10 tips for choosing a new SaaS vendor in 2021

choosing the wrong SaaS vendor is certainly not desirable and you might get burned financially in the long run.
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Is your company looking for a new SaaS solution to solve some of your business needs? Then I would like to contribute with some perspectives on what you should be aware of and think about before you make your decision. Because choosing the wrong SaaS vendor is certainly not desirable and you might get burned financially in the long run. Therefore, do your homework thoroughly, spend time exploring the market and screen potential vendors based on the points below.

These are my 10 tips that we, in Acubiz, have learned are important to consider before choosing your new SaaS vendor. And in all modesty, our knowledge and experience are quite extensive with thousands of implementations over a period of more than two decades.

1. Best-of-Breed or Best-of-Suite?

Start by finding out if you want to pursue a Best-of-Breed or Best-of-Suite strategy. That is, whether you want to purchase software and applications based on a viewpoint that you want the best tools at your disposal to solve given tasks (Best-of-Breed). Or whether the purchase should take place based on the viewpoint that you want to consolidate most of your engagement with one vendor (Best-of-Suite). The Swiss Army knife (Best-of-Suite) can be good if the different elements are good, but you can also risk being tied to a mediocre scissor, knife, saw etc. I have previously written a blog post that goes much more in-depth with both the pros and cons of these two strategies; Best-of-Breed or Best-of-Suite.

2. Identify your needs and prepare a process description

It is absolutely crucial that you define what needs the solution should cover for you. Is it important that it is user-friendly, that it saves you time or that it easily integrates with your other systems? Make a list of your needs and decide which features are most important to you. Our own experience tells us, that both the initial dialogue and the implementation process itself takes place much easier and faster, if you in advance have thought about the process that needs to be changed. And the more detailed the better.

3. Check out the vendors approach to security

This is definitely one of the most important advices. You must keep in mind, that you and your vendor share the responsibility for security when we talk SaaS solutions. It can become an expensive affair, if your vendors security standards are not up to par. You can easily request documentation of how the vendor intends to process your sensitive data. In other words, check whether the vendor handles your data securely and correctly, in relation to current standards as well as the General Data Protection Regulation. You can examine whether their security standards are high by checking their certifications. E.g., do they have an ISAE 3402 Type II certification – an internationally recognized standard that documents and guarantees that service providers are in control of their own control, operation and general business procedures.

4. How experienced is the vendor

A vendor with seniority, will obviously also have a lot of experience to draw upon when implementing a solution for your company. Their solution will often reflect an understanding of user’s needs that comes from years of cooperating with customers and adjusting accordingly. Not to say, that a newly started SaaS vendor is not the right for you, as there are plenty of skilled, newly started and relatively “young” vendors. Experience is not equal to expertise either, but experienced vendors will often be sharp at understanding your needs and guide you well through the entire process from A to Z.

5. Are their accounts in order?

This is a trivial advice, but it always makes sense to check the finances of a potential vendor, or business partner for that matter. There is obviously greater certainty that your vendor will not go bankrupt if they run a profitable and solid company. Most Danish companies’ financial reports are available in the Danish national CVR register.

6. Check references

Many vendors have reference customers on their websites, and this might be a good way to find out some more of the vendor. You can also choose to ask the vendor if they can connect you with some of their customers. Here it is important that you talk to customers who have finished implementing the solution and have the latest version. Talk to customers similar to you and who have similar needs – e.g., work within the same industry as you, with the same target group or are similar in size. Ask them about their experiences with the solution, the implementation process and the vendor’s service.

7. The organization behind the solution

Explore whether the organization behind the vendor is strong and versatile. The organization must both be able to support and carry out a safe and effective implementation, as well as follow-up training and support with the right competencies. At the same time, it is important that your vendor, with its specialists, is geared to meet changes and your specific needs. Because changes will arise, and it is utterly important that the vendor can manage them.

8. Test the solution

I personally think this is a really nice piece of advice. You can ask a vendor for access to a test solution or a free trial before you make your final choice. This way, you get a tangible experience with the solution and a good sense of what the solution can offer. Please note that not all SaaS vendor’s offer this opportunity.

9. Is the solution user-friendly?

It is essential that the daily users of the solution find the solution user-friendly. If not, the purchase of the new SaaS solution is a failure in my eyes. Among others, take a look at how intuitive the solution is, if you quickly and with a few clicks can gain access to what you need and if its available on the platforms where you need it.

10. Price vs. Quality

There is always a correlation between quality and price – like for any other products and solutions. A solution at a lower price can easily cover your needs in many cases, but please bear in mind the price vs. quality correlation. Be aware that if something is cheap, then it sometimes means that the vendor has saved or excluded certain functionalities or services. Therefore, first and foremost, examine whether the vendor meets your needs and can provide a solution that significantly streamlines your workflows.

If you go through all of these above points, you are already well on your way to find your right SaaS vendor. Once you have chosen the vendor, remember to focus on the employees. Because no matter how you’ll toss and turn it and point out all of the benefits for the business, it’s crucial that the employees embrace the new solution. It will affect their everyday life in the form of new routines, workstreams etc. And the big task for you as a company, is to get them on board and make them take ownership of the new solution.

So, to sum up. If the SaaS solution is to be a success, it requires good screening of potential vendor’s, and then it requires good change management when it is to be implemented.

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