SaaS Integration Woes and Other Things to Look Forward To in 2009

Finding business value in Software as a Service implementations is a perennial topic of discussion, no matter how established the SaaS business model becomes. In part, that’s because it’s more a business than a tech issue, and companies tend to focus more on features and functionality during the procurement process, Rick Kotermanski, chief technology officer for Summa, told CRM Buyer.

“Vendors don’t like to talk about the messy, difficult part of technology — they just want to close the sale,” he said. In other words, there is still some evangelizing to be done on the importance of establishing the business value in SaaS integration.

Planning for the integration must begin even during the procurement process, said Kotermanski.

“SaaS applications can become dangerous islands of process and data if you are not careful in planning from the start,” he explains in his blog post on the subject. “SaaS applications are increasing in their rate of adoption due to both their inherent value and acceleration caused by the economic situation and capital investment posture that most companies are in.”

SaaS sales reps will often dismiss a discussion about integration during the acquisition planning with a glib “we support standards …,” Kotermanski noted. That statement may usually be true, but it nevertheless derails the customer from considering important factors during the sales process.

Following are some important questions that he suggests companies should ask themselves:

  • How will I tie this new SaaS application into my existing business processes, operations, data and people? The toleration for 10 different login IDs and UIs is fading. The cost of training and retaining staff to deal with the diversity of systems is high.
  • How do I minimize the amount of effort and cost of errors due to retyping of data across internal and external systems?
  • How do I ensure application data quality and consistency with my other systems (e.g., catalog of parts to order in CRM, department codes in HCM)?
  • How do I architect my environment to deal with the inevitable upgrade or replacement of this SaaS solution?

Bloggers’ Best Guesses for 2009

If you are in the real estate, financial services or automotive industry, 2008 was a horror. Technology suffered too, of course, but not as much as other parts of the economy. So the industry does not have that far to climb back to prosperity, right?

Not quite. Unfortunately, 2009 is not holding out much promise other than flat growth — which is better than some alternative scenarios (again, see real estate, financial services and automotive).

Bloggers are making their best guesses as to where the growth may be this year.

In the spirit of being constructive, Heather Clancy latched onto two positive industry trends identified by Gartner: IT spending will be flat in 2009, but outsourcing will grow.

Although IT spending will not grow this year — or, just barely — “at least budgets haven’t been slashed into oblivion (yet), and there ARE 10 technology areas where Gartner’s worldwide survey of 1,527 enterprise CIOs provides a brighter outlook, because they are seen as helping businesses overcome current economic conditions,” says Clancy.

Top business priorities:

  • Business intelligence
  • Enterprise applications (ERP, CRM)
  • Servers and storage technologies
  • Legacy application modernization
  • Collaboration technologies
  • Networking, voice and data communications
  • Technical infrastructure
  • Security technologies
  • Service-oriented applications and architecture
  • Document management

According to Gartner, the practice of outsourcing technology needs will increase in 2009, Clancy notes. “The Gartner research also underscores rising adoption of managed services and Software as a Service, as well as the research and experimentation going on with infrastructure utility services and cloud computing.”

Financial performance management, human resources management and several other business processes key to enterprises are among the top trends Sharyn Leaver, vice president and research director at Forrester, will be watching for this year.

This is what Leaver says about CRM:

“Our recent surveys and interviews with customer-oriented business and IT executives suggest that the business needs driving sustained investment in CRM in the recent past will be even more compelling. Six trends dominate the agenda of CRM professionals: 1) the necessity to adapt to the rapidly changing ‘social’ consumer; 2) the need for more robust CRM strategies; 3) the requirement to build bulletproof cases to gain project funding; 4) the need to reduce CRM project risks; 5) the imperative to unlock the value of customer data; and 6) the battle to redress vendor pricing and licensing arrangements.”

In Brief

Ryan S. Adams wonders if LinkedIn is moving into CRM territory: “The LinkedIn Wizard blessed us with some feature changes.”

Microsoft has released Update Rollup 2 — its recent updates for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0.

Rollup 1 was released about a month ago, notes Robert John MacLean writes. The number of fixes in Rollup 2: “113 known (rather publicly known issues) and 18 private (i.e. MS did not publicly post articles on those).”

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