IV. Best Practices Spotlight: Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS and on-premise deployment are both viable implementation options. In addition, on-premise deployment with remote (vendor) management is a new, powerful hybrid solution of these two approaches, and is especially attractive to mid-market companies because it eliminates the high costs of internally managing, maintaining and upgrading the CRM software.
Comparing the Merits of On-Premise and SaaS CRM Deployments
Simply put, on-premise CRM deployment can be an excellent choice for companies that want the highest levels of control, flexibility and customization over their environment. On-premise systems afford 24/7 access to data at the database level, and because they may run on virtual private networks (VPNs) or other internal networks, do not suffer from Internet-based performance vagaries.
However, on-premise CRM software solutions tend to be more complex than their SaaS counterparts. In particular, most small business and mid-market companies need to balance the need for high functionality with quick implementation and without an over-abundance of IT resources. SaaS CRM implementations eliminate:
- Waiting for hardware, software and network resources to be procured and provisioned. This alone can take from four to six weeks, or more.
- Relying on internal IT resources to install and configure the hardware and software.
In fact, a company can sign a contract one day with a SaaS CRM provider and be working on the software implementation the next. These factors add up to greatly reduce implementation time and speed time-to-value.
The Ongoing Benefits of SaaS
As previously noted, high-performance SaaS CRM systems offer robust functionality that is easy to configure, and can be up and running quickly. Because the system is available to all users over the Internet and accessible from anywhere via a browser, it does not require a VPN. And because the service level agreement (SLA) is with the solution provider, customers can be assured that the CRM software will be up and running on a 24/7 basis without the involvement of their IT organizations. This conserves precious IT resources, allowing them to be deployed to higher value-added activities.
SaaS CRM implementations also afford high levels of operational flexibility and on-demand scalability. For example, a company can run different regions off a single or multiple CRM software instance(s). This allows different data subsets to be managed independently but accessed globally. Sophisticated data security schemes can be deployed to easily allow different groups of users to access only the appropriate information, while giving global access to management. Alternatively, different regions may want to deploy multiple independent instances of the application. Both scenarios are easily executed in a SaaS deployment.
SaaS also offers customers on-demand software scalability, whereby customers can dial up or dial down their user counts, and corresponding subscription fees, as business conditions dictate. This type of real-time business agility avoids the need for advanced purchases of hardware and platform software just in case their needed, and is particularly helpful for companies who's growth plans are not as confident as they would like.
In terms of ongoing information systems management, the Web-based architecture and subscription delivery of SaaS CRM applications allows customers to receive the benefits of using the most up-to-date version of the CRM system, seamlessly. SaaS providers perform the software point releases and new version upgrades behind the scenes, thereby, removing the complex and costly fork lift upgrades inherit with on-premise applications. Furthermore, after the initial implementation, many SaaS vendors are responsible for ensuring that the integrations with the CRM system and other applications remain compatible after upgrades – alleviating IT organizations of a significant, ongoing burden.
New Hybrid Solutions: On-premise Implementation with Remote Management
The widespread adoption of SaaS CRM applications is driving new levels of hosting innovation in the enterprise software ecosystem. Recently, new technology has enabled the availability of a hybrid solution that allows on-premise CRM software to be remotely managed, leveraging SaaS management methods. The hybrid approach allows companies to retain the flexibility, access and control of an on-premise system with the convenience of outsourced management and maintenance. This advanced capability can allow companies to enjoy all of the advantages of both on-premise and SaaS solutions.
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Software as a Service CRM solutions offers customers on-demand software scalability, permitting customers to dial up or dial down their user counts, and corresponding subscription fees, as business conditions dictate. This type of business agility avoids the advanced purchases of hardware and platform software just in case their needed, and is particularly useful for companies who's growth plans are more fluid.