The 5 essential questions to ask when choosing a SaaS provider
With construction becoming more digitised, there has been an increasing number of companies providing software as an industry solution. While this market saturation does mean an increased number of options, it also makes the decision criteria for SaaS more complex, as companies need to assess more than features to make an informed decision. To help you out, we’ve put together 5 essential questions you should be asking before choosing any SaaS provider.
1. How will the software fit in with your existing systems and processes?
Growing pains are natural when it comes to implementing a new system into a company. However, it’s important to know when too much difficulty is enough when it comes to new software rollout. Primarily you should look at whether you need to change your existing systems and processes for the software. SaaS ideally should be both faster and easier to implement than traditional software, and the greatest difficulty in a software rollout is where you need to change the established ways of working for a large number of staff. Ensure the solution “fits in” with all of your existing systems and processes to increase the success of the rollout.
2. Who owns the data passing through the service?
This is an important one. Some companies put a special license of the data that is being packaged and run through their software. This practice can make it hard to control your data if and when you choose to change services. Because of this, you should generally avoid companies that can control your data.
Ensure that your data can easily be exported or integrated into your existing systems. For example, do you want to get data from an app straight into your payroll or project management software in the office? Ensure that you have the ability to export your data, or connect via API, otherwise you’ll still have the problem of double handling of data. Many SaaS and technology providers have committed to the AGC’s Construction Open Standards Alliance (COSA), which seeks to maintain this open standard in Construction Software.
Retaining ownership and control of your data should be of the utmost importance when considering your software providers.
3. Does the software fulfil its intended purpose?
We’ve previously wrote about how single workflow apps don’t work in the construction industry. Asking yourself what features you need to be included in your software before you make a buying decision is incredibly important when it comes to purchasing software. An app may fulfil a specific purpose, for example punch lists or safety checklists, but can this same app be used for all your other forms on site? Make sure that the SaaS you chose has all the necessary features to fulfil its intended purpose. For example, if you want to remove onsite paperwork, find the solution that can take care of 100% of your site paperwork, not just 10%. This sometimes involves looking closely at a product’s features, or doing a software pilot and seeing whether the software actual works in practice.
This shouldn’t be confused with trying to find a software package that does absolutely everything (they just don’t exist!). An efficient business will use the best-of-breed solution for each aspect of their operations.
4. What support is provided?
Good customer support is everything when it comes to software. When a provider promotes customer success and provides good support, it really shows that they are going the extra mile to make sure that you can effortlessly use their product. With a SaaS product, make sure you are going to have the same level of ongoing support after you sign up. For business critical systems, make sure you’re able to access support quickly, and problems can be solved with ease.
5. What are the actual terms of the agreement?
Make sure you understand exactly how your chosen SaaS operates (Is billing monthly? Annually? Can you add and remove users as you need? etc.) A major consideration when choosing software is the ability to test and scale. Are you able to rollout the product over time and respond to feedback from staff? Be wary of SaaS that impose long term contracts or large minimum fees from the start, as this can affect the sensible rollout of a new product.
Unlike traditional on-premise software, SaaS is usually cheap and quick to roll out. Because of this ease, and the large number of competing apps in the market, it’s more important than ever to take a step back and do a proper assessment of a prospective SaaS. These 5 questions, in combination with your own measures of success, are a helpful starting point to ensure longer term success in a new software rollout.