Evaluating SaaS: Gartner's Recommended Steps

Updated: July 06, 2010

SaaS does not solve all the challenges associated with the delivery of traditional software, but it can be hugely advantageous provided the problem is not too complex. It provides a solution that is quicker to implement and configure than previous software would allow.

However, many of the bad practices that occur in traditional software are now working their way into SaaS. A good example is shelfware, a result of businesses purchasing too many SaaS subscriptions. "Shelfware as a service is the concept of paying for a software subscription that is not being accessed by an end user," said Mr. Cearley, vice president and fellow at Gartner. The study conducted by the market research firm reveals that this is more common in larger organisations, but can still occur in companies of any size.

So, in order to minimize the risks of this happening, Gartner analysts have offered their advice on best practices for SaaS at the Gartner SOA & Application Development and Integration Summit 2010. They highlighted four important steps to take when evaluating SaaS:

1. Determine the value
While it limits infrastructure overheads, lowers short- to medium-term total cost of ownership and improves levels of ROI, SaaS is perhaps less financially and technically viablein the long-term, and for applications requiring a high degree of integration.

2. Develop governance of SaaS applications
The next step is to create an SaaS governance model which meets the internal and external needs of the organization. This should take the form of a policy document and all applications should be fully integrated into it.

3. Evaluation of vendors
Organizations need to evaluate vendors based not only on business performance, but also on financial, legal and technical aspects - in other words, within the context of specific application needs. It is not enough to simply consider a single dimension; a much more comprehensive overview of the effects of SaaS deployment can be achieved by considering a vendor's full package. But the question that remains to be asked is: do all organisations have the means, or even the desire, to evaluate SaaS on such a level?

4. Put an Integration Road Map in place
Integration with on-premises applications and other SaaS solutions presents the biggest technical difficulty. It is therefore very important that the application stays constantly connected to the information system with which it is integrated, and evolves alongside it. For example, good mapping will ensure a smooth changeover in the instance where a major organizational change, such as a merger or acquisition, takes place.

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