Posts Tagged 'best practices'

The Nuts and Bolts of Being SaaSy

Last week I wrote about Zuora’s subscription manifesto and the differences between a technology vendor selling an on-premises solutions vs. a company that delivers a true SaaS solution (which I still believe must be multitenant). Today I read a great series called the SaaS Manifesto, written by Peter Levine, General Partner at Andreeson Horowitz. Part one is on Rethinking the Business of Enterprise Computing. Part two is on Focusing of Building a Real Sales Team.  The series draws from extensive first-hand experience and outlines what it takes to truly become a best-in-class software as a service (SaaS) solution provider. Traditional enterprise software company executives should read it as they prepare for their future and SaaS company executives should review it as checklist.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to work with some real SaaS pioneers.  I’ve seen companies struggle and fail to truly embrace the SaaS model and others execute against what seemed like impossible odds. The first paper I read about “being SaaSy” was by Mark Trang, when he was at salesforce.com. The paper was called, “7 Habits of Highly Effective SaaS Companies.” I couldn’t find the paper, but here’s a great presentation from a 2008 Salesforce ISV event. In 2011 Matt Holleran, now founder and managing director at Cloud Apps Management, delivered a great Dreamforce presentation on the same topic. Some of this early knowledge sharing clearly had a positive impact on the so-called “Salesforce Mafia” –  check out this summary of Salesforce employees who have gone on to start companies. The Start-Up Cloud indeed!

Here are some of the best articles I’ve read over the years on best-in-class SaaS (in no particular order):

  1. Bessemer’s 10 Laws of Cloud Computing and SaaS
  2. 9 Worst Practices in SaaS Metrics
  3. SaaS Metrics 2.0: A Guide to Measuring and Improving What Matters
  4. My Top 10 Year One SaaS Mistakes. Save Yourself Some Pain & Just Don’t Make Them Yourself
  5. Should Your Startup Go Freemium?
  6. Marketing SaaS Solutions to Enterprises: Seven Hazards to Avoid
  7. SaaS in the Enterprise and the need for social selling
  8. HubSpot’s Best Practices for Managing SaaS Inside Sales
  9. SaaS Marketing: 21 Growth Hacks to Test Today
  10. How SaaS Changes an ISV’s Business Model 

Thanks to the authors for sharing their SaaS insights.  Of course I should also give a shout out to Behind the Cloud, by Marc Benioff.  And if you’re still working at an enterprise software company that has not yet begun the inevitable shift to the cloud and the subscription economy, I’m sure there’s not a day that goes by without somebody mentioning Clayton Christensen and the Innovator’s DilemmaEscape Velocity by Geoffrey Moore is also excellent.

What’s missing? Got any more “Best in SaaS” articles or best practices to share?

Cloud Integration Do’s and Don’ts

I moderated a webinar today with a Director of IT who is truly cloud first.  The topic was cloud data integration and the impact the right strategy can have on your Salesforce.com and overall SaaS application implementation success. The discussion also featured implementation guidance from one the top systems integrator partners of both Informatica Cloud and Salesforce – Silverline. Gireesh Sonnad, a partner at the firm, outlined what he sees as the Top Cloud Integration Do’s and Don’ts.

Cloud Integration Do’s:

  1. Build well rounded, cross-functional implementation core team
  2. Pay special attention to understanding your complete process and data workflow
  3. Make sure to compare your legacy application accessibility to the integration platform capabilities
  4. Take advantage of  SaaS application (in this case Salesforce CRM) and Informatica Cloud native functionality (External IDs, Upserts, Error Logging, etc.)
  5. Document what you build (You will need to refer to it often)
Cloud Integration Don’ts:
  1. DON’T underestimate value of integration to overall SaaS adoption (Workflows are cross platform in real life, your systems should be also!)
  2. DON’T ignore the value of detailed use cases and end-to-end testing with the entire team
  3. DON’T try this without a full sandbox!
  4. DON’T Worry, it WILL all work out in the end
Here’s the recording. Do you agree/disagree with this list? What else would you add?

The Importance of Cloud Application Integration

I’ve been posting a series of interviews with members of an IT team who have recently implemented salesforce.com. Today’s post focused on the importance of cloud application integration. A few highlights include:

On the importance of the AppExchance:

“A key differentiator for us was the AppExchange. The fact that there is an ecosystem of surrounding applications that can help us deliver immediate ROI was huge. Now, if new functionality is needed, we can go out to the AppExchange and try it before we buy it. We can test it in our sandbox and see how it goes before plugging it into the production environment.”

