Clearly, there are inherent accelerators in a SaaS model that provide for ready-made environments that do not require extended timelines for the procurement of hardware, perating systems and database build-outs, client certification, etc. However, many of the scoping realities of the on-premise world apply to the SaaS realm. Some questions to ask: Do you want to move beyond configuration to heavy customization using tools like Apex (Salesforce.com) or SuiteFlex (NetSuite Inc.)? Do you need to significantly extend the SaaS vendor data model? How about the volume of data transformation and/or conversion required? Do you need to integrate to legacy systems? What about the readiness of your organization with regard to user adoption challenges and training needs?
Bottom-line: A small and medium-size business (SMB) looking to introduce sales and/or service best practices by deploying a mostly out-of-the-box instance of SaaS CRM might implement within a one-month timeframe. If your requirements are more complex, it's best to ask your SaaS vendor to speak with a couple of customers who have completed comparable deployments in order to make sure you're using realistic timeline estimates.
This was first published in December 2006