Not All SaaS Is Created Equal: What to Look for When Evaluating New Subscription-Based Applications

Cory Wheeler

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Executives are adding new SaaS applications and subscription-based products and services to their tech stacks more rapidly than ever before. Executives across every industry imaginable see the incredible value that SaaS can add to their organizations. Subscription-based software is flexible, it’s updated automatically, it’s secure, it’s protected, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder that enterprise executives continue to spend much of their IT budgets on SaaS solutions. As we stated in one of our recent articles, a Gartner forecast articulates that, “Worldwide spending on enterprise application software will grow 7.5 percent to reach $149.9 billion in 2015, increasing to more than $201 billion in 2019.”

But not all SaaS products and services are created equal. In fact, with so many new subscription-based applications being introduced on a weekly if not daily basis, it can be difficult — if not impossible — to keep up with all of the latest technology. So when your executive team is evaluating your next SaaS purchase, keep in mind the below 5 aspects that are incredibly important to the success of a long-term partnership:

  • Strong Focus on Customer Success

When evaluating a new SaaS provider, it’s important to consider the company’s focus (or lack of) on customer success. Your organization needs your SaaS provider to act as a partner alongside your team members to challenge them with new ideas and concepts and provide a deep level of transparency regarding utilization and effectiveness. You need a partner that can help strategize and bring new ideas to the table to help your company achieve its goals and KPIs while also educating your team on key industry trends. If the SaaS company your organization is evaluating doesn’t have a customer success team or doesn’t at least have an account management function, then it’s unlikely customer success is an important initiative.

  • Long-Term Vision & Mission

What is the company’s long-term vision and mission? Does it align with the goals your organization is looking to achieve? As an executive of an enterprise company, you need to ensure that your organization’s goals align with the SaaS provider’s vision and mission. Does the SaaS company plan to continue working with enterprise companies as their focus, or do they want to eventually shift to the mid-market or SMB space? How do they view their competitors, and what are their differentiators? A company’s vision and mission plays into every decision the organization makes now — and will make in the future. Determining from the initial evaluation process whether their company’s vision is a fit or not is absolutely critical.

  • Well Planned (and Funded) Product Roadmap

As your executive team is listening to SaaS providers pitch their product offerings, it’s key to consider whether or not they have a thorough and attainable quarterly and annual plan that stretches several years into the future. A well planned product roadmap should take into account future growth and development of products and services and should also account for standard product updates and monthly or quarterly releases. If a SaaS company isn’t thoroughly planning out development cycles, your company may suffer from oversight. At the same time, a SaaS provider needs to have funding or revenue in order to continue innovation, so it’s key to also ensure that the company either has the capital for development, or has a line of sight to capital and a corresponding plan of action.

  • Exceptional Executive Team & BOD

Who’s guiding the SaaS company’s ship and making the tough calls? From the CEO to the C-Suite executives and even the Board of Directors, evaluating the individuals at the helm can certainly provide insight into the company’s future. For instance, does the CEO actively speak or contribute thought leadership to the market — and do you agree with their articulations? What past experiences or successes does the Board of Directors add in terms of value and credibility? For executives of enterprise companies, choosing the right partner is crucial, and often times the decision can come down to relationships. The executive team at your potential SaaS provider’s company is an important element to consider.

  • Effective & Efficient Services Model

Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of a subscription-based company is its services model and structure. Service offerings could include implementation, consulting, tiered support, and so on. For enterprise companies, the services can often times be even more important than the actual product itself as the services arm of the organization does much of the heavy lifting to ensure ongoing product success. Have you evaluated what the services organization looks like? How is it structured and how would your key contacts or support staff be assigned? The service offerings and most importantly, the services model, for your potential SaaS partner could play a more integral role than you might imagine, so be sure to carefully consider the value and processes.

Not All SaaS Is Created Equal

You know first hand that not all technology is created equal, and subscription-based software is no different. CEOs and C-Suite executives need to carefully evaluate each and every new addition to their tech stack to ensure the fit is right and that the company will consistently provide value in significant ways.

About the Author

Cory Wheeler

Cory Wheeler is the VP of Services and Customer Success at Zylo, where he helps tech-forward companies understand, manage and optimize their cloud-based infrastructure via the Zylo platform. Prior to Zylo, Cory spent 15 years in Finance and Procurement, managing categories and sourcing teams at Arthur Andersen, BearingPoint and both Takeda and Astellas Pharmaceuticals. Cory then built the Procurement organization at ExactTarget in 2012, and managed the integration of the new Marketing Cloud Procurement organization into Salesforce.com in 2015. He and his family reside in Indianapolis, IN, where they can be found cheering for the Purdue Boilermakers and Chicago Cubs.