What is SaaS?

Part 3: Will SaaS be relevant for the future?

What is the difference between the “Back to the Future” Trilogy, and this blog?

Well a fair bit actually… But for the purpose of establishing a point, it’s that we unfortunately don’t have a handy DeLorean to take us back in time to right all of our wrong decisions when choosing the right SaaS solution for your organisation.

And like all good trilogies, we need to bring it home with a strong finish – so I hope you enjoy reading PART 3: Will this SaaS be relevant for the future?

In case you missed parts 1 & 2 of this blog and would like to catch up – please feel free to jump back (by clicking here) and take a look at the story so far.

Making any big decision can be daunting, and spending too long on making sure you make the right decision can quickly lead to “Analysis Paralysis” (a horrible self-sabotaging habit humans can inflict on themselves – click here for more info!). Now, as much as we don’t want you to fall into this trap when thinking of the future, we also don’t want to encourage choosing a SaaS solution without taking time to consider the bigger picture and the value of the solution in the long term.

We have previously discussed “Understanding your current process” and “Focusing on the Problem” which are past and present aspects of this journey, respectively. After doing this, the next phase is to consider the future:

  1. What will your needs look like in the future?
  2. What will your industry/market demand in the future? and,
  3. Will your chosen SaaS solution be relevant in the future?

What will your needs look like in the future – once you understand the problem you want to solve, the next part is to brainstorm and think about how the problem may look over the next 6 months, 2 years, and 5 years. I like to stop at 5 years when considering the future, as:

  1. Moore’s law (click here for explanation), in a very basic form, says technology doubles in capacity every 2 years, so it’s hard to think about what your technology requirements will look like when things are 2.5 times more advanced than they are now. I mean 5 years ago we were only up to the iPhone 4, we only had 6 Star Wars movies and Donald Trump hadn’t yet become a politician.
  2. Most enterprise SaaS contracts are not usually any longer than 5 years – which makes sense as it can take a number of years to really integrate it into an organisation’s processes and make it feel like it is ‘business as usual’ software that is running at full efficiency (but this can depend on the size and complexity of the use case).

A cautionary tale aimed at parts 1 and 2 of this series, is that sometimes when we are so concerned with generating immediate value and fixing the problem we see in front of us, we can be blinded by the long term consequences (and benefits) of our decision. One in particular I have seen time and time again is the behaviour around ‘reducing cost’. I think it’s safe to say that when any of us are looking to buy something, reducing costs and finding something in our budget range tends to be the primary focus. The only problem with this is that it can lead to us sacrificing value in the long run… Now that is not to say that the most expensive option is the most valuable – far from it – it just means that when people focus solely on buying the cheapest solution, it can cost the organisation more in the long run in inefficiencies and lost time.

For example, if you expect to scale your staff from 10-30 in the next 1-2 years, finding a solution that has high licence costs and is only intended for ~5 people would suggest it’s longevity may not make sense for your organisation. Similarly, if you plan to build the technology foundations of your organisation in the coming years and intend to onboard multiple piece of SaaS/IT that may need to ‘talk’/link to each other and overlap in process – it would make sense to find solution that includes an API allowing integrations, or one that requires minimal effort to transfer information between systems (here is some more information around APIs and Integrations – thanks MuleSoft).

Try including multiple aspects of your organisation when considering the future and how they will be working together in the coming years. What does your organisation ideally look like in 5 years? How big will your team be? What will be their structure? What will be required of them? What do you think they will want/need to have in their day to day lives? What data will they want to capture and use? And the list goes on…

This can be difficult, but try engaging with some of your team and ask them these questions directly – what would they like to be doing in the future, and what would they need in order to do this? The answers to these questions are important as they may rely on the type of SaaS solution you purchase today – and it can either help or hinder their mission, and the mission of the organisation.

