What Nonprofits Should Look for in a SaaS Provider
Flexibility — plus
One of the most common complaints about software as a service providers is the lack of flexibility and customization that clients are afforded. According to industry analyst firm Aberdeen Group, “most SaaS vendors limit customization and instead use Web technology to enable customers to create unique configurations of the application.”
A survey by IDC indicated that customization was the top concern about buying constituent relationship management (CRM) software as a service for 70 percent of respondents. In the same survey, 55 percent of respondents listed robust functionality as their top concern.
Depending on an organization’s needs and size, they may need additional configuration and/or customization beyond the standard SaaS offerings available in the marketplace. Given the multitenant architecture of software as a service — meaning that a single instance of the hosted application is capable of servicing all clients — a variety of configurable options are key in order for nonprofits to adapt their view of the application to meet their unique organizational needs. For example, are you able to rename data fields or add custom fields? Can workflow be reconfigured to match your organization’s processes?
During the selection process, nonprofits should weed out prepackaged, “cookie-cutter” solutions from those with the ability to customize design and function. Software built to be “one size fits all” is simply not going to meet either the immediate or long-term needs of most nonprofit organizations. Flexible product architecture is critical to ensuring that client customizations aren’t costly to the nonprofit in terms of both price and time. Some vendors even require two to three weeks for each change clients want to make to their Web site or SaaS solution. Many of these changes then become lost or “broken” each time the provider releases product updates or upgrades.
Made for whom?
As anyone in the charitable sector knows, nonprofit organizations have very different structures, processes and needs than commercial, for-profit companies. So why would a nonprofit select a SaaS solution designed with the enterprise in mind?