The topic of where software resides is creating a new choice: “your place or mine”.
With the on-demand option, vendors might use phrases such as “there is no software, it is a service” and “you need to think differently, because there is no software any more”. I think that there is, indeed, software; it is just provided in a more cost efficient model and licenced to you via a different style of contract.
Technicalities aside, what are the key issues that potential purchasers should think about if SaaS or on-demand is offered? There are four groups of questions that must be considered and a few that might be considered:
- Absolute cost
- Don’t be distracted by the choice of on-demnd or on-premise UNTIL you have established that the software meets your business needs
- Compare all costs over a number of years
- Look at the internal costs you might now NOT have to pay, which might include costs of IT support staff, hardware; IT departmental charges; third party software; version upgrade costs (can be up to £30k+ per year in many organisations using FM suppliers instead of in-house IT staff); reduced System administrator costs (as you no longer have 100 PCs to upgrade) and many more
- Look at any hidden costs, such as a Departmental charge NOT reducing because of internal “rules” and extra interfacing costs
- Include the commissioning costs if this is relevant (possibly low if an existing supplier is swapping the delivery method from on-premise to on-demand)
- How resilient is the proposition in terms of speed of access (e.g. when all staff are looking at the weather at 1pm on-line)
- How is the data backed up, how often and where are backup stored?
- How are local Maps, Local Printing and Local Corporate system interface dealt with?
- Can people work from home, with their own variety of access bandwidths?
- Does the Infrastructure supplier have one or many sites, where are they and how are significant incidents (floods, bombs etc) going to affect your system?
- Will the Infrastructure supplier go bust (if this happens, you will not expect it, so best ask) and what happens that day to your system
- How do Home workers access the system from home PCs – or is it best that this is a big NO
- How would Field Workers upload and download data to mobile devices and what about the ones who need to do so wirelessly
- and so on…
- Where is the data stored?
- Can ex-employees with a grudge trash the data?
- It may matter to your organisation where the data is stored. Find out.
- What are the points at which the data is in the public domain, if any?
Naturally, the list of questions could go on a long time. If I was a purchaser, being offered on-demand and on-premise, here is how I might think:
> Let’s make sure that I have evaluated this software as my best option BEFORE addressing my attention to this question (an old sales trick when getting no commitment to buy is to offer an alternative question that is a version of “so, if you did choose to buy it…which I know you have not yet done…, would you choose red or green?”)
> If this is my chosen software, then, is it cheaper to have on-demand over 1, 5 and 10 years for ME taking MY organisation’s way of counting costs to ME in MY role in MY department (if not stop right now)
> Now I am considering on-demand, how available is it compared to on-premise and what is the evidence to support that (or ask for I will insist on a trial of sorts)
> Now that I am considering on-demand and I know it is as available as on-premise (or better than on-premise), how will it interface to the systems and devices that are part of my requirement
> Now that I am OK with it technically, what data security rules should I consider and what evidence do I need (this one is pretty straightforward)
> How will the supplier develop the software’s capabilities for my vertical solution compared to how best of breed on-premise solutions are developed and what is the evidence? (I need proof that this makes financial sense to my supplier or they will either fail to develop the system as my needs change over time or go out of business)
With so many people offering on-demand as an alternative to on-premise, the need for a mutually beneficial relationship remains as does the need for me to be offered the choice: your place or mine!