Unlike the past when most software was installed on-premise and usually priced with a one-time fee, nowadays the software vendors have almost completely switched to a SaaS-based model. Offering easy sign ups and monthly or annual subscription, the cloud software model allows easy add new users, extra storage, new features, etc - just for a higher subscription fee. In addition to making upgrades easy for the users, this model also encourages the software vendors to keep delivering add-on features and ongoing improvements and fixes.
IT leaders are also seeing numerous advantages in the SaaS model. The software selection and adoption now involves finding out what SaaS tools potentially respond to the identified needs, evaluate them based on features, compliance, data security and other requirements and then select and deploy a solution. Of course, the more people this software needs to serve, the more requirements and the more complex is the selection.
But, despite the much easier software adoption under the SaaS model, ITs still need to consider 5 essential features of the cloud software they are evaluating for enterprise use:
The ability of the SaaS vendor to support multiple platforms is a good sign for its scale of operations. It is always best to select SaaS software that works on all most popular browsers and all operating systems adopted in your organization. In case this software can also be used in remote work, native mobile applications can also be researched. Frequent updates released, on all platforms and mobile apps, also speak well about the vendor.
Administrator management interface
Applications that are also aimed at enterprises usually offer a central administrator interface, allowing the admin to add, assign and remove users from the enterprise account, monitor logins, usage and more consumption metrics, all without the need to contact the vendor. This feature is quite useful when evaluating the need to reallocate software seats or downgrade a license package, so it is highly recommended that your SaaS enterprise software offers it.
Also, when signing up SaaS for enterprise usage, administrators should also look at software that allows for self-serve, web-based signup. Software that requires to call support for pricing or even worse, call support to cancel, should better be avoided.
Connection to identity management apps
It is already becoming a standard for SaaS apps to support single sign-on (SSO), so you can connect your SaaS account to your identity management solution - G Suite, Microsoft 365 or another. It is also common to have SaaS apps integrate with your organization’s storage solution - like Google drive, Amazon, OneDrive, etc. - as well as with other cloud software you are using. Hence, ITs should always prefer software that supports SSO and integration with other systems. If the SaaS tool also has an application programming interface - that is an added benefit, since it allows programmers to access the data stored in this solution and work with it.
Tracking of data changes
For some software tools like those used by the accounting department, for example, it is critical to have a history of the document changes done, along with details on the user who applied the changes, date and time, etc. It is also essential to be able to export the data from the SaaS tool, in multiple widely accepted formats like xml, comma-delimited text, Excel spreadsheets, Google spreadsheets, etc. Hence, when choosing an enterprise-level SaaS, always prefer solutions with change tracking and data export functionalities.
Selecting a solution that has many customers and actively engages with them online is not mandatory, but might help in the long run. For example, looking at the forum of a SaaS online community you can find out tips on troubleshooting issues that others have already come across, get an idea of when a potentially useful feature, already requested by other customers, may become available, etc. In the case of startup SaaS tools, look at their social media accounts and evaluate the manner in which the tool’s team interacts with existing and potential customers.
The above 5 essential features could be a great starting point in your evaluation of SaaS systems to choose for enterprise use. And with the thousands of tools already available on the SaaS market - you definitely need a benchmark to base your evaluation on.