What will your industry/market demand in the future – the answer to this can very much dictate the answers to the above question. Regardless of what industry you are in, we are all a slave to the market demand, and we need to be proactive around what will become the standard expectation of what we offer, and consequently, how we operate. This is important now more than ever considering the current digital revolution. To get some ideas around this, it may help to: 

  • Look towards those already leading the market – what are the big fish doing and where are they putting their resources. This isn’t meant to be an ego plug for the larger organisations and not to say they have all the answers (because believe me they don’t). This is more of a resource conscious focus – larger organisations have the resources to spend on ‘looking forward’ by way of allowing employees to collaborate with universities, carrying out research projects, perform a market analysis, etc. To prevent you spending time/money on investigating this, you can do some old fashion google/LinkedIn research around these players to get an understanding of where your industry might be heading, and where it may make sense to start allocating resources to.  
  • Try to be a part of local conferences/exhibitions – In the conference/exhibition world, there are countless events locally, overseas and online. Now please note, attending some of these can be expensive, but there are many conferences that have FREE exhibitions (and sometimes free conferences) that you can attend and soak up all the up and coming industry knowledge. A key purpose of these conferences is to showcase the latest innovation and industry best practices – which is a great source of information when you’re trying to understand what your next chapter may look like. Also, a sneaky conference hack I have come to learn – exhibitors will sometimes be given FREE ‘client’ passes intended for vendors to attract industry organisations to improve the quality of the delegates list. If you feel comfortable, try reaching out to these exhibitors (from the list on the conference page) prior to the conference and ask if they wouldn’t mind offering you any spare tickets! 

After doing some research around what your industry’s future expectations may look like, it is now time to see what effects these may have on the solutions you are looking to include in your organisation. For instance, if your industry is looking to automate more of their processes, it would make sense to review solutions that allow for maximum automation. This could be in the form of more integrations for less manual handling or push notifications in day to day operations to automatically notify users when action is required.

Will your chosen SaaS solution be relevant in the future – Finally, once you understand your organisation and industry expectations, it then comes time to review these against the potential SaaS solutions that you are considering. Try not to over complicate this – simply check – does the solution’s list of future capabilities meet your future requirements?

Once again, try not to focus on the features alone, rather, focus on the purpose of it’s future capabilities and how you expect to use them. For instance, don’t just say “I want my new system to have it’s own native mobile application”, instead ask yourself why? Is it because you want to make your new process easier to access for all of your users? If so, first check how they are currently accessing them and ask how they would prefer to access them. If the majority of users are only accessing their information on their desktop browser, then this would seem less important. Furthermore, if they are gaining access via an internet browser, then they should still be able to access the system on any smart phone (iPhone, Samsung, etc.) via the same internet browser – negating any reason for there to be a native app.

Another important piece to deciding whether your SaaS solution will be relevant for the future – asking your chosen vendors about their Future Road Map. A “Future Road Map” is a plan of upcoming software development that is expected to be incorporated into a solution in the future (typically in 3 month, 6 month and 12 month intervals – anything longer than this, and it becomes too unpredictable). In the SaaS world, it can be very difficult to predict what will be developed in the future as priorities can constantly be subject to change to due widespread client requirements and market demands. But at the very least it is always good to ask a vendor what they are working on and (if it happens to be important to you) would they be willing to develop this functionality earlier than expected? Please note, this can require significant resources from vendors, and they may require you to “co-develop” new functionality with them – where by you pay for a certain percentage of the development, and in return get to include feedback around how it is developed (i.e. make it more fit to your needs).

In a nutshell, the point of addressing these three future considerations is to help you – understand what may be requiredso that you canpre-empt the right solution and capitalise on future opportunities.

The Campfire Team here at Orange Sky do their best to embody these lessons every day, and never stop learning from our Partners and the industry as a whole. For example, at the time of writing this blog, we are in the midst of releasing our next generation of our Volunteer SaaS Solution through our “Activities” development. After many conversations with many volunteer lead organisations, it was clear that the role of a volunteer is constantly changing and can take many forms – depending on the organisation’s community impact – or “Activity”. Thus, we knew that the future of volunteer management needed to fit a more chaotic model that could be moulded to fit each organisation and volunteers’ needs. As excited as we are with this, we know that (in time) there will be a new chapter to volunteer management and will require new functionality and capability to satisfy the market’s next phase of needs – and to take our own advice – we will be ready to iterate with the market and ensure “Our SaaS solution is relevant for the future”.  

That concludes our series of “What is SaaS in the Not-for-profit space?”, we hope you enjoyed and got something out of it. Make sure you join us around the Campfire by following us on LinkedIn to hear more about technology and innovation in the NFP space.  

If you are a NFP and would like more information about this or have any feedback, feel free to reach out to us by clicking here, messaging me on my profile!