What’s that, you ask?
Simply put – SaaS is an offering whereby an external company will host and manage software applications for you. Typically, you are “renting” the application (instead of purchasing a license and bringing it in-house). Also, many times the external company will even run/administer/support – in full or in part – the application for you.
SaaS is how a lot more computer-based applications are getting done these days. The main reason for avoiding SaaS some years back – concern about data security – has pretty much vanished, as databases and web applications have become more robust. In fact, not only are pharma companies more commonly using the SaaS model – some are even migrating applications that they used to have “inside” to a SaaS model, to take advantage of the scalable service model offered by provider companies.
In the sales training arena, there are now companies that offer Assessment Management and Learning Management (and other learning technology) solutions in a SaaS model. My particular bias is that the best solution is a flexible hybrid – that is, you can outsource to an external provider, OR you can bring the application in – same software, data preserved. This allows you to maintain your investment in the platform no matter how your needs change in the future.
One main strength of SaaS – a centrally hosted software application that services many customers – means that it costs less to maintain. However, that also means little or no customization – a trade-off that must be carefully weighed up front.
SaaS makes it much easier to get started with an application – lower initial cost, modest monthly fees, shorter ramp-up times – and later, to add capabilities or more users. Significant care needs to be exercised in selecting a good provider, to make sure that you have maximum security and flexibility – but SaaS is an option that should be taken very seriously if you’re looking at learning technology. These solutions are now mature and often quite compelling – and the business model is generally more profitable (lots of learning technology vendors have struggled to turn a profit), which can mean less business risk when partnering with a solid SaaS supplier.