"Not Another SaaS Tool" – How SaaS Skepticism Could Be Killing Your Business Operations

Not Another SaaS Tool – How SaaS Skepticism Could Be Killing Your Business Operations

Luke Walker

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17 September 2020
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5 minutes

We’ve all heard this one before. Might have even said it ourselves.

Not another tool.

Everyone knows the scenario. You’re a team lead or department head at your company, and you recently discovered a major inefficiency in one of your core, recurring business processes. Could be in marketing, operations, support, or just about anywhere in the business.

Point being: you just found a link in the chain that’s costing you a lot of resources, and that desperately needs to be fixed.

Of course, in the back of your mind, you already know the truth: there’s a tool for this.

Sure enough, a quick search and you’ve found it – your digital solution to fix the process. And no surprise, but it’s another SaaS tool. So, you draft up an email and set up an internal meeting to discuss it.

This is where the negotiation begins, and unfortunately – for many companies even today – where the conversation will end.

The corporate aversion to digital change

No one would turn down buying (or renting) a drill if they needed to bore a hole. So why is it that in the business world, digital tools are still met with such aversion?

Why are these proposals so often shot down?

There are many reasons why a SaaS tool could be viewed with heightened skepticism. Most of it boils down to either a poor understanding of the functional need for the tool, or a poor understanding of the functional role of the tool itself.

Here are some of the most common reasons why business leaders remain skeptical, or entirely opposed to adopting new SaaS tools:

  1. Tools have been implemented for the wrong use cases

    Identifying a hammer is easy – you know it when you see it. But in the SaaS world, it’s fairly common to prescribe the wrong tool for a use case that it’s not really intended for.

    This can quickly lead to frustration, especially if the tool doesn’t actually perform for the use case you purchased it for. Time and money down the drain.

  2. Tools were implemented without a clearly understood need or goal.

    Like conventional handyman tools, SaaS are often designed to perform very specific functions, the exact nature of may be not perfectly clear to the person responsible for approving the purchase.

    Case in point: I couldn’t expect my Chief Revenue Officer to understand why we need an enterprise Hotjar account. Until she clearly understands the significance of on-page behavioural tracking and it’s potential for impact on bottom line metrics, it looks like another expensive budget line item with a playful name.

  3. Tools required lengthy implementation times

    While there is some truth to the notion that the more “enterprise-oriented” a tool tends to be, the longer the implementation, configuration, and integration time required. That pain point is also amplified by waterfall approaches to implementation, where staged implementation usually goes over timeline expectations, and never adds value until the implementation is fully complete.

  4. Tools weren’t used properly

    An expensive camera doesn’t make you a great photographer. Same holds true in the SaaS world. Spending an FTE salary on an enterprise subscription to Hubspot won’t make you an inbound marketing machine. Sub-optimal usage yields sub-optimal ROI.

  5. Tools required too much change management

    The change management to roll teams onto new SaaS tools is often tackled en masse. Depending on the scale of the process involved, that could mean a massive amount of operational down time.

    Leadership and IT teams are slowly getting better at change management, but many still “throw projects over the fence” and expect to see quick adoption in the workforce.

    Knowing that, for many business leaders, there are just “too many things going on right now” to allow their teams the time to figure out a new tool, and integrate that into their existing processes.

  6. There are just too many tools!

    Superficially, the addition of new tools can just imply more complexity: more invoices to manage, more things to learn, more steps in the process, more integrations that could break. This alone is enough to make many business leaders freeze and resist digital changes, beyond those determined absolutely necessary.

Of course, it’s impossible to stay in the status quo. That is, if you want your business to survive.

If business leaders continue to put off implementing new tools until their backs are against the wall, then it’s already too late. The competition has already moved ahead, and now, they’re just beginning to think about the changes they should have made over a year ago.

So how do you choose the right tools?

Stop thinking about your current operating model

A thorough understanding of your ideal business processes should lead you to the necessary tools – not the other way around.

A tool, in and itself, doesn’t really matter. Features, integrations, lead time, configuration – none of that matters, per se, beyond the tool’s ability to be the right tool for the job.

It’s also vital to differentiate here that we’re talking about your ideal business processes – not the way your teams currently operate. Let me explain.

Far too often, business leaders make the mistake of evaluating tools from within the framework of their existing processes. This, more than any other detractor, is what causes new tool acquisitions to underdeliver on expectations, or outright fail in business.

Imagine looking down at an assembly line from the executive’s office above, with a shiny new piece of machinery in hand, trying to decide if it might fit on the floor below. There might be a gap somewhere in the line, or another tool being used where it doesn’t fit quite right.

Now, whether or not another, shiny new piece of hardware might fit better, or fill an important gap, the thinking remains:

This piece of machinery needs to fit within my existing production line, in order to be determined a success.

This is the common approach for evaluating new SaaS tools. And it’s the business equivalent of a slowly written death sentence for your operations.

Define and understand your ideal business processes

A far better approach would be to take a step back, and look first at the assembly line itself – your current business operations process.

Instead, ask yourself:

  • Is this process working as efficiently as it could? Is this the best use of resources and time to get to a desired outcome?
  • Can we automate parts of this process? Is it a future-proof, scalable process?
  • Leaving technology and resource limitations aside, what would be the absolutely optimized way to execute this process?

I bet the picture will look a lot different than your current business process model. Now you’re in a position to think about getting the right tools in place.

Assemble the toolkit for scaling operations

With your ideal processes in mind, you can begin to evaluate your toolkit options.

In the same manner as with your processes, do not begin by looking to your current toolkit in order to determine what works, what could be modified to work, and what has to go. That analysis will likely be based on assumptions drawn from your existing processes, rather than from your new, ideal processes.

Instead, follow the new processes, step-by-step. At every step, ask: what functionality is required here in order to achieve the optimal execution of this step?

At the conclusion of this exercise, you will know exactly – at the most basic, functional level – what tools you need to acquire, what you need them for, and on which features to evaluate your options.

Business process digitization for the win

As with industrial automation, business process digitization offers companies the best chance to scale quickly and successfully.

Increased volume is only a good problem to the extent that your operations teams can sustain it, and your customer satisfaction doesn’t nosedive as a result of it. Having your core processes digitized and supported with the right tooling is essential to ensuring that.

Digital processes also have the parallel benefit of unifying SaaS tools, rather than creating additional silos and fragmentation.

Where before, each new SaaS added was another potential cause for breakage, digital process management systems offer the adhesive to keep teams, tools, data, and processes centralized, even as the volume is increasingly cranked up. You can read all about the different applications of these tools here.

With your ideal processes in place (and hopefully, digitized) you increase the likelihood of identifying, quickly integrating, and implementing the perfect SaaS tools for your team.

About the author

Luke Walker is the Product Marketing Manager at Next Matter. He is a longtime process hacker, and writes about marketing, business digitization, leadership, and work-life balance. When he's not at work, you can find him listening to records or climbing rocks.

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