8 Steps for Selecting a SaaS Provider, Part I.

January 13, 2014

Is this the year that you want to take your website to another level? Maybe you are comparing the benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS) with managing your own software and systems? If that’s the case, an important part of your decision will be selecting a vendor who aligns with your future vision and will help you achieve your goals and objectives. 

Why do you need to worry about anything more than the product? Because one of the biggest benefits of a SaaS solution is the ability of your provider to adapt it specifically to your needs, and prove ongoing development, which can translate to a fruitful relationship with your provider and increased ROI for you.

That being said, if you already have a SaaS publishing system and you aren’t happy with your current provider, it’s also important to determine what to look for in your new vendor, so that you don’t spend more time switching from provider to provider than doing what you do best: providing stellar, engaging content to your audience.

Either way, selecting the right provider can be a daunting process.  How do you get started?  Before you talk with prospective partners, take a look at your business first:

Know and Prioritize Your Objectives:

  • What do you want your site to do for you?
  • What isn’t working for you right now? What is?
  • Where are you looking to save money?
  • Where are new opportunities to grow revenue?
  • What are other companies in your industry doing that could benefit you business?
  • Are competitors creating new threats?
  • What are key performance indicators for your business?  Visitors? Registrations? Subscriptions? Pageviews?
  • What’s your vision 5 years down the road?

Most importantly, focus on strategy: keep an open mind to new or alternative tactics or solutions that could wind up being the best choice to achieve your goals.

Once you have an idea of what you want, look for these qualities in your new vendor:

1)   The Right People: You might find a lot of vendors who can do what you want them to do, but will they work with you and help guide you down a path that delivers? You want a provider who:

  • Takes the time to understand your business, your goals and your objectives
  • Has the experience in your industry to recommend best practices, not one size fits all solutions
  • Meets your current needs
  • Provides excellent, attentive service and support
  • Future-proofs your business by focusing on ongoing development to grow your business

Also, think about what kind of team will work best for you, because there are a lot of choices out there and you need to recognize what you can expect from different types of providers, whether they are agencies, designers, consultants and contractors or web developers.

2)   Proven Platform and Infrastructure: Does the vendor have a development roadmap and do they have a successful client base?

  • What is their plan for handling change requests and custom development?
  • Do they review internal processes to ensure your data and audience data is secure?  If they offer eCommerce, are they PCI compliant?
  • Is their hosting infrastructure secure and scalable for handling new sites and more traffic?
  • Can the platform handle multiple functions (including multimedia) simultaneously and with confidence?
  • Do they work well with others?  Will you be able to continue to use systems such as email, ad serving and circulation?
  • What about taxonomy? Will you be able to engage your readers with relevant, related content, products and events?

3)   Balance Between Tech and Business: You’re a publisher, not a tech company. That’s why you are looking for a provider to help handle the technical end of things. You want to focus on content. But, that doesn’t mean your provider shouldn’t understand your business’ needs. A good developer will:

  • Recommend technology that will help you accomplish your goals
  • Walk you through the process
  • Speak your language
  • Show you how your new site will add value for your audience
  • Explain how to enhance your site’s performance to increase traffic AND time on site
  • Identify your pain points and increase editorial efficiencies.

4)   Established Timelines: Your vendor should be able to tell you what a typical production timeline looks like and also show you where and how they can adapt to your individual needs.

  • Do they take the time to understand your business first?
  • Does the standard timeline they provide look feasible to you?
  • When and how will you have the opportunity to review designs, prototypes and custom features?
  • How can you monitor progress and provide input?
  • What accountability metrics are in place?
  • Are there regular and comfortable methods in place for you to share and work through concerns?

Take a little time to consider these four qualities. We’ll share a few more with you the end of the week.