Is Saas a change killer ?

If technologies makes major improvement possible, it’s not self sufficient. In the last decade we saw the the adoption of software allowing to reinvent operations, work, business process and, on the other, it seems that it’s never been that hard for businesses to change.

Of course we can blame it on the pace of change and how fast these new solutions emerge in the software landscape. It’s true that it matters : the more fast changes the less it’s possible to embrace them all.

There’s also the solutionnism excesses that supposes that the solution to any problem resides in technology. The truth is a software is only worth the way it’s used and the purpose it’s used for in the context it’s used in. No one can except a solution to work in environments for which its assumptions are not valid. It’s nothing but a matter of change. But opting for a Saas solution does not make things easier. Even if software does not change anything by itself, saying “it sign, I buy, It’s available within two minutes and a miracle can happen” is very tempting.

And finaly there’s this side of Saas I just mentioned : easy to buy, easy to deploy. Or almost.

There was a time when the situation was exactly the opposite. Businesses chose a solution and it used to take 6 month, 1 year or more to have it deployed. Very frustrating. But while IT was working on deployment, the rest of the company had time to prepare for the D-Day. Impact studies were conducted, communication / learning  / training change programs were built (often too deeply). Everyone had time to prepare for landing.

Today it’s all about the technology. That’s a good thing because there are nearly no limits to what we can invent and imagine. But it comes with a major downside : it’s more and more tempting to thing that “if anything happens it will happen on a screen”. And as the software that is seen on the screen is available in one click and sponsors want a quick ROI, as the purchasing decision is made and the software available today, evidences of change are required for the day after tomorrow.

What has two major consequences.

First, teams that should be in charge of change have no time to prepare and even less time to prepare the people who will be impacted.

Then, as funders want to see results as soon as possible, project leaders want to show them some. Hence an incredible energy wasted to make “show flats” happen on screens. What they’ll see will have nothing to do with what actually happens in the company…but no one cares.

Fortunately, all projects based on Saas solutions don’t experience these pitfalls. In fact it depends on how many people are impacted. Projects that impact a very specific population like, let’s say HR, have an impact that’s easy to assess. It’s possible (even if not easy) to take care of everybody. Since such projects often require a lot of customization, it they also leave more time to prepare people. Provided the company don’t make the mistake to believe that “today’s solution are easy to use so people need no help”.

On the other side, collaboration related projects often hit the wall for these reasons. They usually impact the whole company, thousands of people are impacted (and even more) through lots of use cases. Hence a very uneven adoption and platforms living with artificial respirators…that’s to say community managers whose contribution accounts for 75% or more of the platform activity.

Another points should be not be overlooked. What is incredibly good with Saas is how fast updates and improvement are delivered. But vendors don’t always communicate on these changes, above all for minor ones or small scale A/B testing. Many large businesses are not able to support their employees when change happen every 15 days. Even worse : if people don’t care about Facebook or Google updating their product overnight, any change in a business solution can result in a panic attack, even if it’s only a button getting a new name or being moved one the page. I’m even curious to see if business users of Facebook

Don’t get me wrong : I see Saas as a real opportunity because it’s fast to start with and easy to scale. But since it allows new approaches, it requires more vigilance from people in charge of deployment and change. Saying “the solution is ready but we need time to prepare” is not easy in a short term fast world.

Credit Image :  Saas by   Kirill Wright via Shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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