Get a clear picture of your problem so that your solution has maximum impact.
The impact of software solutions and IT based efficiencies in business today has changed the way we approach the business challenges that we face every day. As the saying goes, “Work smart, not hard.” Streamlining obstacles within the IT business environment has never been easier than with a click of a button.
The question is where to click. As with any technology, web-based software and SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions have exploded at an exponential rate, becoming incredibly powerful over the past decade, and choices are abundant.
The development of programming languages and libraries, browser compatibility, open source databases and the overall evolution of the Internet and Internet infrastructure has enabled software development firms to shift their focus from off-the-shelve product sales towards creating long-term revenue streams by providing affordable customized software solutions timeously on a subscription basis and hosting these service solutions centrally.
The concept of web-based service solutions affords several advantages for both the provider and end-users. Providers are afforded sustainable revenue streams and one of the major advantages for the end user is the limited risk, meaning the ability to discern the level of service, quality and support you will be provided by the development firm as a service, without having to purchase something in a box that may work, and may lift eyebrows due to budgetary constraints. You are able to opt out without an excessive fiscal loss.
Web-based service solutions and SaaS are not the be-all and end-all, though. Red tape and business realities will require considerations on several factors when opting to work smart and not hard. Internal hosting capabilities and business IT procedures on external hosting and outsourcing may limit clicking towards a solution.
If your business IT procedures do not allow for externally hosted applications, you need to know that any IT constraints on internally hosted packages will put a damper on SaaS and can lead to a number of other issues. Internal hosting brings with it considerations on whether the required in-house skills are available to facilitate such a process or whether to outsource.
One of the most common issues is the tail wagging the dog scenario where a decision to move toward SaaS is marred by substantial budget expenditure to update out-of-date operating systems that are not compatible with modern solutions in order to implement web-based applications. For example, many large businesses are still running Windows XP where this version of Windows runs Internet Explorer 7, which unfortunately does not meet the requirements of today’s web technologies and will significantly reduce the effectiveness of any web-based software.
Once you have determined the “if” of whether SaaS will work for your business, the next step is to consider the “how”. This comes with the development phase and cycle of web-based service solutions. With so many options in the market around SaaS and web-based service solutions, a clear and concise idea of what is required is essential for the business. This consideration should be coupled with simplicity and a stepped approach. Embarking on implementing a mega multi-facetted web-based solution may cause line of sight to be obstructed and may result in eyebrows eventually lifting due to overspend.
Focus on identifying the key issue that you are trying to solve. Once the issue is identified, do not crowd your application with functionality that is not crucial to solving the originally identified issue. Feature creep can lead to extended lead times, budget deficits and a system that is hard to manage and difficult to use. Have a flow chart that displays your needs to the service providers. This is very important since a flow chart will provide a good guideline on the way forward.
Build in small increments towards a larger system/application. This is very important since it is not helpful to build everything into the application all at once. There are a number of programming paradigms that focus on small releases, each of them developed as a way to overcome issues that arose when developing applications in a waterfall approach, meaning from start to finish, always moving forward never looking backward.
Gearing your business IT needs towards the future using web-based technologies is an advantageous move towards enhancing your business environment. There is no clicking your way out of a failed and costly web-based service solution due to a lack of careful consideration and correct application thereof. The key is to identify the correct solution that will have the biggest impact and select the most efficient resource to provide you with the correct solution, so that one day we all can work smart.
Paul Marais is a Consultant at Remuneration Consultants South Africa, www.remunerationconsultants.co.za, and a Global Remuneration Professional with the WorldatWork.
Byron Georgiou is a Web Developer supporting Remuneration Consultants South Africa with specialist web-based remuneration tools.
This article appeared in the September 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.