On the challenges of hand-coding data integration:

“Many organizations will tackle this challenge by simply doing some API coding and making database calls manually. Inevitably they get buried under hand-coded interfaces, which leads to maintenance and complexity challenges over time. It also means you have a bunch of code that can’t be leveraged in other areas.”

On Master Data Management:

“By having MDM-maintained hierarchy data in salesforce.com, a sales rep can see related opportunities and leads, what activity is going on in subsidiaries and what opportunities there might be to expand a customer’s usage of the Informatica suite.”

You can read the entire interview here.

Smarter Data Integration in 7 Steps

While it doesn’t specifically reference cloud integration, there’s a great checklist with some nice graphics on the ITBusinessEdge site called, “Smart Integration in Seven Steps.” Originally written about in this blog post by Loraine Lawson, this is definitely something that deserves to be shared, printed and/or posted on your wall. The seven steps are:

  1. Put It on Your Calendar
  2. Break Down IT Silos
  3. Invite the Business to Participate, Too
  4. Create an Integration Portfolio
  5. Form an Integration Competency Center
  6. Invest in Standards
  7. Invest in a Data Integration Platform

And if you want to dive into some of these topics, you might want to check out the Informatica 9 World Tour events in a city near year. It’s a great chance to hear best-practices and network with others that are at various stages of implementing these steps.

Finally an Integration Solution for Midsized Companies

I received an email from a software vendor today making this claim: Finally an Integration Solution for Midsized Companies.

The message was about fast delivery, low TCO, no programming, and simpler operations…..all good messages. The trouble is that the proposed solution from this vendor was an on-premise hardware appliance, not data integration delivered as an  on-demand service. It reminded me of a post I wrote a few months ago that still gets quite a bit of traffic:  Signs You Have Integration Appliance Reliance.  Midsized companies, more than any other segment today, are drawn to the benefits of software as a service (SaaS) data integration. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, some of the reasons that true mulitenant integration services are gaining momentum include:

  • Ease of use for non-technical users (minimal training, “set and forget” interface)
  • The ability to try before you buy (if you can’t sign up on and get started on their website, find out why!)
  • Subscription pricing model
  • Capital expense vs. operating expense

The trouble is that all vendor solutions are not created equally. Whether your company is midsized or in the Fortune 100, here are a few resources to help you select the right integration as a service solution:

Stuffing too much in a box

And most importantly, if you work for a midsized company with limited IT resources, be sure to select an integration solution that can grow with you as your data volumes and complexity inevitably grow. Performance benchmarks and scalability must not be ignored.

The bottom line: Don’t get “boxed” in to a short term data integration solution that you’ll quickly outgrow as your requirements broaden.

Somehow this image seemed appropriate…

Staging or Direct – SaaS Integration Best Practices?

I wrote a post today on the Informatica Perspectives Blog about the differences between point-to-point business application integration and staging enterprise data. It’s a topic that many organizations are discussing as it relates to cloud data integration. In order to avoid data fragmentation and data inaccuracies that ultimately result in decreased SaaS application adoption, a lower TCO, and ultimately poor business decisions, data from these cloud/SaaS applications must be integrated with each other, as well as with on-premise systems.

But for most companies, “the cloud” has  fundamentally changed the process of evaluating, purchasing, deploying, and managing software. Line of business (LOB) is commonly driving the technology purchase and implementation process, and in some cases, the central IT organization is being bypassed altogether. In larger organizations, LOB is attracted to faster time-to-results, subscription pricing, etc. and they’re adopting cloud applications to avoid the delays often associated with centralized corporate IT involvement. As this CIO.com cloud trends for 2010 article noted:

“Politics will drive decisions:  Cloud-based services have demystified compute services and increasingly business executives will ask IT managers about the cloud.”

With this in mind, are there new best practices emerging around cloud data integration? If so, what role does IT play? And if you’re in IT, do you provide the business with self-service access to production back-office systems or do you stage the data?

I’m interested in hearing about how this works in your company. Got any best-practices to share? Here’s a whitepaper on the topic that might be useful (registration required).

Direct versus staged cloud data integration

Cloud Integration: Don’t Build a House without a Driveway

David Linthicum agrees with my Cloud Data Integration Predictions and Chris Boorman’s 2010 Predictions from Data Integration World. Check out what he has to say in his post, “Four Data Integration Predictions for 2010“:

“Cloud computing drives much of the growth of data integration. While we’ve not seen this as of yet, the continued interest in cloud computing will certainly drive a lot of data integration in 2010. The fact of the matter is that enterprises don’t think about data integration until they have already moved to the cloud. That’s like building a house without a driveway.”

Nice!

Just getting started with SaaS/Cloud integration? Here are a few resources that you may find useful from David Linthicum (sorry, but registration is required):

Good luck with your new driveway!


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