When considering making changes to the way you manage your company’s finances, you might consider including a SaaS (Software as a Service) amongst your options.
SaaS technology has taken over the world of software provision over the last few years, and there are more than a few reasons why companies are opting to go fully digital. But if you want to avoid making an expensive mistake — whether you are going for software or a package — then you need to make sure to ask the right questions when discussing your options with potential suppliers.
You can find a list of 10 key questions to ask when looking for a SaaS supplier, so you’re prepared whenever you get a pitch.
- What is the real pricing?
- What is your uptime SLA?
- How is data security handled?
- What migration options are available?
- How do you provide user & application security?
- What happens when we move away?
- What implementation and post-implementation support is available?
- What other systems does it integrate with?
- What is your development roadmap?
- Can you give us some reference sites?
What is the real pricing?
The vast majority of SaaS providers will include a pricing page on their website but it usually doesn’t end there.
Generally, SaaS companies reach their fee by taking into consideration:
- Number of users
- Amount of data stored
- Number of transactions
Number of users
The simplest method is to charge by the number of users (e.g.: €3 per user per month). In this case, you need to understand what constitutes a ‘user’.
Some services will charge for registered users, meaning that you’ll be charged for each person that has an account created, even if they don’t use it. Other companies will only charge you if a registered user carries out a transaction in a particular month.
There are also those who may charge a hybrid version of users and functionality, with some users having access to higher functions, paying more as a result.
Rydoo, for instance, developed a revolutionary pricing model: paying for active users. This means you will only pay for employees who actively use the platform.
Some companies provide the whole system to all users. Others lock down the higher-level functions and only allow access to payment of a higher monthly subscription. Where a system stores data or documents there may be a charge for the space used.
Amount of data stored
A good example of this would be Dropbox or Google. Both offer a free version where the user gets a data allowance but once you go over the free level, the more data you want to store, the more you pay.
Amount of transactions
This seems to be very popular with bookkeeping systems that have a free level which allows users to carry out a certain number of transactions in a month, charging after reaching that limit.
Often, SaaS providers will use a hybrid pricing structure that will give users a package of data storage, functionality, and a number of transactions that increase at each pricing tier. See Hubspot for this kind of pricing.
The question to ask yourself – what will this actually end up costing us?
What is your uptime SLA?
SaaS providers should be able to tell you what their expected uptime (or Service Level Agreement) is.
The majority of providers of technology for finance should be able to guarantee uptime in the high 90%s and should also be able to tell you when their planned downtime is likely to be.
Do be aware that when the system is down for maintenance and upgrades it can often be based on US time, so make sure that an outage isn’t going to cause serious issues.
The question to ask yourself – can we live with that level of uptime and the downtime schedule?
How is data security handled?
Data security is really important. Remember that all of your data (and more importantly that of your clients) is going to be stored in the cloud and so security should be at the top of the agenda.
For many companies, especially if they accord with international standards such as ISO90001 or ISO27701, data security will need to be at the forefront of their thinking and must be effectively documented.
The question to ask yourself – would I feel comfortable if this company were storing my medical data?
What migration options are available?
When you are thinking about a new system it is only right that you concentrate on how the system will operate in practice. But you do need to understand the process for getting to the point where your system is usable.
How are usernames and passwords entered? How do you migrate your existing data? How do you test that the migration process has worked accurately?
If your potential provider comes back and tells you that there is no migration process then you may need to reconsider, especially if you have a lot of data that needs to be available for users.
The question to ask yourself – do I need an automated migration procedure or can I live with manually adding information?
How do you provide user & application security?
We’ve already talked about information security when the data is sitting in the cloud but how do you make sure that unauthorised users can’t access the system?
What methods does your provider have for ensuring that standard users can’t change aspects of the system that only administrators should have access to?
Can you use your existing Single Sign-on (SSO) application to control access?
The question to ask yourself – is system access effectively controlled, easy to manage and easy to audit?
What happens when we move away?
There might come a time when you decide that the system you chose isn’t for you. And, for that, you need to ask your provider how you move away from it.
How do you extract the information from their system in a format that will make it easy to migrate to a new solution?
The question to ask yourself – is our data locked in so that migration is effectively impossible?
What implementation and post-implementation support is available?
One of the most pleasing aspects of a good SaaS design is when a system works with minimal setup and implementation.
Admittedly, the smaller and simpler the system is then the less effort you will have to put in to get it up and running. So, if you’re looking at something a little more complex, then you may want to check out what implementation support is available.
Are there resources like manuals and datasheets, templates for uploading information, videos that show you how to carry out set up tasks and FAQs, or troubleshooting guides if something doesn’t quite work out?
Some companies will provide a dedicated implementation manager or will be able to recommend external consultants who can help but do check out the likely cost of this option.
Pay attention as well to the support provided after the implementation. Will you have a point of contact in case something goes wrong? How long will it take to receive an answer?
The best SaaS providers have a suite of training and support materials that allow users to self-serve with the answers to their important questions.
The question to ask yourself – have we got enough internal resources to manage the implementation phase and how is the post-implementation support?
What other systems does it integrate with?
This really splits down into two questions; what integrations are available and how much of the system is actually integrated?
Usually, you can expect providers to have a list of different systems that their SaaS software will integrate with and the standard method is to use an API to link these up.
But then you need to know exactly what information is passed between the systems. Sometimes systems will link up but only pass a minimal amount of data, sometimes there will be full integration.
The question to ask yourself – will this software link to my current systems and will they pass the information I need?
Can you give us some reference sites?
There’s nothing quite like getting a reference from a current user of your proposed system. Any good SaaS provider will have a whole selection of people that you can talk to who will tell you of their experiences, both good and bad, with the solution in question.
Ask for a call and prepare a series of open-ended questions in advance. The bigger the system, the more people you want to talk to and the more views you get the better you will feel about choosing the right provider.
Ideally, you want to talk to people who are in the same industry, with a similar-sized company and who use the same systems as you do but finding someone who is exactly like you is going to be difficult so look for referees who have a few commonalities rather than holding out for an exact match.
The question to ask yourself – does the SaaS software provider’s hype match up to reality?
Choosing the right SaaS - do your homework
If you want to make sure you choose the right SaaS system then it pays to do your homework. Understanding exactly what the system does, how you implement it, and how you’ll get support are all key aspects that you need to look at.
We’d suggest canvassing opinions in your business to see if anyone has any other concerns they’d like raised and for major systems changes having a chat with your auditors to understand what they would be looking for.
If you’d like more information on choosing the right technology for finance teams then we’ve produced a new guide; “Working in Harmony; Creating a Technology Stack Fit for Your Finance Team”. Download it now.