What is SaaS?

Part 2: Focus on the Problem

Resisting "Nice to Haves"

Like all good sequels – it pays to give the audience a quick recap before moving onto the next chapter.

As such, here is a quick recap in 3 points:

  1. SaaS is more common than you think – e.g. Netflix, drop box, Spotify and many others
  2. SaaS – (Software as a Service) is emerging as the most preferred and effective means of operating/managing processes in an organisation today
  3. Start with your current state! SaaS is meant to improve a process using software (i.e. you don’t buy anything tangible – no software, hardware or equipment), so make sure you understand the foundations of your current process before improving anything.
Now let’s pick up where we left off….

Finding the right SaaS solution can be a lot like going to get your groceries. Typically, people will follow a process something along the lines of:

  1. Assess what you currently have in the fridge/pantry
  2. Check to see what is coming up this week (and consequently what you’ll need)
  3. Then, proceed to write a list to make sure they get what is required
  4. Go to shops and purchase (exactly) what you need so you meet budget/requirements
  5. Then go home and utilise all of the purchased items

Now this is what people should do… But is it what they always do?

If you’re anything like me and you’ve either been:

  1. In a rush after work, hungry and just dropped into the shops to grab “a couple things” for the week; or,
  2. Found yourself in a shopping mall on a lazy Saturday for a ‘browse’ because you have just been paid (dangerous).

Then you might discover the above may not always the case. You may have found yourself coming home with a bunch of new things that feel exciting for a about a day or so, but then quickly begin to make you think “why did I buy that…” or “I really don’t need this, I should have saved the money…”. Don’t worry you are not alone. Buyer’s remorse is very real (click here for the BBC’s explanation of Buyer’s Remorse!), but it can be controlled and avoided by focusing on the problem (at least at first).

By focusing on the problem (in as much reasonable detail as possible), you inherently prioritise what is important and begin to direct your energy towards the most ideal/effective solution for your needs. For example, if you are having troubles managing a large number of photographs/media and just need an easy system to access/save, categorise/manage and share media, then focus your energy on those three things:

  • Assess what you currently have against those three things
  • Talk to vendors about those three things
  • Make sure you go into detail about how you want to solve these three things

If these are your only needs/problems, then make sure you aren’t seduced by shiny buzz words or unnecessary add-ons like 3D or augmented/virtual reality (unless that is in fact what you need).

To help give you some ideas with this, I recommend the following tips:

Use a whiteboard brainstorming session to ‘unpack’ what the problem is and what you are hoping to change and why (and if you’re anything like Orange Sky – throw some post-it notes into the mix). Feel free to also do this with a potential vendor in the room (or via an online meeting). They may be able to help ‘unpack’ your problem with fresh eyes (and in some cases with an expert opinion) and see hidden inefficiencies that you may have missed.

Keep a list of “user stories” throughout the process of solving your problem. User stories are first-person statements that an organisation wishes to have in their new process, or a problem statement that clarifies what needs to be changed. For instance, an idea might come to mind when you’re eating breakfast, so you jot down on a note pad (or a list on your phone) “I want to be able to give different levels of access permissions to people when required for security reasons – e.g. view only or admin access – in order to protect my IP (intellectual property)”

With each one of these, try to focus on the why. For example, don’t just say “I want the new system to have a digital signature function in it” – yes, but why? If it is for better security, then maybe take a step back and see what current security actually exists in your system. Do users already require password log in or two-factor authentication (here is link to more info on that – thanks apple). In which case you might already have sufficient security. Remember, all modern online banking is done through passwords and no signatures – and that seems to work for them!

Once you understand your problem in more detail, try to turn that list into three (3) columns – (1) Must haves, (2) Nice to haves, (3) Future thoughts (or “Unicorns” if you’re feeling SaaSy). This will help give a structured picture in your mind around all priorities of the process to help you and your team (and potential vendors) focus on providing real value. The beauty of the list is that you can now easily communicate internally to your team so that everyone is on the same page. This list will also allow you to:

Gather the thoughts of your wider team so that you capture what is important to each of the relevant stakeholders – e.g. users, administrators, etc. (this also adds huge benefits in terms of change management as they will now feel valued and part of the journey, giving them accountability in the decision).

Evaluate your current and potential solutions – to make sure you are comparing apples with apples. You can quite literally use this as a check list when talking to potential vendors, by asking them questions around each user story and seeing how many they can appropriately satisfy. And if you’re still feeling SaaSy, you can create your own scoring chart to see which one gets the highest rating (i.e. potential best choice).

As important as it is to focus on the core problem you want to solve, be aware that this is a discovery process and you may in fact uncover more than you thought was there. So, although we highly recommend not falling for fancy buzz words and “nice to haves”, try to make sure you are still approaching your process with an open mind – as you might actually find something better than you could have imagined (e.g. no one wanted an iPhone until they discovered the iPhone). Only you (and your team) will truly know what’s right for you.

Another important thing about having an open mind during this process, is giving yourself the permission to think outside the box and consider what you may need in the long term. Are you just ‘duct taping’ together a solution for now because it’s quick, easy and cheap? Or are actually thinking about the longevity of your solution and making sure it will continue to grow in the same direction you’re hoping to take the organisation?

This is once again a great place to stop before we jump into our next blog’s topic “PART 3: Will this solution be relevant for future usage?” – so watch this space and stay up to date by following us on LinkedIn!

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, or by messaging me on my profile!

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