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Special report Software as a Service


Service. Software has traditionally been offered as a capital purchase, involving software licensing, protracted project timescales, significant hardware and implementation costs and on-going support contracts. True SaaS revolutionises this, in the same way that contract hire revolutionised the motor industry or temporary staff changed the way that busy companies sourced human resources. Good SaaS offerings should avoid all of these traditional pitfalls and problems.”


Fabrice


Maquignon, CEO, Transwide.


The definition provided by Fabrice Maquignon, CEO of Transwide, also references the fact


that SaaS is a single-instance, multi-tenant application that is modular, and which is available on a pay-as-you-go model. Maquignon adds that a key benefit of a reliable SaaS solution is the way it can connect to other information systems. “This is really a solid integration platform that allows you to be very versatile in the way you interface with your clients – this is a critical point” he remarked. Maquignon also pointed out that in the SaaS market place there is normally no up-front capital expenditure involved, “so from a cost-perspective this helps to advance the SaaS model’s appeal to end users”, he said. Maquignon adds that the technology and agility of SaaS solutions is very compelling. He explains that every authorised person within a business community can have access to the software’s functionality, while upgrades can be easily managed in a hosted environment by the solutions provider and made available to everybody instantly due to the single-instance, multi-tenant nature of the application.


Benefits


In Clark’s view, the main benefits of SaaS over traditional software offerings are significant and numerous. He suggests the following key highlights:


• Tier 1 solutions delivered simply to your desktop.


• Rapid deployment with minimal client IT resource requirements, both in terms of


personnel and hardware.


• Dedicated off site resources to manage the environment and databases that support your business critical application.


• Often No Capex – Short term contracts matching your business need.


• Faster ROI, often self funding. • Significant resiliency and redundancy built into the solution architecture.


Raghavan Subramanian, associate VP, Cloud computing at Infosys, sees the key benefits of SaaS applications as offering users the ability to access software via a Cloud platform on a pay-as-you-go or, say, monthly basis, as an alternative deployment model to installing the software application on-premise. He adds that, in some circumstances, traditional applications can pose a number of challenges. For example, he points out that in the B2B space applications may be developed for use by organisations such as manufacturers, resellers and OEMs within a particular partner ecosystem. If copies of the software application are distributed to each of these partner companies software customisation can become difficult to manage, sometime resulting in silos of separate customisation can take place, which can compromise the overall efficient use of the application. “SaaS offers a means of bringing this type of situation under control,” said Raghavan.


He adds that individual companies within the business ecosystem may not have the level of freedom of customisation they had with traditional applications; but nevertheless SaaS can offer a single instance of the software that, if suitably configured, can accommodate the needs of all partner organisations within a business ecosystem. Although the level of possible customisation would be less than it would be for an application used by a single user organisation, the overall benefits can be greater, says Raghavan. “It can bring a lot more discipline in controlling the software that is used by an organisation and its partners,” he said. Raghavan also makes the point that it is the SaaS applications that are designed to work in an off-line capacity that can be particularly attractive for end users. His view is that users should be able to use many applications, such as email, in an off- line capacity without having to do “any crazy workouts”. “If providers are able to offer this advantage then end users will be a lot more likely to use these types of SaaS-based applications,” he said.


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Integration and customisation issues


Are there any notable barriers to wider adoption of the SaaS model by end users? Despite the continuous adoption of SaaS across regions, more than one-third of the respondents of Gartner’s recent SaaS survey noted concerns on their recent SaaS deployments. Most respondents with these issues are located outside North America, specifically in Asia/Pacific where high-speed high-availability networks are not as readily available as in North America. Issues with integration and customisation were some of the primary issues cited by respondents overall. “These issues aside, organisations are becoming more savvy when it comes to renegotiating their SaaS contracts,” Mertz said. A key survey finding was that more enterprises are renegotiating contracts for greater functionality, additional users and improved financial terms. Thirty per cent of respondents said that they had renegotiated their SaaS contracts before the end of the initial term.


Maquignon sees less and less stumbling blocks for SaaS adoption. “In our own market space – Transportation Management Solutions – we see the SaaS model gaining ground all the time,” he said. “Whereas three to five years ago some IT managers had more concerns about SaaS they now know that, in our case, we can give them the ability to deliver faster to their internal customers. Our model can also deliver a quick return on investment. I would say the ROI on a Transwide implementation can be less than a year, and in some cases as little as a few months.”


Clark suggests that true SaaS application development relies on embracing new technologies and designing software specifically for web deployment. His view is that while many may adopt an approach of applying a new front end to an old solution, the real benefits are only derived when starting from scratch. “This will take time for those who are not already there and will delay their ability to meet the undoubted increase in demand for these solutions,” said Clark. “Beyond that the limitation is as simple as ‘can I get connectivity to the internet’.”


There are specific types of business process applications that remain largely untouched by the SaaS zeitgeist. One of many areas >>


December 2010


MANUFACTURING &LOGISTICS


IT 11


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