Rapid go-live is often touted as one of the great advantages of software-as-a-service (SaaS), but vendors rarely quote actual figures. Today, project management SaaS provider Daptiv is releasing actual metrics collected from more than 200 customers who went live on its service in the past nine months. Those figures show the average time from starting a subscription to having live users running productively on the configured system was less than 30 days. The sample ranged from small teams of a handful of people who were live in a matter of days, up to 1,000-plus implementations including a 1,020-seat customer that went live with its entire user base in 29 days.
The point of the exercise was to be able to back up the vendor's marketing pitch about time-to-value with "tangible, defensible numbers," VP marketing Tim Low told me last week. Daptiv used its own product to collect the metrics as part of an exercise to optimize the go-live process for customers. The streamlined configuration, training and implementation methodology is now being marketed as the "Subscribe-to-Live" program.
Some may argue that SaaS applications are faster to implement because they're less sophisticated than their on-premise rivals, but that wasn't the impression I got last week when I spoke to Crystal Snoddy, director of new hotel openings and franchise programs at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), whose team went live with the Daptiv service in just a two-week time span in May this year.
"It's easy to use and learn, but that's a testament to its usability rather than a lack of complexity," she told me. "I've found the application to be feature rich and flexible."
Every day of the year, IHG — whose brands include Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn — opens a new hotel somewhere in the Americas (pictured is the InterContinental San Francisco, which coincidentally I checked into the day after it opened in February this year). Snoddy's team is responsible for managing continuous improvement of the hotel opening process across the Americas — smoothing out kinks and bottlenecks at any step from building and kitting out the hotel to supporting franchisees in meeting and beating quality standards once it's open. Daptiv is the product the team uses to track its work, replacing an earlier customized desktop package.
"We knew we had to go with something centralized," said Colin Erven, the program manager given the job of sourcing a new project management platform for the team. IHG hadn't set out with the intention of going SaaS, but it soon became clear that would be their only option, he said. "The first thing that gave us a clue we would need a SaaS solution was that we didn't have a long deployment time. We needed to sign a contract and get a deployment in place that we could start using."
As well as time-to-live, other key factors were flexibility to accommodate IHG's services-focused methodologies and a relatively low initial acquisition cost — "We wanted to limit our risk," said Erven. "When we took all these factors into consideration, SaaS was the only thing left standing."
Erven completed due diligence on the service over a week or two prior to signing up and then configured the system in the following two weeks. At that point, said Erven, "It was functional for 60 to 70% of our needs," and the core team of around a dozen users went live (see a screenshot below of the generic Daptiv PPM application). The total user pool is currently 200 and will be around 1,000 by year end, thanks to the addition of self-service Web forms for business users to submit issues to the team for investigation.
One downside of the SaaS approach is that there have been glitches (that are still being worked on) accessing elements of the application through the firewall, such as customized dashboards. But overall the project has more than delivered in terms of speed of implementation, ease of customization and allowing a centralized file repository with version control and enforceable policies. "The speed of updating is a drawback but as a whole the features outweigh the negatives," concluded Snoddy.