Software as a Service (SaaS) is the term used when delivering a service/product online instead of physically installing it on your device. With over 30% worldwide enterprise applications now being SaaS Cloud, integration is more important than ever.
Throughout the years, I’ve seen some very good SaaS integrations and also some challenging ones. Here are some recommendations that I’ve learned from previous experience that can help to ensure a smooth integration.
The 3 important things to take into consideration
1. Engage an IT Architect from the start
Many of us make the mistake of assuming that the supplier will know best and will be able to resolve the technical issues we have, right? Wrong.
The very definition of the word ‘assume’ is “suppose to be the case, without proof”. The supplier will know how to integrate their service into an ideal environment, but we all know ideal environments are very rare. There are going to be challenges that are specific to your organisation that only your IT team will be aware of such as:
- User data issues
- Network/browser restrictions
- Integrating/external legacy applications
- External access
Let’s take user data for example. In an ideal world, you want to be able to rely on a single source of truth such as an HR application or your Active Directory, but what happens if users have multiple accounts or their email address has changed?
Or, how about if you want partners and agencies to have access but they’re not considered staff? The supplier wouldn’t know this and would expect your data to be perfect, whereas an IT Architect would be able to highlight this at the very beginning of your project and challenge the supplier to help solve this issue, which the supplier will welcome. This is the same for all of the technical challenges that a new service presents.
2. Establish the purpose from the outset
The very fact that you’re moving to a new platform probably means that the old one wasn’t working for you or you didn’t have one previously. Therefore, start by running a discovery phase to define what the purpose of the new service is.
Ask yourself, who needs to use it? Why do they need to use it?
Then use your supplier and key stakeholders to define an onboarding plan.
It’s important that you learn from mistakes in the past and gradually build on the new service to meet your defined goals. If your old service wasn’t working, spend some time talking to end users to understand their experiences, review your analytics to see what areas of the service were not being used and which areas were high in demand.
Only then can you decide what you should take forward to the new service to make it successful from the very start. If you start with too much content or too little, your target audience could end up doubting the new service.
Treat the new service in a building block manner, take the lessons learned from the old service and your end users, and then focus on delivering what your target audience needs and not what you think the new service should have.
3. Structure your data to make it reusable
We’ve all come across some form of a data issue in our time whereby we can’t get something to look or work the way we want to because the data is structured in a way that only made sense 10/15 years ago. One of the major benefits of using a SaaS service is that you can easily integrate with other SaaS and Non-SaaS services and push/pull data into your service to create a unified offering that has the best data that your organisation offers.
Some examples of data that you can integrate with your services may be: user data to provide seamless authentication via Single Sign-On (SSO), policies that you need to surface on your service to ensure your audience are aware of their actions, training and guidance to allow your staff to get the most out of the service.
These types of data don’t have to be stored or created on your new service but need to be accessed to contribute towards its success.
Therefore, instead of duplicating the data and creating new versions that soon become out of date, spend time structuring your data in a way that allows it to be reusable for your service (and any others that you choose to integrate with in the future) by structuring it in a way that allows you to easily display or access the data easily across your estate.
This will save you time, money and effort in the future and also creates a much better user experience.
SaaS once was a buzzword that has now become a lifestyle when looking to improve the services you offer to your staff and customers. Integrating in this way poses huge cultural and service challenges that frighten a lot of people.
However, the benefits of SaaS services are far more important than the challenges. Flexible contracts, shared responsibility with suppliers and heavily reduced costs are just some of these.
If you integrate in the right way and take into consideration the points above, you will create a service that serves its purpose and become critical for your target audience.