How to leverage software-as-a-service for business processes

Demand for SaaS is growing and vendors are focusing on providing offerings to adapt features according to client demands, which allows enterprises to address customer needs within their niches more effectively.

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For a growing number of organizations, software-as-a-service (SaaS) is providing an economical and flexible way to access vital business applications without needing to invest in additional infrastructure components or manage dozens of software licenses.

Companies today can choose from a broad array of cloud-based applications delivered via the SaaS model, to support practically every type of business process.

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Industry research shows how extensively demand for SaaS is growing. For example, Technavio Research in a 2019 report said the worldwide SaaS market is worth $60.36 billion and is expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9 percent between 2019 and 2023.

The study said SaaS vendors are focusing on providing vertical offerings to adapt features according to client and industry demands, which allows enterprises to address customer needs within their niches more effectively.

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing at a significant rate within the SaaS market, Technavio says, as it helps researchers to solve complex problems that can be difficult for humans. It also increases the ability to improve productivity and provide accurate results within a shorter period of time.

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The integration of AI with SaaS allows organizations to gain more value from their data by automating and personalizing services, improving security and supplementing human capacity, the report said. Al-enabled SaaS also speeds up internal processes and operations, which allows enterprises to obtain faster replies to questions, make quick forecasts, and speed up their overall level of responsiveness.

For a growing number of organizations, software-as-a-service (SaaS) is providing an economical and flexible way to access vital business applications without needing to invest in additional infrastructure components or manage dozens of software licenses.

Companies today can choose from a broad array of cloud-based applications delivered via the SaaS model, to support practically every type of business process.

[ Related: Comparing 3 top project management tools: Trello vs. Monday vs. Asana ]

Industry research shows how extensively demand for SaaS is growing. For example, Technavio Research in a 2019 report said the worldwide SaaS market is worth $60.36 billion and is expected to see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9 percent between 2019 and 2023.

The study said SaaS vendors are focusing on providing vertical offerings to adapt features according to client and industry demands, which allows enterprises to address customer needs within their niches more effectively.

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing at a significant rate within the SaaS market, Technavio says, as it helps researchers to solve complex problems that can be difficult for humans. It also increases the ability to improve productivity and provide accurate results within a shorter period of time.

[ Related: How Salesforce certifications can boost your career (and where to start)]

The integration of AI with SaaS allows organizations to gain more value from their data by automating and personalizing services, improving security and supplementing human capacity, the report said. Al-enabled SaaS also speeds up internal processes and operations, which allows enterprises to obtain faster replies to questions, make quick forecasts, and speed up their overall level of responsiveness.

The benefits of combining AI with SaaS will positively affect the growth of the SaaS market during the forecast period, Technavio said. Growth of the SaaS market can also be attributed to factors such as the increasing demand for cloud computing services, the availability of technologically advanced infrastructure, and the presence of a large number of cloud service providers.

Another report, from Synergy Research Group, said the SaaS market continues to grow at almost 30 percent per year. Microsoft has a worldwide market share of 17 percent and continues to enhance its overall market leadership, the firm said, thanks primarily to its dominance in the high-growth collaboration segment.

Salesforce is the second biggest vendor in the overall enterprise SaaS market, helped by its dominance in the customer relationship management (CRM) portion of the market. Other key players include Adobe, SAP, Oracle, Google, ServiceNow and Workday.

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While the enterprise SaaS market is now mature, Synergy says, it still accounts for barely more than 20 percent of total enterprise software spending and remains small compared with on-premises software. This means SaaS growth “will remain buoyant for many years to come,” the firm says.

The question of whether the software industry will continue to move from a traditional license and maintenance model to a subscription-based or SaaS model is long over, notes research firm Gartner. There is now widespread adoption of SaaS, and in fact many traditional enterprise software providers have been forced to make the shift to the new model, the firm says.

By 2020, Gartner predicts, all new entrants and 80 percent of existing software vendors will offer subscription-based business models, regardless of where the software resides.

Organizations need to continuously evaluate their requirements and compare them with the capabilities of a SaaS offering, in order to maintain the optimal mix of SaaS-provided capabilities and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology, Gartner says.

SaaS everywhere

It’s difficult today to find a business application that is not available through SaaS. Here are some key offerings available that support various IT and business processes.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

ERP has been a mainstay of enterprise application strategies for years, and many companies have begun to shift their EPR platforms or portions of them to the cloud, via the SaaS model.

One option in this market is Oracle’s NetSuite, which includes a cloud-based ERP system providing financial management, order management, production management, supply chain management, warehouse and fulfillment, and procurement.

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Another is Sage Business Cloud from Sage, a platform for managing core business processes including inventory, sales, customer service and finances. It enables collaboration across divisions, countries, multiple sites and languages.

Project management and issue tracking

Given the number of projects companies have going on at any given time, the ability to track projects and issues related to them is vital.

Atlassian offers a SaaS-based issue-tracking application called Jira, an issue-tracking application aimed at users including project managers, software developers and content managers. Teams at

organizations such as General Motors, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and NASA use the project tracking application.

