5. Your software-as-a-service will run better on an SOA.
A service-oriented architecture and its emphasis on Web interfaces and interoperability will give you an IT infrastructure that takes advantage of the strengths unique to software-as-a-service.
"SaaS is able to leverage a lot of next-generation technologies to its advantage. This includes a service-oriented architecture that is providing a tremendous benefit as it relates to integrating back into enterprise applications," McNee says. "Companies going down the direction of SOA will find that their integration with SaaS-based applications will be much easier."
6. Single sign-on.
Look for vendors who offer single sign-on capabilities that authorize users to work on multiple computing resources. "This is particularly important with more complex SaaS systems that also include third-party add-ins, such as background checking SaaS applications and reporting SaaS applications," writes consultant David Linthicum.
7. Software-as-a-service integration is limited.
Software-as-a-service vendors have struggled to find a good way to integrate their apps with those made by other vendors, Linthicum says.
"As more enterprises move their applications to SaaS, there is a growing need for SaaS-to-SaaS integration," he writes. "Unfortunately, as customers are requesting this, many of the SaaS providers are stumped for an answer; beyond [hiring] a bunch of developers and hoping for the best."
Too often, this approach creates expensive and "cumbersome architectures that lack agility," Linthicum argues.
8. Don't expect too much.
A software-as-a-service application that works well for a small group of users may not be ready for rollout to your entire enterprise. "You need to find out 'what can I reasonably expect from using this application? Is it something I have to limit to a small set of people?'" Wohl says.
If more than one department uses a software-as-a-service app, set boundaries. "Explicit mechanisms . . . will be needed to determine who decides the level of customization of software and who pays for it when two departments want to use the software but only one requires modifications," states a McKinsey Quarterly report on software-as-a-service.
9. Beware the overhyped market.
Software-as-a-service is popular, so nearly every vendor wants a piece of the market. Unfortunately, many simply take existing software and place it on the Web without giving any consideration to ease of use.
"Some existing software vendors are bastardizing the term," Kaplan says. "All they're really doing is hosting the same old applications with all of their limitations. . . . SaaS applications are built to reside on the Web and therefore they ought to be easy to access. They ought to have an intuitive interface that's easy to use. Most importantly, they should have the ability to have multiple users collaborate in real time with that application."