A: There are a few ways to interpret this question. I will interpret it as follows: “How do you explain the lower training costs associated with running SaaS compared to conventional on-premise models?”
There is a general expectation -- especially for companies that have under $50M in revenue -- that implementation of SaaS software is lower in cost than traditional models. We sometimes find that this expectation extends to training, and it may be assumed that training cost is not required. However, most experienced folks expect there to be support and training for any type of system transition.
In general, this expectation is backed up by what the market offers. There are definitely some tasks that are no longer required in a SaaS world, starting with system administration training and support. However, there are a number of factors to consider related to this lower cost. I’ll attempt to address these below. After that, I’ll add a few cautionary notes for executives who are looking to manage training and implementation.
Drivers for lower training and implementation costs:
1) The general trend in ERP over the last ten years has been to move toward a best-practices implementation model. At its most basic, this model states that there are a number of configuration options to which most companies default, based upon market and product experience – and these assumptions are built into the implementation rather than covered uniquely each time. At its best, this model should be adapted to your specific industry (vertical) so that the best-practices are based upon comparable organizations.
2) There is an increased “do-it-yourself” expectation that goes with SaaS modules. This expectation is supported by online training sessions (recorded or otherwise), short remote training sessions instead of day-long commitments, and the general expectation that the customer team will roll up their sleeves and contribute heavily to the conversion effort.
3) There is also a general expectation that software is getting easier to use – or that web-based software should be easy to use. This is an area where I suggest extreme caution, since complex business processes or configurable options definitely require background training. On the whole, systems have become better-understood with some convergence of transaction metaphors.
A couple of cautionary points to consider:
1) There still are custom implementations in the world: where the project is unique to your company; where everything is configured uniquely to you; or where the software is adapted to your exact specifications. Most people do this sort of implementation only when the uniqueness adds to your competitive advantage in the market rather than as standard practice.
2) SaaS does tend to commoditize some types of functionality. It is best to think about this related to training as well. Look at the areas that add the most value to your company and the areas where you expect to be business-standard. Expand or contract the levels of training and support where you receive the most benefit.
3) Be careful in your transition from the sales process to the implementation process. If you need to document the expectations discussed in training for internal review within your company, do so. Purchasing a best-practice-based system, streamlining it for do-it-yourself implementation and then managing it like a unique customized training implementation generally leads to poor results.