Choosing the right SaaS tool for the job

“Choosing the right tool for the job” is solid advice but an incredibly difficult task when you’re looking for a SaaS app online. Unlike wandering into a physical store and picking between a handful of options, the possibilities are practically infinite on the web.

As a freelance programmer, there’s a host of software that I use in running my business. I need to think about document collaboration and storage, budgeting/invoicing, managing mailing lists etc – it’s a long list and crucial that I’m able to rely on each service.

Clayton Christensen (the chap who christened the term ‘disruptive innovation’) explains in The Innovator’s Dilemma’ that we ‘hire’ a product to do a job. Here’s some advice on how to most efficiently hire a product for your business.

1. Stop looking for all-in-one solutions

You’re not likely to come across a platform that can measure web traffic, keep your Twitter stream updated and feed your cat without spending big bucks. All-in-one solutions at generally aimed at the (very) large corporate world and, in my experience, aren’t as effective as “dedicated” solutions.

It’s the reason why DIY enthusiasts have toolboxes rather than a Swiss Army knife.

Examples:

– I use Buffer (www.bufferapp.com) to keep my social media accounts up to date. Such a simple service but one I gladly pay for.

– I use Rubberstamp (www.rubberstamp.io) to manage budgets, expenses and purchase orders – again, simple and effective.

2. Make proper use of trials

Pretty much every webapp out there will offer some trial for their product. Some require a credit card, some don’t. If they do and you’re not so sure about it then put a reminder in your phone to cancel the service, otherwise they’ll likely charge you for the first month once the deadline passes.

Do you have a large company which makes the trial hard to appraise (ie. the trial only works for a company with ten employees and becomes unlimited once you pay)? Try reaching out to the service providers directly and explain the situation – chances are they’d be happy to make an exception for you.

Of course, some services are free which brings me onto my next point.

3. BEWARE FREE SERVICES

If the product you’re using is free across the board (ie. there are no paid plans) then realise that this service could disappear the next time you go to login. Business is oftentimes simple and if a company makes zero money then they’re not going to be around terribly long. Failing that, you may fall prey to “customer lock-in” when they decide to start charging and you pay over the odds.

At the very least, make sure that you can export your data from the service in question.

4. Ask around

Most webapps will come with customer testimonies but you can’t beat a reference from someone you already know (possibly because they’re in an identical situation as you).

Reach out to your friends on social media (or, crazy thought here, real life) and see if they can suggest anything.

5. Keep an eye on cost of growth

Are you about to sign up for an app thats $10 a month for five employees but $200 for ten? Make sure that you’re costs don’t scale faster than you do.

Conclusion

The key points above should help guide you towards an online solution regardless of what exactly you’re looking for. Picking the right tool for the job online can be difficult but a little investment up front can save you hours of headache further down the road. Happy hunting!

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