Which situation best describes yours?
- You’re a fledgling SaaS company looking to sell the next ground-breaking application, but lack the resources and manpower to adequately support it.
- You’ve been around for a few years now selling a popular application, and scaling to keep up with growth while maintaining a reliable product has always been a headache.
- There’s never enough time. Your application is stagnating, your development team is mired in operational tasks, and you’re worried about losing the interest of your client base.
The list can go on, but the point is, if any of these three scenarios sound familiar to you, know that you’re not alone. Every IT company, let alone SaaS company, struggles to find that sweet spot between operations and development, where the process of innovation and implementation flows like water and your SaaS product is always on the cutting edge.
So how do you get there? Here are five foundational pillars every SaaS company will need in order to streamline operations, create and support a flourishing product, provide reliability for their client-base, and ultimately survive in a highly competitive market.
Do what you need to do to pad your staff with skilled, talented people. What does this mean? It means take a page from the books of IT’s key players (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.) and do the following:
- Put together competitive compensation packages.
- Create a progressive company culture that fosters ingenuity, loyalty, and excitement.
- Refine your interview process and nix the obvious “what is your greatest weakness?” type questions.
- Realize that the people you want have options. Your company is as much on trial as they are.
A Secure Environment
Think seriously about the security of your data. You’ll be the exception if you do, and that much further ahead of the game.
In a 2012 study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, it was discovered that of the 265 senior executives of IT companies surveyed, 90% reported that their company experienced at least one data breach with nearly half of that number expecting to experience more, and thirty-nine percent reported that their companies typically don’t address security issues in the developmental stages of their application, but rather wait until the launch or post-launch phase. Coincidence?
Ultimately, the worrying trend uncovered by this study was a lack of appropriately assigned priorities when it comes to data protection. While senior executives expressed a general concern about the potential vulnerabilities of mobile devices in the workplace, others placed a disproportionate amount of trust in cloud computing.
A few recommended paradigm shifts to cultivate a better understanding of and appreciation for data security include:
- Recognizing the importance of addressing the future security of your application in the design phase.
- Acknowledging the additional security considerations that will be necessary upon your transition to the cloud.
- Reversing an “after-the-fact” mindset. Having a damage control plan for post-data breach should not be prioritized over prevention.
- Addressing the realities and prevalence of cybercrime.
An Infrastructure Designed for Scalability
What’s it called when too much success is a bad thing? Oh yeah: ironic. But it’s a concern that tech companies face every day: how to pace out growth with the performance capabilities of a highly complex and expensive system.
Squandering resources with an overkill array of servers is never feasible, especially for startups, but the nightmare of system failure can be just as devastating to a fledgling organization.
The answer, as more and more SaaS companies are learning, is virtualization, but it’s an answer that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Virtualization paired with an on-call server management team is an even better solution. The goal should be to create a custom virtualized environment that is prepared for any predictable eventuality, including capacity spikes.
An Agile Frame of Mind
IT bottlenecks are expensive and crippling. In a cutting-edge, fast-paced industry like ours, the ability to be nimble can make or break your business. We touched on this already: the link between development and operations must be a fluid one, with proven processes in place to facilitate rapid innovation that keep up with business goals, client demand and expectations, as well as the agility of your competitors.
Agility can be achieved in three steps:
- Pinpoint your obstacles.
- Uproot them.
- Refine and define job roles.
Where does that last one come from? Well, more often than not, you will find that your hang-ups arise from overlapped job roles—developers doing the job of sysadmins and vice versa—and the results will be missed deadlines, leaked profits, and frustrated employees. In order to be agile, you’ll need cohesion and clarity among your staff.
A Reputation of Reliability
Early this summer, CRM and business IT provider Autotask suffered an outage that resulted in a damaging blow to their reputation. The outage was caused by a capacity spike.
In a statement issued in the post-mortem stage of recovery, Autotask’s VP stated, “Autotask is like oxygen for our customers, and uptime is critically important. Overall, I’d say we still have a great record, but I’m sure in [the media’s] eyes…it’s called into question and we have to earn everybody’s trust again—which we will do.”
As SaaS companies, our universal goal is to create an application that is “like oxygen” to our client-base. The consequent responsibility to provide that oxygen in a reliable manner is a serious one.
As the fifth pillar of a successful SaaS company, reliability will be achieved when your security and scalability needs are met with an advanced, virtualized system infrastructure that is housed and supported by designated, elite professionals with clearly defined job roles and a security-conscious mindset.
Of these five pillars, which do you feel is the weakest in your organization, or the most important in any organization?