So you’re considering a new CRM, ERP, SCM, or other primary business information solution for your company. And of course, with the majority of such platforms available today via the cloud, that's the delivery model you're planning to access.
But hold on just one moment! Because, as you're compiling that shortlist of SaaS products, it makes sense to check for specific indications that a custom cloud solution might serve your business better.
It’s natural enough to assume that custom software development will be cost-prohibitive and time-consuming. However, the costs and labor hours saved in the early days of a SaaS deployment can sometimes be swallowed up as time goes by.
To avoid being caught out by SaaS limitations somewhere down the line, look out for the following signs that Iflexion uses in our own cloud consulting checklist, pointing to the fact that custom software might be actually better for your company.
1. Stakeholders Can’t Reach Consensus on SaaS
It’s never easy to attain agreement among a group of stakeholders when identifying the most suitable SaaS application. Even if you categorize features and benefits of each software candidate into must-haves, nice-to-haves, and unnecessary luxuries, somebody’s luxury is another person’s must-have. The larger the team involved in the selection, the harder it is to gain consensus.
Nevertheless, if it seems your selection team is bogged down in selecting a solution or even drafting the shortlist, the problem might be more about the products on offer than the capriciousness of the appraisers.
After all, even the most comprehensive SaaS solutions can only address so many needs of so many companies. Perhaps yours has some specialized needs that no single SaaS product can meet.
Maybe you already have some highly customizable SaaS solutions shortlisted, like Salesforce in a CRM selection or SharePoint for document management, and your team still can’t make a decision. That could be a sign that you need to step back and evaluate the case for building, rather than buying, your new cloud software platform.
2. It Appears You Need More Than One Solution
Have you carried out a gap analysis to identify where you are with your existing solution and where you want to be with your new one? If so and some of your gaps indicate that your project will require more than one SaaS product, it’s a sign that custom cloud software might be a cost-effective alternative.
This situation is slightly different from that described in point one above. However, while a combination of two or more SaaS software systems could bridge gaps and meet all of your company’s needs, it might prove a costly approach in the long term.
In this case, there’s potential merit in designing and building a solution from the ground up.
Instead of maintaining SaaS licenses and payments for several applications, a tailor-made solution will be able to accommodate all the requirements under one roof. Better still, it will also help you address the next sign that SaaS might not be your right choice—the apparent need to flex and adapt business processes.
3. Business Process Changes Are Not an Option
Is your company prepared to change underlying business processes to accommodate incompatibility with your favored application or platform? Few SaaS products can accommodate all of a company’s processes out of the box.
Inevitably, this will leave you in a position where you must change business processes to fit the software solution, or procure a SaaS product that’s highly customizable. The former approach may not be possible, especially if your enterprise has highly specialized workflows in place. The latter is always possible, but it would be remiss to underestimate the associated costs and risks of extensive SaaS customization. For example, if you stretch your customized SaaS design too far from the software’s intended logic, you might find that future upgrades will break your customizations, or vice versa.
To avoid this and other customization problems, your organization will need to adopt a highly structured approach, incorporating measures such as risk assessment and audit. Furthermore, if you don’t have the necessary customization expertise in-house, you might need to hire external project managers and developers, which of course come at a cost.
With this in mind, you may wish to consider custom software, rather than SaaS, if your technology must mirror and support specialized business processes that themselves cannot be changed.
4. You Want to Compete on the Strength of Your Software
Who will use your new software? Is it only for a certain function in your enterprise, like, for example, Salesforce for your sales representatives, or must it be a solution accessible across the entire company, such as a SharePoint intranet? How about external access?
If you plan to offer software access to partner organizations or customers, you might face considerable unpredictability around future scaling needs. Moreover, if you wish to use the capabilities of your application or platform to attain a competitive advantage, it will help if you can offer benefits which are uniquely suited to the software users’ needs. That’s not necessarily something that many SaaS solutions can support.
Custom cloud software, on the other hand, gives you the ability to build all the features that perfectly suit the needs of your various business functions, your customers, and your partners. You’ll be able to scale the solution whenever you need to, and you can potentially turn a profit from the combination of your tech solution and your services.
5. You Can’t Lose Control of Your Data
For ultimate control of your data and assurance of security, you can’t find any better than a cloud solution built by or specifically for your company. With many SaaS products, your data resides with the solution provider. While that may not be so with some hybrid cloud solutions, you must still consider the levels of data control that you need to maintain.
For instance, what backup solutions will you need for data residing on the provider’s servers, and can you be sure that you will always be able to apply these solutions?
As an example of the possible issues your enterprise could experience, Salesforce has recently announced that from July 2020 it will no longer provide a data-backup recovery service. That decision leaves users without a native automated recovery solution, so they will need to run regular downloads and store data on a local drive to prevent losses.
As good as many of today’s SaaS platforms are in terms of data security and flexibility, a custom-built cloud application is still superior if total control is your priority.
Are the Signs Pointing to Custom Cloud Software?
SaaS solutions have their place in many companies and, given their propensity for low-cost and low-effort deployment, it’s easy to see why they would be the default choice. However, if your research and selection activities are punctuated by questions relating to the signs outlined in this article, it will be prudent to pay some attention to them.
It’s true that the initial investment and effort involved in building rather than buying your cloud application will be considerable. Nevertheless, if you’re not 100% certain that any single SaaS solution will be a close fit for your business, you might be pushing expenditure and effort down the road.
To hedge against that risk, you could evaluate the possibilities of a custom system to see if it may be the better way.