion topics can help identify the opportunities and risks associated with every account. Both open-ended and yes-or-no-questions can be helpful as any answer can help formulate and guide customer success strategy and planning. Customer input and guidance is the number one best way to formulate next steps from both individual customer issues and overarching departmental strategies.

The New Ultimate Customer Success Question

Ready for the question that can help serve as a guide to the entire customer journey? Here it is:

The Ultimate Customer Success Question

“If your renewal was today, would you renew?”

While it may be tempting to embellish this short and sweet question, customer success teams should keep it simple. Even a quick yes or no answer from customers is enough of an answer. Putting a blunt question about renewal in front of a customer may seem daunting—especially during non-renewal seasons—but in reality this question masks an even deeper one aimed at customer success teams: “Are we doing all we can do to ensure this customer is happy and, perhaps more important, successful at every stage of their journey?”.

Confronting issues head-on with questions as black-and-white as the daunting renewal question means putting the issues on the table for mutual acknowledgment and responsibility. A customer success team that asks this question is quite literally putting it all out in the open to understand how they can better serve their customer.

3 Additional Questions Customer Success Leaders Should Ask:

  1. If you (as an individual) were to leave your company right now, would your company continue to use our product or service? Ask for details from the response.
  2. Do you feel as though our team is meeting your specific project goals? Ask for details from the response.
  3. Will you advocate for room in the budget for this product or service in the future? Ask for details from the response.

One thing to remember? Ask these types of questions before the renewal—preferably many months before. The sooner a CSM can bring red flags to the surface, the better for all stakeholders involved. In addition, identifying these issues early in the customer lifecycle reduces the risk of repetitive root causes and increases the opportunity for proactive resolution.

Continuing the Conversation

The ultimate question, along with its counterparts, are not just one-and-done conversation topics, no matter how appealing that option may be to some customer success professionals. This question (or a similar equivalent) should be revisited several times throughout the entire customer journey. As customer’s answers change, so too will customer success strategy and plans change. This creates a continuous cycle of review and revision that is vital to the success of any Customer-CSM relationship.

Asking unapologetic, no-holds-barred questions at every stage of the customer journey—from day 1 even—puts the customer at ease and makes them feel comfortable with you and your entire team. Being upfront with issues and conflict can also build credibility and accountability. Customers appreciate strong partner teams who are ready to work through problems rather than sweep them under the rug.

Always Be Prepared To Have Important Conversations

While all customer success teams should be aware and ready to have these important conversations, it’s also critically important not to push customers into corners. Bring up the ‘Ultimate Customer Success Question’ when both your customer audience and your internal team is ready for the subsequent discussion. What are some questions your team uses to open up critical conversations with customers?

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Top 10 SaaS Implementation Considerations

Once you go through this list of the top 10 considerations for implementing Software as a Service (SaaS), you will be ready to tackle SaaS implementation head on. These tasks are meant to ensure that there are no surprises in the implementation process.

 10.3 Top 10 things to do and consider when implementing SaaS
When implementing SaaS, there are a number of processes and tasks that a business must complete, in order for them to successfully implement SaaS as a part of their infrastructure. Ten of these considerations and processes are detailed below.

1. Ensure that you understand exactly why you are implementing SaaS

Whenever a business implements a new technology, whether this is a hardware based technology or in this case a software service based technology, there is always a reason (or number of reasons) exactly why a business is implementing this new technology. There are a number of reasons why businesses would want to implement SaaS. Some business might want to improve the efficiency of their business related process by being able to concentrate more on business related processes rather than on software management processes, while other businesses may want to improve the collaboration of a number of different business sites of theirs, which are geographically separated.

No matter what reason a business has for wanting to implement SaaS, they should be clear about exactly what this reason is. A business should also have a very good understanding about how their existing processes and infrastructure work. This information is required so that SaaS software services can be integrated into their existing infrastructure at a later stage but with an absolute minimum of problems.

2. Note down exactly what you need in order to help you achieve the reason why you are implementing SaaS in the first place

This directly follows on from the first consideration. Once a business knows why they are implementing SaaS, they can then go about finding exactly what they need in order to accomplish this. There are a number of questions that a business should be able to answer, which will help them find out exactly what they need in order to accomplish what they initially set out to achieve. Firstly a business should be able to answer exactly what their SaaS software services need to be able to do. Secondly, a business should be able to answer exactly what kind of features these software services will need to have, in order to meet the answer to their previous question.

For example if a business wanted to improve data collaboration between various different business sites, then they would want a SaaS software solution that could be accessed by many users. However, if a business wanted a highly efficient software solution, similar in performance to traditional on-premises software solutions, then they would probably want a SaaS software service that could only be accessed by a few users at a time (making it more efficient than software solutions which are offered by many different users at the same time).

No matter what a business requires, by answering the two questions which were detailed in the first paragraph, things should be made a lot clearer for them. This means that a business should now have the knowledge to choose a SaaS service that is suitable for them.

3. Request a Service Level Agreement before signing any contracts

The Service Level Agreement is an important agreement document because it clearly defines what a SaaS service provider is offering and also what consequences they will face if they fail to deliver these services, to the agreed standard. To avoid problems at a later time and to ensure that they are getting exactly what they paid for, a business should request a Service Level Agreement before actually signing any contracts. Only when a business is happy with the terms in their Service Level Agreement, should they continue with the implementation process of SaaS.

