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Transitioning Your Office to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Is your office still installing software and tools onto individual computers or the company network? If so, your company can likely save considerable time and increase productivity by moving from the on-premise to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model for tools. According to IDG 2018 Cloud Computing Study, 73 percent of organizations are using at least one cloud application or IT infrastructure. Of those using all on-premise, 17 percent plan to move to the cloud in the next year.

Increasing efficiency and providing mobility with SaaS

With on-premise tools, the programs are installed directly on individual computers, which requires either IT or the employee to install the tool and physically update each machine every time a new version is released. Because upgrading costs money, many businesses may allow team equipment to lapse into outdated software versions that either contains glitches or does not have access to the latest features. With installed software, companies often run into compatibility issues with some employees on newer versions, and other employees still using old versions. By using SaaS solutions, all team members always have access to the most current version and can easily collaborate on files.

SaaS solutions also support increasingly mobile workforces, allowing employees to work from machines outside of their physical office. Because SaaS tools are located on the cloud and managed by the vendor, employees can access their tools or platforms through the internet. In addition to added mobility, they can use the program from any type of connected device from wherever they are—smartphone at the coffee shop, laptop in an airport, or tablet from the beach. The vendor maintains the software on the cloud with the latest version, so your employees are always using the most up-to-date technology. Because SaaS tools are on a subscription model, you can often pay by the month. And many tools offer unlimited access plans, which is often significantly less expensive than purchasing a license for each on-premise user.

However, transitioning from on-premise can cause disruption to your business if not approached correctly. Many SMBs struggle because they jump into SaaS without a plan, or they attempt to transition multiple tools at the same time.

Here are eight steps to smoothly transition your office to SaaS:

  1. Determine which tool to transition first. While it’s tempting to jump into SaaS all at once, starting with a single tool is a smarter way to go. First, make a list of your current on-premise applications so you can review them and decide where to start. You want to select a tool that will demonstrate the benefit, but also not disrupt business during the transition. Many companies find that starting with an application for finance, document management, sales and marketing, or supply chain inventory is a good first step.
  2. Select the right SaaS product for your needs. To reduce transition issues, check to see if your current applications are offered as a SaaS subscription. This allows your employees to get acclimated to SaaS without learning a new product. If none of your applications are available as SaaS, consider starting with Dropbox or Box, since many employees may use these products in their personal lives.
  3. Get buy-in. Meet with the IT department and other key people at your company. Make sure you have buy-in from leaders by pointing out the benefits to the company as well as the employees. For many employees, the ability to access the tool from any location at any time is a huge benefit that can help get the entire office on board. If leaders are hesitant, talk about how remote access can help employees be more responsive to customers as well as improve employee satisfaction. Additionally, point out that SaaS reduces IT time, so that department can focus on other projects to help move the company forward with digital transformation.
  4. Determine any workflow changes. While it’s easy to focus on the technical aspects of moving to SaaS, the transition often involves workflow changes as well, especially if the tool uses shared data. Map out the current workflow for the tool and work with key employees to determine any changes that may be needed.
  5. Create a transition plan. Determine when to roll out the  tool and assign tasks to each individual. As office manager, you can serve as a bridge between IT and employees to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Many companies start by adding the SaaS product and still supporting the on-premise model for a short period of time to allow for staged transitions. Inform the office when the new application will be available on the cloud, as well as the date that the old tools should no longer be used. While it may be tempting to let some employees continue to use the on-premise version if they wish, this can create issues with siloed data and workflow.
  6. Provide training for the transition. While some employees may easily transition to SaaS, others may need more assistance. Write up step-by-step instructions for getting started with the new tool, as well as a short FAQ to help reduce questions. You should also determine the most efficient way to distribute login information to employees, if needed. If you have employees who are not tech savvy, consider offering a short training class on the tool. Another option is to create a video that walks employees through the steps. Be sure to assign a point person for technical questions to minimize employees’ frustration during the transition and training period.
    Teammates working through project on computer together
  7. Evaluate the transition. After your office has transitioned, evaluate how the tool is working and any issues that have arisen. Make any adjustments necessary to either the workflow or how employees are using the tool. Be sure to also update the FAQs or training materials based on common questions that have been asked of the designated point person.
  8. Determine the next application to transition. Now that your office successfully moved one application, it’s time to continue to process. Use what you learned during  the initial transition and select the next application to transition.

As more companies move to SaaS, businesses choosing to continue to use on-premise software will likely fall behind. Employee satisfaction may be lower because they do not have the mobile access that helps them do their jobs better and more efficiently, especially in an increasingly mobile world. Customer satisfaction may also drop because of slower response times. Additionally, the company may not have as many digital or innovative projects because IT is still spending a majority of their time maintaining on-premise software. By taking the time to transition to SaaS, your company will see benefits in both the short and long terms.

Learn about about four areas in your SMB that can benefit most from transitioning to SaaS. 

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