The SaaS/Consultant Conundrum

I came across this Gartner report, which among other topics, details the increasingly rapid expansion of SaaS customer service and support applications. By 2012, 30 percent of these systems will be purchased through the SaaS deployment model.

But what I found interesting was the fact that clients were experiencing project savings of 25 to 40 percent by deploying SaaS CRM applications…but not due to reduced implementation times and start-up costs. They were making these savings from reduced dependency on large external service providers, consultants, and system integrators.

But as the author points out:

[These services] typically help business improve customer processes as part of the CRM engagement but which play less of a role when SaaS is involved.

It’s an interesting Catch-22 that the vendors, customers, and service providers find themselves in. Independent system integrators have long though SaaS might mean the death of their business, but as plenty of SaaS implementations have proven, you still need the expertise, either in-house or hired, to make sure the customer-facing processes work. In the meantime, customers could be undermining their implementations if they take SaaS for granted and the implemented technology doesn’t properly support the business processes.

The bottom line is this: the independent system integrators and consultants are reinventing themselves for the SaaS-driven world we live in today; a new breed of consultant, so to speak. They should get by just fine, and their value to a SaaS implementation should never be underestimated.

At the same time, I think it’s important that customers don’t overestimate the power of SaaS. It’s not the silver bullet that so many within this industry have exclaimed it to be in years past. If the processes are broken, or aren’t right, no amount of reduced implementation costs and startup fees can solve that.

4 thoughts on “The SaaS/Consultant Conundrum

  1. Totally agree, Colin.

    In fact, what is interesting is that SaaS enables the consultant to be less about the nuts-and-bolts CRM technology and more about improving strategic marketing processes. This is real value-add. This also means that a new breed of consultants — more substantive business/marketing consultants and less solutions integrator — have an opportunity.

    I’m actually engaged in such a project right now. I’m a marketing strategy guy, not an SI, but I’m working with a company inside their marketing organization to improve their marketing processes in part through Marketing Infrastructure technology, including CRM (BTW – leaning towards SugarCRM as a shout-out). If we weren’t looking at SaaS solutions, I might be less inclined to get involved because I don’t want the hassle of coding nightmares … I just want to get to improving my client’s strategic and tactical marketing activities!!

    Again, I see this as a positive, not a negative.

  2. My company deploys CRM systems — more on-prem than SaaS — and we often have internal conversations about this. We can’t figure out for the life of us why there should be any difference in deployment time between an on-prem, browser-based CRM solution and a SaaS CRM solution — since the difference between these two is the nature of the supporting iron and where the iron lives. In fact, our running joke on this topic has been the question as to whether SaaS solutions somehow automatically figure out business processes and then self-configure. FAIW, I think the more significant variable is the application’s customization toolset as opposed than the where the hard drives are spinning.

  3. Steve — SaaS is the wave of the future. You’re IT and therefore out of touch.
    Customers don’t look for SaaS because it’s going to automatically figure out business processes and then self-configure. People buy because they don’t want to be hassled by software upgrades; they want their software managed by the provider. Customers want flexibility, low cost of ownership, and unparalleled customer support. In small and mid-sized businesses, top management doesn’t want to rely on the guys in the IT department; because the general consensus is that IT professionals and DBA’s are just that — unreliable.

    SaaS is changing everything — and not just in CRM. There are currently SaaS projects that eliminate the need for these unreliable DBA’s. This is huge because DBA’s and traditional Software/Hardware are considered assets in the fixed budget — while SaaS is considered part of the operating budget. Cut out the waste.

  4. Clients are looking at SaaS in terms of mobility now. As mobile devices become more prevelent so does the need to access information that is in the company inventory or finding out what the doctor had to say about the the blood test that was done today. SaaS is an inexpensive way to tool up your business to have that edge on the competition. Thanks for the post.

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