4. Make sure that agreement clauses meet your needs and not just the software vendors needs

Because of the fact that SaaS software vendors can be located anywhere in the world, their customs and agreements may be differ from what a business (located elsewhere) actually thinks that these terms mean. For example, if a business was located in the US and their SaaS service provider was located in the UK (or any other part of the world other than the US), then there will be a time difference (among other differences) between the two organizations.

This has a number of consequences when dealing with availability agreements or any other types of agreement clauses for that matter. For example a SaaS service provider may have a clause stating that they guarantee the availability of software services during business hours. However, a business should be clear about what exactly is meant by phrase ‘business hours’. For example, does it mean that these software services will be available during the SaaS service provider’s business hours or does it mean that these software services will be available during their client’s business hours, which will differ from theirs due to geographical differences?

Also, still using the same example above, a SaaS service provider may have a different interpretation of what the term ‘business hours’ means, when compared to what their client actually needs. For example a SaaS service provider may define the term business hours meaning nine till five. However if a business operated 24/7, then obviously this clause is no good for them.

If a SaaS service provider has any vaguely written agreement clauses, then a business should clarify exactly what these clauses mean and if they are not happy with these clauses, then they should negotiate their own agreement clauses or select another service provider that better matches their needs.

5. Consider IT support requirements

Businesses should consider what level of IT professionals they will need, as well as what the expectations of their SaaS service provider actually are. For example will a business be able to continue operating with their existing workforce, once SaaS has been implemented or will they need to bring in additional IT professionals? Will a businesses SaaS service provider expect a business to have technical geniuses on hand or will anyone with a basic knowledge of IT be able to use their software services?

The level of support that a business will have to provide for SaaS software services themselves, all depends on what level of support their SaaS software vendor can provide them with. If a SaaS software vendor just delivers their software services but with very little support or documentation, then a business will need to employ a solid IT support workforce. However, if a SaaS software vendor provides clear instructions and documentation in clear English (with very little technical jargon) then a business should be able to continue operating without needing to bring in additional IT support professionals.

6. Find out if anything has to be done if your service provider fails to deliver the standard of services that they promised

A business should have already negotiated the consequences that a SaaS service provider will face if they fail to deliver the standard of software services that they promised. However, what a lot of businesses don’t realize is that some SaaS service providers do not automate this process. This means that a business will have slightly more work to do in the form of writing a letter, writing an email or putting in a requests, to receive the ‘credits’ that they should be entitled to.

Businesses should be clear about whether the above process is an automated one or if it is not. If it is not an automated process, then a business should be clear about exactly what action they have to take, in order to receive what they are entitled to, when their SaaS service provider fails to deliver their services up to the standard that was guaranteed by them in their Service Level Agreement contract.

7. Make sure that employees are properly trained

Due to the fact that implementing SaaS is such a relatively straightforward procedure, businesses can easily forget to do other things, which would otherwise be obvious. One of these things is training their staff. To avoid problems once SaaS software services have been implemented, a business should train their staff on how to access these new software services, as well as on how to use these new software services, during their initial setup stage. Once SaaS has been implemented, training on how to use these software services should be given, just as training would be given to employees on how to use any other new software service.

8. Consider what exit strategies you have

One thing that businesses should not overlook once they have implemented SaaS is what back out strategies they have. For example are they able to leave their SaaS service provider at any time. Will they easily be able to migrate to another SaaS service provider or will they easily be able to return back to an on-premises software infrastructure.

Also a business should consider what is going to happen to any of their data that was stored on their SaaS service provider’s data centers. For example will a business be able to easily restore this data back on to their data centers and will some of their data remain on their SaaS service provider’s data centers. Some SaaS service providers may choose to keep certain amounts of a clients data on their own data centers (for a limited period of time), to make things easier for their clients in case they return back to them in the future. If a business is not happy with this policy, then they should request that all of their data is erased from their SaaS service provider’s data centers, themselves.

9. Decrease the number of existing machines within your internal infrastructure

The great thing about SaaS is that the hosting of software applications is taken out of the hands of businesses. This means that a business no longer requires as many physical servers as they did before or they no longer require as many software licenses for their on-premises software applications or operating systems, as they did before.

By decreasing the number of physical servers that a business has running within its internal infrastructure and by decreasing the number of licensed software operating systems or licensed software applications that a business has running within its internal infrastructure, a business can save money in the long run. For example not only will they save money on buying new hardware for their servers or paying for additional software licenses but they will also save money on the administration of these machines, they will save money in terms of power consumption and they will save money on cooling requirements, as well as with many other aspects.

10. Know exactly what you will be paying

With traditional software applications, businesses pay a single upfront cost for these software applications and for any licenses that they require, depending on how many instances of that particular software application, they need to run. With SaaS software services, when it comes to payment, things are not as straightforward as they are for traditional software applications.

For example businesses may pay a monthly fee to use their SaaS service provider’s software services or they may only pay for what they use, by using a pay-as-you-go payment model. Businesses may also have to deal with licensing related issues if multiple users are going to access a single instance of a software application and they may also have to pay for storage space within their software vendor’s data centers, in order to store their business related data.

In order to save money a business should clearly know beforehand, how frequently they will be using these data services, what their data storage requirements are and what payment method would be the best for them (i.e. a monthly fixed rate or a pay-as-you-go payment model). Finally, businesses should not forget about other costs, including costs that relate to staffing requirements, training, backing up requirements and any other process that are not in their software vendors hands.

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