Graham Card, Senior Business Consultant at WCL, shares the benefits of using SaaS software and explains why WCL made the shift to using it for their enabledAccounting product.
In fewer than ten years, the once familiar world of software installed in-house has all but gone, supplanted by the present model of off-site, hosted applications for everything from email to ERP. It’s as if the world has tipped over to client-server again.
Except it’s different.
The most obvious difference is that today’s servers reside in datacentres, rather than within the client’s network, outsourcing the agony of management. Those in use by WCL offer astonishing levels of security and availability, with instant back-ups and overall resiliency that would be a challenge for internal IT departments to achieve without economies of scale. But there are other benefits too, such as simpler upgrades, more transparent pricing, and predictable budgeting.
Yet some organisations still remain wary of moving to a hosted environment, especially where critical applications are involved. The greatest practical fears are that they might lose control over their data, or over management, or the content and timing of upgrades. Less rationally, some believe that the client’s interests could become subservient to those of the vendor and that the relationship could be one-sided. It is not, or it needn’t be.
In our enabledAccounting software, the shift to hosted SaaS from an on-premises installed application is easy and offers clear practical and functional benefits.
When it comes to software upgrades, we take a client-led approach rather than leading them down an endless path of upgrades. Although we plan the timing, the content is most often driven by user feedback. Many product enhancements are promoted by clients and intended to make life easier and more efficient for their users.
Moreover, the decision to implement changes is often the client’s. While changes have a planned quarterly cycle, they are rarely revolutionary, and in many instances, features can be ‘switched’ on or off—their usage is not mandatory and can be selected or de-selected easily as part of set-up.
Testing is another vexed subject among organisations who fear unintended consequences might follow an otherwise routine upgrade. We carry out in-house testing to an exacting standard. And when the in-house testing stage is complete, changes are released for a round of user acceptance testing, before being incorporated into the live environment.
Part of the fear concerning updates is how they might affect client data or lead to a loss, corruption or interruption. Here again, the fears are unfounded.
Enhancements made to the software never have any direct impact on core data. There may be updates that enable an enhanced data set to be received and processed, but the software is in such cases made ready to accommodate a change to the standard, rather than to initiate the change.
The only time a core data change is implied is when a change to the familiar ACORD standard message is made. Since that is a global standard, it is beyond our control—we enable its use, but the timing of implementation is in the full control of the sender (broker), in agreement with their partner carriers.
And just to put that into perspective, standards and message format changes are very infrequent. Typically, they take several years to reach a final specification that wins approval from the e-accounting community, and often longer to gain widespread adoption. So, there is no question of unexpected or short notice changes creating confusion or increasing risk.
Adding a belt to the braces approach, where a client wants to receive and process through enabledAccounting a new ACORD standard and a changed data set, it is even possible to do so ensuring no changes are made to the data structure that we provide for integration and automation.
Using our SaaS model, clients enjoy reduced cost of upgrades and more predictable budgeting of ongoing cost. While the base costs are largely identical between the on-premises option and SaaS, the saving lies in incremental upgrades, rather than periodic bigger changes which are harder to predict. It’s also a false economy to skip upgrades. It is quite likely to be more complex to implement and support a large number of changes – more headaches for internal teams – when clients eventually choose to update. That can be annoying, especially if the timing is driven by broker/carrier partners rather than the client.
It’s hard not to see the hosted SaaS option as a clear winner over the old in-house installed option from any angle:
- our SaaS service guarantees, through SLAs, the performance of the service as hosted on industry leading datacentres
- it ensures clients remain up to date with improvements to the product that their users will benefit from, without risking their core data
- SaaS service removes the support overhead of managing users and desktops
- It is more predictable budgeting for long term planning
If you have any specific points or concerns about moving your system to SaaS, we would be happy to discuss them and explain our service in more detail.