SaaS applications are everywhere, performing nearly every kind of business function and providing unprecedented opportunities for enhanced collaboration and productivity. From sales to technology, education to healthcare, nearly every kind of organization from the smallest small business using MailChimp to the largest enterprises creating with Microsoft Azure, the opportunities presented by SaaS (aka “software as a service”) are better than ever.Some of the key factors driving this growth include:
- Location: Employees are now able to be productive outside the office, including working from home and on the road.
- Device: Smartphones, tablets, and laptops help put powerful processing and massive data in the palm of your hand.
- Scalability: One of the key selling points of SaaS applications is the ability to pay as you grow and add users in real time.
- Updates and Uptime: Business applications installed on your computers and servers are your responsibility and require valuable staff time and resources to maintain. However, SaaS applications are hosted in the cloud and maintained by the vendor.
- Real-time Collaboration: Most SaaS applications allow various levels of real-time collaboration. When a team member in one location makes a change, that information is immediately available to the others on the team in other locations.
- Version Control: SaaS users always have access to the most recently-saved version of collaborative documents and files.
- High Adoption Rates: Because these applications tend to operate in familiar browser windows, users acclimate quickly and gain the benefits of the new tools right away.
Some other benefits that may be a priority for your organization include the ability to manage costs by paying only for what you use, ability to integrate with other applications, and the the ability to “white label” certain applications to create the impression that it is your company’s branded technology providing the value.
The journey to SaaS adoption hasn’t always been easy. Initially, IT managers were concerned about users choosing their own applications, as well as security risks of hosting vital customer information with a third party. Today, the benefits of cloud applications far outweigh the concerns, and successful SaaS vendors are generally doing a good job with security. In fact, most of the risk related to SaaS usage is related to user errors or malicious user activity. Those risks are also present with on-premise applications, however.
Some of the most commonly used and valuable SaaS platforms for small and mid-sized businesses include:
A pioneer in the SaaS industry with more than $6 billion in revenue (2016), Salesforce is an industry-leading CRM that has changed the way sales teams collaborate, resulting in increased sales and efficiency.
What Salesforce.com has done for sales, Microsoft Office 365 has done for office productivity by combining its signature applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with powerful cloud services.
Microsoft Azure is a growing collection of integrated cloud services that developers and IT professionals use to build, deploy, and manage applications through Microsoft’s global network of datacenters. With Azure, you get the freedom to build and deploy wherever you want, using the tools, applications, and frameworks of your choice.
From sending large files to automating repetitive tasks such as employee onboarding, Box provides powerful collaboration tools in an easy-to-use environment.
Google Apps combines enterprise-level email services with shared calendars and video meetings alongside Google Drive, its cloud-based document storage solution.
By combining email marketing, web content optimization, SEO, marketing automation, landing pages, analytics, social media and blogging tools into one platform to attract, convert and close sales, HubSpot has changed the way marketing teams collaborate with each other and with their counterparts in sales.
For teams on the go, Concur automates travel and expense management, leaving more time for productivity.
With the ability to manage customer inquiries from email, web, social, chat or phone, along with a machine learning tool for solving customer requests, Zendesk reports that its business users experience positive ratings for more than 86 percent of customer interactions.
DocuSign helps businesses execute contracts in minutes. Its e-signatures are legally binding for most business transactions in the U.S. and internationally.
Dropbox helps users keep documents at their fingertips across all of their devices, while sharing them collaboratively with other team members.
Slack is a secure and time-saving messaging solution for teams, allowing them to share updates and files, add comments and highlights, and easily index and search these activities.
Teamwork is a project-and task-management platform consisting of three components to enhance productivity: Teamwork Projects delivers the core functionality, Teamwork Chat provides real-time internal chat, and Teamwork Desk provides a help desk solution. These applications work together and with other common productivity tools, including many of the above.
This list is by no means comprehensive. These are simple a few of the SaaS applications that help enhance team interaction, collaboration, and productivity with small and midsize businesses. What are your favorites?
Bonus Tip: A high-quality Managed Services Provider (MSP) can help your organization attain enterprise-level collaboration and productivity on an SMB budget by leveraging the power of SaaS applications.