SaaS - The Tipping Point?

Richard Messik
Outsourcing online accounting
RFM Associates
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Returning to a favourite theme, I was having an interesting exchange via email and Twitter with Maria Sadler of e-conomic.

I had raised my usual question of how to persuade the diehard Sage users - and in this instance, specifically the Online 50 users - to move to real online accounting. Maria had quoted on the e-conomic blog Paul Garside of Symbiotic Projects who had written about saving in excess of £100,000 by utilising SaaS as opposed to onpremise solutions. The case study on the e-conomic blog is well worth reading.

For the practising accountant, I suspect that the above may be of passing interest however and the savings quoted may not be the norm. There is no question that SaaS solutions tend to be cheaper than Online 50 and those committed to the concept do not need further evidence of its justification.

But for the vast majority who have are not convinced, I have yet to discover the tipping point that would move them from their diehard preferences. You would think that cost would be a factor, but on its own it is not sufficient.

So what would be - it is a given that the product must do what it needs to do, be secure and the provider stable. But apart from that what would persuade a current Sage or Online 50 user to change.

Maria says: "...It's those who use blogs, forums and communities like Twitter who seem to have the vision." Very true - but what about the rest?

So here is my challenge directed to the vast majority who don't use blogs, forums and Twitter (and the fact that you are reading this may - by definition - exclude you) :

.....Given all of the above, what are the elements and essentials that would convince you that there is a better alternative.

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16th Jul 2009 11:32

Your starter for ten...
Hello Richard...

With my small business hat on - I can give a few reasons why I DID choose an SaaS solution.

Responsive supplier
SaaS providers tend to be the 'new generation', willing to be much more responsive and open with clients. If I have a question or issue with my software, I can email the developer and usually get a response the same day - not just a call back, but an actual change to the product.

Frequency of updates
With the traditional model (which is where I used to work), the release of a new version was a HUGE deal because it was so expensive and time consuming. Duplication and manufacture of CDs, new manuals, new packaging, vast amounts of testing on different versions of Windows, and checking how the new version interacted with our other products on all those different versions of Windows. From the clients perspective - the upgrade was also expensive - deploying the new software to dozens of PCs across the office. All this meant we didn't do an update until we had a 'critical mass' of fixes and changes that would justify all the hassle - and THAT meant months between updates.

With an on-line model - you don't have to test operating system or other interaction issues, you don't have distribution costs, and the client gets the update instantly with no effort. So updates can happen much faster and more frequently.

Improved communication with my accountant
I give my accountant a direct login to my books. They can see what's going on in my books in real time, from their desks, via a web-browser. No more "send your dataset on a CD please, and don't do any more journals until I say so".

excerpt from a phone conversation with an accounts senior recently during my year-end festivities..
Him: "Can you print me a report of how you came to that depreciation figure in the P&L?"
Me: "Why don't you login and have a look yourself now? - here's the link"
Him: (pause) "ooh - that's nice.."

Accessible from anywhere
I can update my timesheet, generate and email bills, update my expenses, and reconcile my bank account from any computer - at the client, at the office, or from home.

Backups and Security
The SaaS provider is using a 'proper' IT infrastructure with good kit in secure data-centres. Most small businesses have a bunch of assorted servers in an old broom cupboard (actually, sometimes it still IS the broom cupboard!)

My data is backed up and secured in ways I could never hope to match, and someone else has the job of managing it all.

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16th Jul 2009 12:40

So true
Charles - a brilliant summation of the "Why" of Saas

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