The on-demand consumption model has massively altered the IT landscape, with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) rapidly adopting Software as-a-Service (SaaS) over the past few years, as they seek to benefit from its cost effectiveness, accessibility, and scalability. One of its biggest benefits is its flexibility, which enables SMEs with smaller budgets to side-step huge infrastructure costs, both in terms of initial capital outlay and ongoing service and maintenance. Businesses simply pay for the solutions and services they need, enabling SMEs to leverage software that might otherwise have an expensive licencing model.
Aside from the obvious financial benefits, having access to scalable, enterprise grade software allows SMEs to compete with larger enterprises on a more level playing field and in ways that were not possible only a few years ago.
SaaS products are widely diverse and range from video streaming services to IT business analytics tools. SMEs can also harness SaaS applications that are designed for fundamental business applications like email, sales management, customer relationship management, financial management, human resource management, billing, and collaboration.
According to market research, SaaS currently represents the largest segment of the world market for public cloud services, and the global SaaS industry is predicted to grow to a staggering R11 billion by 2023, at a compound annual growth rate of 18%.
SaaS is consumed by companies on a pay-as-you-go basis via the cloud, allowing them to scale up and down as their business requirements dictate. It also enables businesses to access apps 24/7 from anywhere with an internet connection, rather than having to rely on onsite infrastructure.
Another benefit that SaaS brings to SMEs is that the provider or vendor is responsible for setting up and maintaining the storage, servers and software needed to deploy apps, which lowers set-up and IT costs for the business. This in turn also reduces the burden on a small business’ IT team, while also eliminating the need to employ additional IT skills to keep the systems running.
Security and data governance
When adopting SaaS, small businesses can rest assured that security and data governance will be matched to their specific needs. The right SaaS provider is one that invests heavily in security technology and expertise and will have security protocols that align with an SME’s requirements. The same goes for dependable data storage, with all data routinely saved in the cloud.
The nature of this technology enables SMEs to integrate SaaS applications with other software using application programming interfaces (APIs). This means, for example, that a business can write its own software tools and use the SaaS provider’s APIs to integrate those tools with the SaaS offering.
But aside from these numerous benefits, one of the most important SaaS trends that small businesses should embrace is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning into SaaS solutions. Leveraging AI is increasingly proving to be particularly effective for SaaS businesses. AI can potentially solve many of the day-to-day challenges that SMEs face and take over repetitive tasks by enabling processes such as fraud detection, personalisation, automation of customer care and consumer segmentation.
As the SaaS industry continues to take up the trend of integrating AI and machine learning into its offerings, investment in this area is set to continue on an upward trajectory. While AI is arguably the disruptive technology in all industries, the benefits of the collaboration between AI and SaaS – in terms of customer support, personalisation, and security – can ultimately be valuable for an SME’s bottom line.
By Tinotenda Makombe, Solutions Architect at Linkage