Tharaka's Blog

SaaS Methodology for Tradional ISVs

Posted in Sabre Mobility Team findings by Tharaka de Alwis on December 7, 2009

When a product development company (ISV) migrates from its traditonal software application model to a SaaS software delivery model, there are few changes that a business will need to make to their existing software environment. A new set of processes and tasks will need to be carried out  to ensure that the business have a smooth transition.

The great thing about migrations is that most of the work is already done by the ISV.

  1. Software applications are already deployed, secured, up and running and ready to be used.
  2. Customers do not have to purchase additional hardware or new servers.
  3. They do not need to install operating systems onto these servers and they do not have to waste time configuring these servers.

However this does not mean that SaaS migration requires no work. Businesses will have to clearly define what their business processes are and get their resources behind the new software environment. Here is a 10 step guide describing SaaS Methodology followed by Sabre Technologies.

SaaS Methodology: ten step guide to SaaS migration

1. Fesiblity Study for SaaS

A business should be clear about why they are implementing SaaS. So the company should carry out a research assessment (feasibility study) comparing the traditional software Vs SaaS software. The following criteria need to be addressed here cost benefit analysis, flexibility on configuration, potential risk that may pose and licensing related issues of both delivery models.

2. Aims and objectives through SaaS delivery

Businesses should have a number of aims and objectives they wish to accomplish through the use of their new software services. A business may want their SaaS software applications to reduce their software management costs or to improve data collaboration between various different business sites of the ISV have.

3. Calculate the initial cost involved in SaaS implementation

When SaaS is implemented, businesses have more costs than just their upfront subscription costs. The following would be some of the examples

  • Consider licensing issues (how many instances of a particular software service required and depending on how many users that a SaaS service provider allows to access a single instance of that software service).
  • Labor costs of implementing SaaS
  • Costs due to a change in their infrastructure (New servers higher/lower processing power, memory or better network bandwidth)
  • Training costs
  • Storage related costs

4. Prepare a solid Service Level Agreement (SLA) for customers

Without a solid SLA in place, SaaS software service providers are not bound to provide customers with the service that they paid for. Prospective customers will choose SaaS service provider that has a solid Service Level Agreement in place which defines the exact quality and availability of the software services that they will deliver to their clients.

5. Building a suitable team

Business will require a number of IT professionals to develop, manage and maintain their new software services. A business should define roles within their organization and a business should also create a team (or group of teams) that will look after their new SaaS offerings, before their SaaS software services have actually been implemented.

Businesses can easily forget to train their workforce. To avoid problems once SaaS software services have been implemented, a business should train its staff on how to manage and support software services, during their initial setup stage. Once SaaS has been implemented, additional training should be available.

6. Defining a clear timeline

A business should clearly define milestone dates as well as dates for when important

tasks should be completed, so that they can avoid being sidetracked when implementing SaaS and making the required changes to their existing infrastructure.

7. Design and Development SaaS product

Taking the SaaS aims and objectives into consideration, the traditional product will be designed to be web application supporting the following areas into consideration

  • Tenancy Model – based on the Tenant change the look and feel, workflow and business rules.
  • Provisioning and Billing – User subscription contact and billing rules applied
  • User authentication and authorization – Every user will have user id and password and set of user rights associated based on the contract.
  • Scalability and resource management – Maximum number of concurrent users sessions supported.
  • Reliablity and supportablity – based on SLA build fault tolerent mechanisms to provide high reliablity to the software.
  • Metering – Calculate on usage of the application on the defined billing rules daily/monthly to generate the monthly bill based on Tenant organization.

8. Configuring the SaaS solution to meet specific needs

Once a business has implemented their SaaS software services, they will want to configure these software services to meet their own specific needs (just as they would configure any other new software application or technology). A business may also need to carry out configurations to their existing infrastructure before implementing the new

SaaS software services.

Some of these configurations and changes might consist of

  • hardware-based changes
  • network-based changes
  • software-based changes

No matter what changes and configurations a business has to make to their infrastructure, both before and after the implementation of SaaS, they should always plan for these changes beforehand by carrying out research in order to avoid any unforeseen problems.

9. Adopting solid data security practices

Business must ensure that their software services and data is secure, include ensuring that their SaaS service provider (Eg: Amazon EC2)  provides them with a data protection guarantee and also ensuring the provider complies with industry standards.

Businesses should look into their SaaS service provider’s background and find out what levels of security they have in place to protect their data centers, what backup and disaster recovery procedures they have in place, if any, and how they go about securing each one of their client‟s data.

Finally a business should clearly define roles and access rights within their own organization. No users without the correct credentials should be able to access more than what they are allowed access. Workstation users may only have access to restricted versions of a software service, while administrators would have access to the full versions of these software services.

10. Adopting a solid support structure

Business must adopt a solid support structure for their SaaS services. Organization need to be clear which employees will support these SaaS software services (i.e. existing employees or additional IT professionals) and how these SaaS services will integrate with software from third-party software vendors.

SaaS service providers will carry out software upgrade procedures, data management procedures and support-related tasks, it is still down to the end-user of these software services, to ensure that they provide any additional support for these software services, in order to make sure that these software services meet their exact needs.

Finally, businesses that are implementing SaaS should always have a second or third choice SaaS service provider in their mind. By having a second or third SaaS service provider in the wings, businesses are ready to shift service providers if any changes do occur or if their existing SaaS service provider can no longer deliver the software services.

Top 10 SaaS pitfalls

  1. Not knowing what the SaaS vendor is agreeing to the customer or SaaS provider
  2. Paying more than for the software services
  3. Not having a Service Level Agreement
  4. Not knowing how about SaaS service provider performs advantages/limitations
  5. Not taking into account hidden costs
  6. Not taking into account integration costs
  7. Not knowing data rights
  8. The lack of control that businesses have over SaaS software services
  9. Having to rely on unstable Internet connections for end users.
  10. Not taking into account exit costs
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