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Nov 14, 2016 Written by 
Something we regularly come across with small businesses is what can be the nightmare of missing functionality in the software solution they have selected.  This seems to be particularly true of cloud apps, I think because of the perceived ease of getting into / out of any SAAS solution.  Let me explain.

In just the current year we have worked with half a dozen businesses who have selected a software package, and then at some stage realised it does not do everything they need.  In a number of cases this has arisen part way through the implementation, but we have also seen clients go live, and only then call us up to ask the question “how do I get this app to do X?”  When told that said app doesn’t support feature X the users in question have generally not been best pleased!  In most cases we have been able to help them find work arounds, but in one instance we had to help them migrate to a completely different solution!

So why does this happen?  One of the key differences between cloud (or more accurately saas) solutions and desktop (or again more accurately, pay money up front) solutions is the perceived ease of exit, the idea that the user can – at close to nil cost – “suck it and see”.  Most saas solutions offer a free trial period up front, and the option to cancel at any time with no exit cost: the danger of this is that prospective users spend less time evaluating them than they would do with a system for which they are required to pay an upfront fee.

In reality, you cannot just sign up to a new app, run it for a month or two and then walk away from it if it doesn’t work for your business. Yes you can cancel the subscription, but that is a fraction of the real cost to your business: the cost of migrating data, of training your team, the short term loss of efficiency as they adapt, the disruption to your business and so on all add up. Implementing a new business system is a decision you need to get right, even if you are able to avoid outlaying thousands of dollars up front on buying software.

Now, I should say there are some circumstances when you actually can do exactly this, for example, if you want to trial a "non-critical" application that maybe does not hold much data you really can get in and out easily.  A couple of years ago I signed up to a Skype premium account, at a cost of $10 a month, just to see how much value we could get from the additional features (conclusion being that it is a great addition for very little additional cost – whilst you do get a lot from Skype for free we are getting more than enough additional value to justify that $10 fee)!  We have recently migrated to Google Apps so have the option of utilising Google Hangouts instead, the price of which is bundled into our Google account: we will review this as an option and might switch (but then again we might not, $10 a month is very little to pay if it transpires that Skype fits our needs better).  Whatever we choose on this one the cost to us to leave this service is a few seconds on-line to downgrade the account.

At the other extreme, I have seen clients implement accounting systems or CRM databases without really testing whether the app has all the features they need. They might spend days or even weeks migrating data, training staff, customising documents, reviewing their procedures and so on, then at the last moment realise the solution does not offer some feature they regard as critical to their business.  As just one example we are currently working with a client who had self-implemented Unleashed.  They need to be able to set specific sales prices on a “by customer / by item” basis: whilst Unleashed support up to 10 price levels, it does not (at this stage) support a “Special Pricing Matrix”.

In this instance, the client has opted to remain with Unleashed and to implement a series of workarounds, although if their business continues to grow they may at some stage have to revisit this decision.

How can you avoid this issue?  Most critically, develop a list of the features you need in your new system, and document these (here is a guide to a whitepaper we have developed to assist in this process).  If you are struggling to do this seek assistance – Cloudsolve can help you with this, we do not work with one product but with many.  And because we do not just sell the product and walk away, but rather live the implementation journey with you we will never knowingly recommend a solution that is not going to work for your business.
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