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Tips to evaluate a SaaS application

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The SaaS market is getting its pace and a number of vendors are reaching out to the cloud and launching software services. As the time and effort required to go to market is less compared to enterprise software, the numbers are high and some of the offerings may not be SaaS at all.
These providers with limited exposure to domain, software services, etc., may exit quickly if there is a delay in break even or even be forced to exit due to stiff competition.

While evaluating these tools, try to verify the following aspects without fail:

  • Trial Sign Up
    Are you able to check the features, sign up for a free trial and get the feel of the application? If not, make sure that the vendor is confident of the offering.

  • Transparency in Pricing
    Does the vendor reveal the pricing on the website with clear terms? This ensures that the vendor is comfortable with the market and consistent of the offering.

  • Terms of Service
    Does the vendor publishes terms of service, explicitly in the cloud portal? If the answer is no, quit from the portal immediately.

  • Who’s behind the company? What is its product roadmap and viability?
    Ask these questions and also conduct a thorough research:
    • Who is the management? What is their experience?
    • Is it funded by a VC firm? Who is it?
    • What are their financials? How many customers do they have?
    • What is the organization structure? How many employees? Where are they located?
    • How many employees are there in the product development and support team?
    • What is their product roadmap and strategy?
    • How are they managing their product strategy? Competition, market, positioning, customer requirements? How is this communicated and how often?
    • How do they accommodate customer requirements into their product strategy? Is there a customer advisory council?
    • Do they provide a trial or proof of concept of their product, including new features

  • Support/ Help Desk
    Verify the physical contact address(es) of the vendor by making a call to the telephone number given or some other means. Can you log service tickets online and track its status? If not, issue resolution is going to be a tedious activity for you.

  • Subscription/ Billing
    Can you switch from a trial/ free account to regular account? Can you subscribe/ stop certain features, increase number of users, change the mode of payment, etc., on the go. If not, overall effort and dependencies on vendor could be high.

  • Configuration and Customization
    Most of the SaaS vendors package the offering with standard features, which could be enabled or disabled or in other words - configurable. However, being a customer, you may require a feature to be customized. If the vendor has no bandwidth or technology to take this up, you may land in a soup.

  • Data Compatibility
    Does the vendor allow customers to import data on to the tool and export data outside? If no, there is a big chance of vendor lock-in and it is a high risk.

  • Data Integration
    Most of these vendors could be focused on relatively smaller domains and this could make a customer subscribe to different tools for various solutions. At the same time, you may require data integration between certain mission critical tools. Does the vendor provide APIs to achieve integration?

  • Data Security
    Review all security aspects of the cloud service including application as well as data center. Mostly, data centers belong to a of third party. Verify the data center credentials and particulars.

RELATED POST: Data Safety on the Cloud- A Big Concern? 

  • Stability of the Business
    Check the background, experience and visibility of the organization behind the cloud. It could be extremely risky to depend on a completely new entrant in the market for a business critical application.

  • Administrator Rights
    Once you adopt to the environment of the tool, you may like to create more users with specific rights and use the system, conveniently. If the software service is mature, you can expect these facilities from it.

  • Reports and Analytics
    Verify reports and check whether there is provision to make user-defined reports.

  • Track and Monitor
    Can you monitor the usage - number of users, bandwidth, etc.? Can you track billing, amount paid, pending, etc.? Can you find audit log of the system? These are critical evaluation parameters of a mature SaaS application.

  • Service Level Agreements
    Anybody can publish certain clauses as SLAs. However, verify whether the vendor really follows the SLAs published. Also while following SLAs, do they follow process standards? You should not be at the mercy of a vendor.

  • Social Proof
    Check for testimonials/ case studies, if available, and speak to those customers and collect their feedback. Ask for specific customer references from the vendor, if you are specifically looking for a particular business domain or for a geographical region.