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Is On-Demand Content Management Right for You?
Five Tests for the SaaS Advantage

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Content Management [March 2008]

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Following are some guidelines as you evaluate your document management or workflow project. If you find that your project shares several of these characteristics, a "software as a service" (SaaS) solution can deliver great project success at a dramatically lower cost than deployed software.

Test 1: The Breadth Test
If your application needs one or more components not often found in an off-the-shelf package, SaaS is right for you. Examples include:

  • The ability to receive and send faxes directly from the application;
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) to transform faxes and scanned materials into text-searchable documents;
  • Scanner integration to convert paper documents into electronic content;
  • E-forms for combining form-based data with other documents;
  • Zone OCR to read specific fields on forms and extract key information for indexing and organizing your content
  • Ability to view proprietary file formats such as CADs; and
  • Advanced workflow for document-centric process automation.

By integrating multiple technologies once and distributing the cost among all users, SaaS delivers broader, more cost-effective functionality than other options.

Test 2: The Speed Test
Most traditional software projects follow a proven process that is complex, requires months to complete and involves several departments: IT to perform the analysis; purchasing and legal to negotiate the deal; system integrators or VARs (or internal IT) to design and implement the customizations; and training to make end users productive. In fact, the software-selection process is why a large number of software projects fail.

SaaS solutions are configured rather than programmed, meaning customization involves days or weeks, not months. You can often evaluate a SaaS solution for a trial period in which you receive 30%-70% of your final configuration. If you subscribe to a SaaS solution after a trial period, final deployment is expedited because your business process is largely configured. The highest quality solutions will also offer extensive, configurable capabilities that enable you to modify key aspects of the application’s appearance. To further increase time-to-productivity, SaaS solutions are specifically designed to require minimal end-user training. Tutorials guide them through many tasks—adoption is rapid and does not require costly training.

Test 3: The Cash Flow Test
The cost of implementing a traditional document management system involves more than just purchasing and installing software. In fact, the initial cost of a typical installed software package is roughly 15% of the five-year cost of owning and maintaining that application. Simply put, a rough estimate of your five-year cost may reach six times the application software license costs.

By comparison, the SaaS model eliminates virtually all these costs by replacing them with a modest monthly fee, usually based on the number of users in an account or a similar measure that increases only as usage increases.

In addition to lower total cost of ownership, the SaaS model drastically reduces risk. Most implementations are licensed annually, and if the product does not live up to its promise, or if your needs change, your risk is capped at that commitment. A SaaS solution can provide the functionality you want without the economic risk.

Test 4: The Evolving Needs Test
One of the biggest surprises with deployed software packages is the difficulty of launching new functionality or installing a new version. Although the required customizations can enhance the utility of the software, the more extensive customizations often can’t be automatically migrated to the next version of the underlying document management. When the application package is upgraded, the company faces a choice: upgrade the application at high cost and experience implementation delay, or continue to use the older version of the software package and forego the benefits of the upgrade.

SaaS eliminates this frustration because upgrades are applied at the data center and immediately available to all users. Each customer retains control over its users’ experience by deciding which upgrades to accept. And because there is no software to install at each client site, software upgrades are made more frequently, often quarterly. The entire user community accesses the same core application, so new ideas and feedback benefit the whole community.

Test 5: The 80/20 Test
Most well-designed SaaS systems offer extensive interface capabilities, usually via Web services that enable integration with both internal and other hosted systems. The combination of integration and configuration enables SaaS solutions to meet the needs of most organizations. The mixture of integration and configuration is typically referred to as the "80/20 rule," with 80% of the solution "out of the box" and the remainder achieved through user or administrator configuration.

After doing an evaluation based on your unique needs, you should have a clear idea of how much coverage the SaaS application will provide. Ultimately, it is a tradeoff between the incremental benefit of an extensively customized solution and the cost, deployment, risk reduction and evolution advantages of a SaaS solution. The vast majority of organizations will find that a SaaS solution will meet their needs, but there are exceptions.

The Right Document Management Model
While an on-demand approach may not be the best fit for all content management projects, it is usually the right choice if your situation incorporates the following characteristics:

  • Broad use across many uncontrolled IT environments such as third-party sites, client sites and multiple companies;
  • Need for rapid deployment—no time for long purchase cycles and implementation;
  • Lack of a large up-front budget or the time to get one approved;
  • Need for rapid change and evolution over time but within an envelope of common functionality;
  • Desire for new features that are useful to others with similar problems;
  • Deployed easily without specialized support; and
  • Lack of dedicated IT support.

SpringCM combines the low-cost, low-risk benefits of software as a service (SaaS) with enterprise content management (ECM) functionality to offer unparalleled on-demand document management and workflow. Capturing content, collaborating on projects and managing complex business processes are now available with just a Web browser and Internet access.

For more information about SpringCM, please visit

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