SaaS or to give it its formal name - Software as a Service - is just another way of procuring software. As such, if you are soon to be issuing an RFP or an RFI and are wondering what to include in your document, don't worry, it really is not that different. In this article, we walk through what you need to include in your upcoming SaaS RFP document.
What is SaaS and what makes it so different?
SaaS has been around since the last millennium, and today, most businesses procuring software will buy a SaaS contract rather than the traditional way of buying licenses plus annual maintenance. A 'Software as a Service' contract effectively bundles these two line items together (the license to use and the support) and rather than owning the software (and it being a capital expense), you subscribe to a service from the software vendor.
There are a few differences between a SaaS purchase and a Software license purchase. They include:
Opex rather than Capex - the software is not being sold or bought, the acquiring company is gaining the right to use the software for a defined period of time. You might want to make sure your finance team is ok with this.
How long do you want it? - enterprise software is usually purchased by the year - customers sign-up for one to three years in general, and sometimes with an option to extend for another period at the end of the contract.
Maintenance (or service) is included - rather than having a maintenance contract as a separate purchase item, a SaaS contract includes service/maintenance as part of the product/service.
Hosted for you - there is generally no software to load on your servers. The vendor doesn't ship anything as part of the sale!
Configuration - the software is configured for you from a standard release - there is generally no such thing as the ability to customize - you 'configure' it.
How does this change what goes into a SaaS RFP?
The good news is that things are really not that different when it comes to writing the RFP or RFI document from what you will have put in a previous software RFP. Here are the areas that you might want to add or be aware of when you write the document:
How long are you looking to sign the contract for? - are you just looking for a basic one-year agreement or are you willing to broker a longer-term deal? Some vendors will offer a better annual price (i.e. a discount) for longer contracts.
Less need to be specific about the configuration - as mentioned earlier, if you are looking to sign-up for a SaaS contract, your supplier will be configuring the software to fit your need as best they can. They will not be customizing or building the software for you. This means that you do not need to be as granular in your functionality request.
Everyone (usually) will be on the same release - you may therefore want to ask how often the updates to the software are made, and what impact this might have on your users.
Security - as the system will be hosted for you - and often in another country, you might need to ask some important security-based questions to make sure that you are comfortable that the platform gives you the comfort that you need. One obvious question - where will my data reside?
Deployment - how does the software get deployed and what support will you have along the way? Almost every SaaS vendor has a 'Customer Success Team' - it is this team's job to 'onboard' you and your colleagues as soon as the contract is signed. How do they do this? What training is included?
What happens when you leave? - as the software is not yours to own, what happens when (because you will at some point) decide to cancel the contract? What notice period do you need to give the vendor - and what happens to your company data once you exit the agreement?
Availability/Uptime - you will want to know how many outages they have had in the last few years and what their uptime percentage is (e.g. 99.9%).
Roadmap - how often do they update the software (3 or 4 times per year for major updates is common)? What do they have in the upcoming updates that are not included in the software right now?
What certification do they have? SaaS comes with lots of certification and 'proof' from independent organizations that they are running a solid business and architecture.
These are some of the main points to ask - but like any technology procurement, there are a host of more detailed questions that will need to be uncovered at the contracting/commercial stage. Some customers look to add these items in the RFP, and others hold them back for the legal and commercial conversations that come after a 'preferred bidder' is announced.
Need more help?
Viewpoint Analysis acts as a 'Technology Matchmaker' and helps customers of all shapes and sizes to FIND and SELECT enterprise software and SaaS. Our Rapid RFP (RRFP) is where we run the RFP process on your behalf - with pre-built templates, streamlined vendor processes, and help with your selection and business justification. If running a SaaS RFP isn't on your list of priorities and you need some help, check out the service or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org