If you're in business--any business--chances are overwhelming you're looking for ways to be more efficient. To efficient-ize, if I can make up a word. And if you're not, you probably should be because your competition is.
Efficient-izing is driving the Software as a Service (SaaS) industry. At its most simple, SaaS is the use of online web tools and software to perform functions which previously were done by employees. Or in some cases, entire departments.
The classic example is SalesForce which is winning the battle to be your business's single platform for data and list management. They are already a global, multi-billion dollar giant.
Other, smaller companies are helping businesses save time and money with SaaS products. Finagraph promises to "Replace hours of work with 1-click" by helping you find out how your accounting and bank practices are costing you money. Others, like Basecamp, are working to eliminate the back-and-forth clutter of e-mail around collaborative projects. And Concur is taking many traditionally back office functions such as employee reimbursements and travel planning into their web-based software.
Even though just about every business function may be replaceable with a SAAS solution, not all should be. Here are four functions you may want to keep in house or contract with real people to execute.
Strategy. This may seem like a no-brainer but there just isn't a SAAS solution out there that can make strategic or leadership decisions for your company. There's no replacing a good CEO or Board of Directors.
SAAS operations may give you great, efficient and bias-free data but you'll still have to decide what to do about it. And with more and more companies on the same SAAS platforms, that human leadership element will be more of a difference maker.
Hiring. Yes, there are dozens of job search and application services. And payroll services which can efficient-ize the hiring paperwork. But don't outsource the process.
Culture matters. And having a hiring officer in house (or at least a person who can come see and sense your work environment) is a big deal. "SaaS products can help a small team do the same amount of work as a much larger team, and that's fantastic," says Veerlon founder, Fran Melo, "but there is no amount of generated data that can decide who is the right fit for an open position in your company- and hiring the wrong person can cost you a lot more in the long run than having someone who understands your team."
In many ways, the most important resource any company has is its talent--don't let someone who doesn't know you manage it.
Public Relations. Like hiring, there are limitless SAAS platforms that can help marketing and public relations professionals be better--but none of those should replace a real person or people doing this.
Media relations and marketing are fields where relationships are uber-important. And those are built over time and with success. If your business is ready to increase its public footprint, don't write your own press releases and pay a faceless distribution service.
Customer and Client Relations. SAAS communications and marketing tools can help you engage customers and clients quickly and efficiently. And if your company is big enough, automating this process through SAAS or old-school outsourcing may be the only way to go.
But don't underestimate the value of having someone your customers can call. Jason Seyler, author of Mastering Millennials, told me "it's imperative to have someone with your culture in mind to handle these relations. If you don't, it's obvious, and becomes upsetting for the client."
It's really impossible to game plan every potential client issue or question. Don't try. Making it clear your customers can always talk to an in-house or other highly trained expert is important.
SAAS tools can be a real workface multiplier and balance well with an existing workforce. I know several businesses are buying SaaS products not to replace employees but to make their jobs and lives easier and productivity faster. Easier work can be a real recruitment and retention tool and improve efficiency for everyone. If you get the balance right.