With thousands of SaaS apps available on the marketplace, and numerous apps competing to be the best in a category, choosing a SaaS app requires careful evaluation - in terms of functionality, flexibility, security, etc. In some cases, the leading apps in a category are clear and research/evaluation are needless. In others, however, the process might be time-consuming and requiring ITs to go through numerous steps.
Here are the steps we advise ITs to take when evaluating new SaaS apps to add to the organization’s cloud software stack:
The first step in finding the most appropriate app for your organization’s needs is figuring out the options you have, so you can proceed with evaluating them. This step can be accomplished by Googling for the key terms related to the app you need, inquiring friends and colleagues as well as your professional network, googling business review websites. Pay special attention to applications suggested by people working in organizations similar to yours in terms of industry, size, etc.
After you have a big-enough list of SaaS tools for research, begin with your initial evaluation. The goal of this step is to cross off applications that miss required functionalities (for example, single sign-on), that do not meet your budget or that lack compliance with required security/privacy standards. You can review the app website and browse the reviews on software reviews websites, to source this information.
Most SaaS apps do offer a self-serve and free trial period allowing you to evaluate most or the full set of functionalities. Free and self-serve SaaS trials are actually a key reason behind the vast expansion of SaaS in organizations. The free trial allows you to get a hands-on experience with the app and evaluate not only its functionalities, but also the ease of use, the navigation throughout the app features and the quality of support provided. However, since free trials are limited in time, make sure to only sign up trials for 2 or 3 products at a time, so you can have enough time to examine the tools in full during this period.
More rarely you may not have access to a free product trial period but rather be able to request a live demo of the tool and ask the questions you are interested in.
There are several key aspects of the tool you should explore during the free trial or live demo:
User-friendly UI is mandatory for the SaaS app you are going to pick. You would not want the users to be confused and reaching out to the app admin with questions but, rather, be able to master the SaaS interface right from their first clicks. Hence, you should ensure that the app UI is designed in a clear and straightforward manner and key features are easy to access. Responsive layout, that adjusts to all mobile devices, is also mandatory.
Ensure that the pricing of the tool is clearly structured and transparent, so you know exactly how much using it will cost your company, depending on number of users, support level selected, upgrade features enabled, etc. Thus you can compare the pricing to that of alternative tools you are evaluating.
SaaS data security requires that users are given the lowest level of access they would need to perform their job. This means that the tool should at least allow to create both admin and user roles in the tool. The ability of the tool to support multiple admins is also essential.
SaaS tools in an organization are usually required to communicate with each other. Hence, make sure that the tool you are using provides an API, has built-in integrations or is at least integrate-able via third party tools like Zapier.
No matter how good a tool is, at some point you may need to migrate to another, better tool. Having the option to easily export, as well as import, information is, hence, key for the smooth transition between SaaS tools.
Unlike on-premise tools where the support and maintenance of the servers is handled by the organization, with SaaS tools the data stays on the cloud servers managed by the SaaS. Check out what are the policies of the tool in case their servers go down and make sure that they guarantee continuity of the services in case of incidents. Check out also the support SLA and the options to get premium support if necessary.
Most SaaS tools offer analytics, with option to access this analytics via third-party tools, export it, email it, etc. If analytics is a major requirement - make sure it is easily accessible and exportable.
Check if the tool has such a policy and get familiar with the details.
If the tool has logs, find out if they could be easily viewed, browsed and exported.
Check out of the tool follows specific security frameworks or complies with standards and regulations, as required by your organization policies.
Things you may want to check out here include:
If you are operating in a specific industry or region, e.g in the countries from the EU, you are required to comply with specific regulations. You need to ensure your SaaS vendor complies too, by checking his compliance certifications, documentation proving this compliance, etc. Sometimes compliance can be claimed following self-assessment, in other cases it may need to be audited and there should be documentations proving the audits done.
Almost half of all data breaches are done via third-party vendors. Hence, you may want to ensure that your SaaS app has solid data privacy and security policies in place.
There are numerous published security frameworks like ISO 27001, SOC 2, etc. Those are recommending best practices guidelines for managing security risks. Review whether your SaaS provider is possibly adhering to any of these security policies, and whether this has been proved via a third-party certification audit.
When going through all points from above, make sure that you are documenting your research. Thus when you wonder why you crossed off a certain app, you can go back to your records and check the reason.
When you complete the reviews following the above points you are likely to identify your winners. But make sure that you give enough weight to the criteria what is important for the people using the apps. Hence, sometimes you may go for a tool that does not seem the best on all points evaluated, but that scored highest on what is important for the stakeholders who would be using it.
In addition to being a SaaS management platform, Viio platform is a SaaS tool itself. You are welcome to evaluate us based on the points above - jump on a personalized Viio demo call.