Scoro provides a project management SaaS offering that allows users to manage all aspects of a project on one page, including time spent and billed, planned tasks and meetings, invoices and expenses, comments and files.

Productivity software

Companies are always looking for ways to enable employees to be more productive, whether it’s through easier communication, collaboration, or time management.

One SaaS offering that addresses productivity is G Suite, Google Cloud’s productivity software platform. It includes applications such as Gmail (for email), Docs (for the creation and sharing of documents), Sheets (to create and share spreadsheets), Drive (for file storage and synchronization) and Calendar (for time management and scheduling).

Microsoft offers a desktop productivity suite, Office in the cloud, as part of its Office 365 platform. The software can be used for cloud-based productivity and collaboration and offers Office applications including AI-powered features, voice and video meetings, and file integration.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

CRM was one of the first major business applications to be delivered via the SaaS model, and continues to be among the most popular cloud applications.

One of the biggest players is Salesforce, whose SaaS offering includes functions such as Sales Cloud. It includes features such as Account and Contact Management to deliver a comprehensive view of customers; Lead Management for tracking sales leads; Visual Workflow for designing and automating business processes; and Files Sync and Share for sharing files and tracking content.

Another company, Mailchimp, provides a SaaS-based marketing automation platform and email marketing service, which includes as a key component Marketing CRM. The application gathers market audience contact data so marketing executives can reach a particular audience or portions of it.

Workflow management

Organizations, and in particular large global enterprises are challenged with increasingly complex workflows. SaaS offerings enable them to tackle the management challenge via the cloud.

One example is a set of applications from ServiceNow that are built on and powered by the company’s Now Platform, a suite with main

components including IT Workflows, Employee Workflows and Customer Workflows.

The IT Workflow component covers areas such as service management, DevOps, operations management, asset management and security.

Human capital management

Managing people, including knowing who is available to take on which types of projects can be crucial for business success. This is especially true given the shortage of technology skills at many organizations today.

Among the SaaS-based offerings available for this purpose is Workday’s Human Capital Management (HCM), which includes a human resource (HR) management feature that allows businesses to manage the lifecycle of workers and business processes to meet the needs of project teams.

HCM provides reporting and analytics capabilities that let users interpret data and take action, as well as view driving metrics with contextual reports and dashboards.

Also in this SaaS marker is ADP, which offers a suite of human capital management applications for HR, payroll and employee benefits. Services available include access to forms and documents, a job description wizard to create job descriptions, online payroll processing and payroll tax calculations.

Communications/collaboration

With so many enterprises relying on distributed locations and mobile workers, effective communications and collaboration is vital to success. The SaaS market has no shortage of applications that address these areas.

One is from Slack, which provides collaboration software that lets teams access messaging tools and other features to share content. With the software, companies can also share content and ideas with other organizations such as business partners and clients. The platform includes security features such as single-sign-on, two-factor authentication and data encryption.

Another SaaS offering, from Zoom, is a communications platform that combines remote videoconferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration. Users can sync Zoom meetings with calendar applications and use videoconferencing from desktop and mobile devices. Meetings can be recorded locally or in the cloud.

Customer service and support

It’s all about customer experience today, and how companies deliver service and support their customers has a huge impact on the overall experience of a client.

In the SaaS market, Zendesk provides the Zendesk Suite of customer service applications, which feature the ability to embed customer support on a company’s Web site or within a mobile app. This allows customers to search for help, chat or a call for support, or send emails to the company. An Answer Bot, based on AI technology, automatically responds to support queries with relevant information.

Zendesk Suite also provides skills-based routing, so businesses can automatically assign help tickets to the appropriate agents based on their abilities and workload.

Also available via SaaS is People Powered Data, a cloud-based software platform from SurveyMonkey that enables companies to measure feedback from customers. The software is designed to help companies enhance their processes, products and services by gaining insights through such feedback.

Cybersecurity

Every organization is looking to bolster security, and SaaS gives enterprises an opportunity to deploy security tools as a service when it makes sense.

Among the SaaS-based security offerings is Intercept X from Sophos,

an endpoint security platform that leverages capabilities such as deep learning and endpoint detection and response in order to protect organizations against malware and other threats.

Intercept X deploys a defense-in-depth approach rather than depending on a single security method. This includes malware detection and endpoint detection and response. It features a deep learning neural network that can detect known and unknown malware.

IBM is providing security services via a SaaS offering that includes AI-powered unified endpoint management, protection against identify fraud, user authentication, identity management and data discovery.

Finance and accounting

There’s long been a hesitancy among many business leaders and CIOs to put financial applications and data in the cloud, for the obvious security concerns. But such concerns have not stopped companies taking advantage of SaaS-based offerings in the market.

One such product is QuickBooks from Intuit, an accounting software package aimed primarily at small and midsized businesses (SMBs). It supports processes including customer payments, the management and payment of bills and payroll. Web-based features include remote access, remote payroll assistance, electronic payment and online banking and reconciliation.