Best practice No. 2: Ensure compatibility
Virtually all IT environments are comprised of a combination of multiple SAAS and on-premise systems and may include platforms developed in-house. While SAAS solutions can play well in heterogeneous environments, it's critical to ensure that SAAS offerings from multiple vendors are interoperable. Look for SAAS systems that are pre-integrated by the vendors, creating turnkey solutions that can be quickly deployed.
Certain SAAS systems serve as development platforms on top of which vertical solutions can be developed. One SAAS system acts as the host of other SAAS systems, thus eliminating any integration issues and optimally supporting business processes. In many cases, this creates an ideal architecture as integration is supported "out of the box." Additional integration outside of this environment may also be required.
The ability to connect to and leverage data from multiple SAAS and on-premise solutions is particularly important for operational performance management and business intelligence since these have to span entire business processes to deliver full value.
When multiple SAAS systems are deployed, five questions to ask are:
1. Do the vendors' solutions work well together?
2. Can they demonstrate interoperability without the need for additional integration?
3. Have the vendors done the necessary integration around data, user interface and security?
4. What APIs are available if additional integration work is required?
5. What additional value do I get from the synergy of the multiple systems?
Best practice No. 3: Demonstrate value
When considering certain initiatives such as traditional BI, a large percentage of these projects fail, demonstrating very little business impact. Costly analyst resources or homegrown systems have never gotten off the ground or have not delivered the potential ROI. According to a 2009 BI Scorecard report, only 21 percent of respondents rated their BI deployments as very successful, while only 24 percent of users were actively using the solutions.
SAAS solutions implement in a matter of weeks rather than many months and lower the TCO. Instead of the financial and operational onus being on the customer to integrate multiple systems and get the infrastructure in place, you now have the option to implement combined SAAS solutions in which the vendors have already done the heavy lifting. The reduction in implementation time and expenses means companies can free up resources for use elsewhere, for initiatives that drive business growth.