How to Optimize Business Processes Using Integrated SAAS Solutions

With the growing acceptance of software as a service, companies now have the ability to sync transactional and operational data from multiple systems to make sure all decision makers have the information they need. But SAAS investments need to be integrated to deliver on the promise of continuous performance improvement. Data must be unlocked from departmental silos and shared across the company. Here, Knowledge Center contributors Guido Haarmans and Wayne Morris discuss five ways to integrate SAAS solutions that have otherwise been disparate IT systems.

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In an effort to more rapidly deliver business value, CIOs are increasingly looking to software as a service (SAAS) technologies to automate business processes and unlock data from departmental and system silos. Low-cost and low-risk, SAAS is proving to be an effective way to conserve cash, optimize IT resources, and move investments from capital expenditures to operating expenses.

In one case, a textile manufacturer saved $1 million a year by switching to SAAS-based back office software that could pull together disparate company functions such as financials, human resources and inventory while connecting them more closely with customers and suppliers worldwide. By eliminating costly infrastructure, the company went from spending 3 percent of revenue on the traditional solution to 0.1 percent on the new SAAS system.

In another example, an electronics manufacturer used a SAAS solution to streamline supplier deliveries through right-time monitoring of supplier performance. By rating suppliers to eliminate poorly performing ones, they reduced inventory and administrative costs, improved quality, and obtained better pricing through volume agreements with a smaller number of vendors.

While early SAAS systems such as sales force automation (SFA) were often point solutions, CIOs are now focused on optimizing business processes across their organizations using integrated SAAS systems. Unless these systems work together seamlessly and are supported by associated best practices, they won't maximize productivity and deliver on the promise of continuous performance improvement. Consider the following five best practices to maximize the value of your SAAS investments.

Best practice No. 1: Focus on business processes

An end-to-end business process or value stream starts and ends with the customer. From the initial contact with a prospect through the sales cycle, order fulfillment and ongoing support, multiple touch points with both the customer and others executing transactions can impact the customer relationship, business efficiency and performance. All of these touch points need to be supported by integrating business systems (such as CRM, ERP, e-commerce, manufacturing, and logistics systems) and processes that remove silos which would otherwise prevent optimal data flow and collaboration across the stakeholders.

Integration also ensures consistency in addressing operational, financial and transactional aspects of the business so that companies can use data more effectively to optimize performance. The right mix of SAAS solutions, including an integrated operational performance management layer, creates a holistic view of the business. The right mix ensures that everyone has access to timely, relevant data and analytics to identify problems, make fast decisions and take action.