Software as a Service: A Primer on SaaS’s Biz Benefits
On its face the increasingly common business term Software as a Service may not make a lot of sense. The acronym people in our industry often use for it, SaaS, might even sound a little silly when you say it out loud. (Most people pronounce it like sass, if helps… but you do you.)
That said, make no mistake: There’s a big amount of value behind those four tiny words. Indeed, the concept is just about as common as the idea of the cloud or smartphones. Any time you check on your smartphone or work a spreadsheet in Office 365, you’re using a SaaS platform, for just two of literal thousands of examples.
What’s that got to do with industries like the ones we serve? A lot, as it turns out. Read on to learn more about what SaaS can do for your biz and a primer on how the technology works in general.
High powered, remote datacenters power the Software as a Service (SaaS) business technologies we rely on.
SaaS 101: The Basic Breakdown
We don’t want to bore with too much technical mumbo-jumbo, so let’s break down SaaS in terms of the big business benefits. When you think about the old days of computing, almost everything was managed at the local level. For one example, a program that asked a database for a given piece of furniture’s price would pull just that info—the price—from a remote server, while the software itself was installed on the end user’s machine… or in the gigantic server rooms that were a fixture of almost every physical business location there for a long time. (This is a very general example, but you can use it for the purposes of our discussion here.)
SaaS improves the equation by putting the data and aspects of the software on the “remote server” side. Take online photo editors for an example: When you upload a photo to a site like Pixlr and edit it in your phone’s web browser, you’re relying on a computer somewhere else to store your data and to provide the processing/computing power that allows you to edit the image; your phone in this instance is more of a conduit, and not responsible for heavy technical lifting. Compare that to installing a beefy program like Photoshop onto your desktop and doing the edits “on-prem” (in other words, with your computer doing the processing) and you start to see the difference.
SaaS Business Benefits: A General Look
Following that, you can say SaaS’s big value proposition comes in two flavors:
- It’s easier to setup, implement, upgrade, and manage over time than manual solutions or fully on-prem alternatives, typically because the tool(s) in question pull together processes the business previously used multiple types of software to manage.
- It provides a faster path to digital modernization and transformation efforts, bypassing costly and time-intensive changes the business would otherwise have to undergo.
An example may help clarify the point here. JuniperCommerce and the supporting modules that comprise it, such as JuniperSales, qualify as SaaS programs precisely because they do these things. Instead of dealing with the cumbersome process of individually managing software across numerous devices and platforms, businesses and their associates can manage multiple tasks from any device imaginable, even if the device they’re using is temporarily offline.
This, in the end, empowers the business, its sales staff, and its buyers in ways both expected and surprising. Naturally, less time spent grappling with local installations and on-premises hardware is an advantage in and of itself, and one that frees local IT teams to pursue other business challenges. Following that, the costs of a SaaS-based architecture makes pricing more consistent and predictable: As consultant Jens Hasche notes in their excellent piece The Benefits of SaaS, when you know exactly what you’re going to pay for (and that the platform you’re using scales prices in a predictable way), both long-term planning and nominal day-to-day operations become easier to manage.
Breaking Down the Benefits YOUR Business Can Expect
SaaS adoption can lead to overall business growth and create and easier path to the future.
These points are especially important in fields like B2B wholesale, where technological needs tend to intertwine deeply with the baseline day-to-day needs of the business. Employees rely on technology (or, increasingly less commonly) manual processes to track inventory; manage appointments; create and edit buyer/customer accounts; create invoices; sell; and a million other critical tasks that quite literally keep the business moving.
This complexity and reliance on “the old way of doing things” can create some hesitance, even when digital transformation is logically the next step the business must take to continue thriving. It is an understandable reaction, but one most—likely all—successful businesses in the space have had to overcome. At minimum, they will soon need to.
SaaS platforms like ours are expressly designed to help businesses stuck in this painful step make leaps—without the costs, challenges, and timesinks that come with building everything from the ground up, or from managing everything on-premises.
We’ll use JuniperSales again for an example of what this means in the industries we serve. A business stuck on manual processes and legacy software may have one system, bit of hardware, or process to manage each of the following core tasks:
- Inventory management and viewing
- Sales rep meeting scheduling, sending, and viewing
- Scanning inventory (think dedicated scan guns seen in most warehouse and production environments)
- Viewing, editing, and sending invoices
- Creating data based on real-time data stored in computer systems
- Assembling orders
… and a lot more. Moreover, the people within the business will almost certainly have to hop between those systems and their quirks when carrying out a task that requires multiple stops, such as creating a big order for a VIP client. By contrast, JuniperSales loops all these functionalities (among a lot of others) into a single app accessible by your reps, managers, warehouse staff… and anyone else supporting your operations, all from any device: A rep can create a big order from their smartphone and a manager can create a monthly sales report from their laptop, but still be working in the same shared digital space, with the JuniperSales app enabling them to share processes but still carry out their individual roles within the same digital space.
If you’ve ever seen a business struggle with a big on-prem software installation—or watched reps struggle to keep up any time a new tool is added to the pile they must interface with to do their jobs—it’s easy to understand how the simplicity and speed to market of SaaS provide a very attractive alternative.
Then there’s the notion of “futureproofing,” or building your infrastructure in a way that allows your business to implement new innovations and advancements as they come. Because they’re controlled, updated, and pushed from the provider’s side, SaaS platforms are far more agile in terms of feature adoption and tool integration (AKA the ability to use two or more types software, often from different companies, together in some way). SaaS vendors can push out iterative improvements, updates, and larger features to the tool you’re using with no disruption to existing process, giving you a tool that enables you to evolve even when you’re unsure what the technology’s future will look exactly like.
Conclusion: SaaS is the future—so Hop On
With the right SaaS platform(s) in place, protecting your bottom line from technology overspend becomes easier.
By now, the cloud and associated innovations like Software as a Service aren’t exciting new innovations or cutting-edge concepts—they’re an integral part of our digital lives, both personally and professionally. That’s true even if we don’t stop to consider the backend SaaS technology that allows us to work and interact with others.
In that regard, you can look at the move to SaaS as a natural evolution for any industry looking to empower its people and meet its buyers’ changing preferences. Smart businesses take shortcuts without cutting corners, and leading businesses set themselves up to pivot in whatever direction their industries do. With the right SaaS tools at your side, you set YOUR business up to do both.