Topics: Customer relationship management, Software as a service, Front-end and back-end Pages: 9 (2676 words) Published: February 16, 2011
Simplify Software as a Service (SaaS) Integration

By Simon Peel
December 2008

Fuelled by a fiercely competitive business environment that requires the pace of business and technology to accelerate, companies need to adapt to change faster, and their IT departments must deliver innovative technology solutions rapidly and at a lower cost. As a result, companies are adopting Software as a Service (SaaS) applications to address these challenges, in particular for reducing costs of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions.

SaaS CRM solutions are an attractive alternative to traditional on-premise complex CRM applications because they allow organizations to rapidly meet the changing needs of the business. They appeal to IT because of the lower number of resources needed for deployment and to business users because they’re able to start using these new systems quickly. Further, everybody likes subscription pricing because it means fewer budgetary issues get in the way of procuring the new application. It’s no surprise then that SaaS solutions or on demand applications, as they are often known, are spreading rapidly within companies today.

Deploying SaaS applications does not come without its challenges however, and SaaS CRM solutions are no different. Many IT departments tend to become frustrated soon after they start using a SaaS application because the critical business information they need is not accessible from the new system. This information exists in highly customized on-premise back-end systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and financial applications. In order to realize the full benefit of SaaS CRM solutions, this challenge must be addressed, and it often becomes a bigger hurdle than anybody anticipated.

The fact is application integration has become the Achilles heel in getting the most from SaaS adoption. This paper highlights the integration issues specific to SaaS applications, in particular, SaaS CRM solutions and explores three integration approaches to solving these problems. CRM and the Growth of SaaS

Moving to SaaS applications minimizes the pain of “owned and operated” applications. The complexities, time and costs associated with implementing these solutions, in particular CRM solutions are well known. Most mid-size companies would prefer a simpler, faster and lower-cost solution to managing customer interactions and are attracted to SaaS CRM solutions due to their ability to provide advantages for IT departments and business users including: Rapid implementations. Since there is no software to install or deploy with SaaS CRM solutions, there is less demand on IT resources and this enables faster implementations. Adding users to the application is as simple as assigning a user ID and password for each person, so they can be up and running quickly.

Ease-of-use. By delivering comprehensive functionality within a simple, familiar browser-based interface, SaaS CRM solutions are intuitive for users and require minimal training.

Low IT impact. SaaS CRM solutions are less of a burden for IT but still deliver high business impact. The solution doesn’t require new IT infrastructure to get started and ongoing management and maintenance requires fewer IT resources than with traditional “owned and operated” CRM and packaged applications.

Subscription pricing. SaaS CRM solutions have a much lower upfront cost because companies subscribe to the service by paying a monthly fee based on the number of users. This also makes the solution very easy to scale as a company grows. Easy to change. Customizations, workflows and preferences in SaaS CRM solutions are performed through configuration, not coding. Changes are easy as well because the application just needs to be reconfigured whenever business needs or processes change.

Despite these attractive benefits, SaaS CRM implementations will deliver limited value if the associated integration issues are not...

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