Adoption of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which delivers critical business applications over the Internet, is skyrocketing. Economic and operational factors are driving this popularity – the SaaS pay-as-you-go business model means low up-front costs and reducing the workload within customers’ IT departments by offloading hardware management, maintenance, security and upgrade tasks. Here, Fred Dumoulin, vice president of WAPM programs at Cordiant, discusses the challenges and benefits of SaaS solutions.
How can organizations that offer SaaS applications assure a high quality-of-service across the Web and prevent user frustration, complaints, disputes, and ultimately lost business? The key is to understand the performance delivered to actual end-users. A real-time view of the totality of delivered end-user transactions is the best means available to measure performance, availability and traffic load, and gauge end-user satisfaction.
What are the Challenges of Delivering SaaS Applications?
SaaS firms face numerous challenges in order to provide better, faster, and more reliable applications.
• Business managers of SaaS firms can’t measure service levels accurately. Service Level Agreements (SLA) ensure that applications perform as promised – but only if they are measured by actual end-user performance. End-user SLAs are critical to customer loyalty and imperative for proving the quality of delivery during contract renewal. When issues arise over outages or missed SLAs, the customer and the SaaS provider need accurate data regarding SLA adherence so that discussions focus on facts instead of anecdotes about user problems.
• Problems take too long to find and fix. Often SaaS firms are able to detect errors only after users complain. Moreover, users often complain to their own IT department, which means that the SaaS providers are only aware of a small percentage of the errors their end users receive. This makes it virtually impossible to find and fix problems in a timely manner.
• Recreating problems is difficult. When problems are reported, it is difficult to recreate the issue and task the right technical team with fixing the problem.
• SaaS operators don’t always see the impact of a change to the application. Content changes, platform alterations, or network adjustments can all cause problems that may impact end users. Yet, although SaaS firms perform pre-deployment testing, they are unable to measure the impact of changes and ensure problem-free operation of new functionality in the real world.
Real-time, end-user visibility tools answer those challenges and make it possible to efficiently deliver high-quality web applications.
How the End-User Perspective Addresses these Challenges
End-user management tools allow SaaS providers to monitor actual end-user transactions to measure performance, availability and traffic load. These tools give SaaS providers a real-time and historical view of the quality of application delivery to every user.
End-user management tools provide rich reporting and analysis on individual users as well as across an entire application or customer group. Detailed drill-down into problems speeds problem alerting, investigation and resolution. The result is faster detection and localization of incidents; an understanding of the impact of changes on users; and accurate, authoritative measurement of service quality for SaaS customers.
End-user management tools have many uses, but they ultimately serve three important functions:
• Detecting, capturing, and localizing problems
• Measuring the impact of a change on real users
• Reporting on service quality for an individual user or group
Those three functions directly address key challenges SaaS providers face today. With the right application of end-user measurement technology, SaaS firms can dramatically improve their operational performance and deliver on the promises of SaaS.
By understanding the end-user experience, SaaS providers can also achieve substantial business benefits. When they can proactively detect and troubleshoot problems, SaaS firms can accurately determine the source of problems to fix them before they impact users and avoid finger pointing among the vendors involved in application delivery. When they are able to deliver service levels on a consistent basis and document service quality, SaaS firms see higher usage of SaaS services and have an easier time convincing customers to renew their licenses.
SaaS companies promise to deliver better performance for applications over the Web than organizations can provide themselves. Achieving this goal requires that SaaS firms gain a better understanding of the actual user experience and establish a well thought-out plan for incident management, change impact analysis, and reliable service level management.
Because the end-user view provides visibility into the actual, delivered end-user experience along with full forensic detail and sophisticated data collection, it enables SaaS firms to conquer the delivery-quality challenge and furnish operational excellence, faster problem resolution, quicker rollouts and competitive differentiation. As a result, these firms can achieve greater usage of SaaS services and higher renewal rates.