In 2020 your SharePoint intranet should be based on a SaaS product

22-01-2020 Software as a Service is the way forward for intranet products in 2020

In the fall of 2017, more than 2 years ago, when we started planning for the next generation of IntraActive, our standard product for intranets on SharePoint Online, we had heated discussions about whether the world of Office 365 and SharePoint Online would be ready for having an intranet product delivered as Software-as-a-Service. 

After a few weeks, having researched, discussed with partners and customers, we realized we had to turn the question upside down. 

In short - we realized that future intranet customers would have SaaS as a REQUIREMENT, either explicitly or implicitly through their expectations.

SaaS as a concept has been around for at least 20 years under different names, but it was late to arrive to the world of Office 365 because it is complex to deliver software on a platform that is controlled by someone else – in this case, Microsoft. 

However, the advantages are too great to ignore, and the SharePoint platform has improved so much in the last few years, that it became feasible to do.

SaaS means no service windows
Far gone are the times of sitting up late at night with shaking hands and deploying that new version of software packages to SharePoint Online, hoping that nothing goes wrong, and you do not have to call and wake up your colleagues. 

IntraActive is deployed 10 to 20 times per week to more than 100 SharePoint tenants with no service windows. All customers are on the same version. 

SaaS means no upgrade costs
In the past our customers paid a consultant to perform an upgrade and that would take anywhere from 1 to 5 hours to perform the upgrade. It had a cost and it had to be scheduled. It was a frustrating situation for customers to notice a new bugfix became available days after a costly upgrade had been completed. 

With SaaS, upgrades are free. Because of the economies of scale, “free” is an accurate representation of the actual cost for us. 

As a side note - our investment in the DevOps setup that makes Continuous Delivery possible in an Office 365 world is considerable. It has only been a sound investment because we have many tenants on our product and are adding several new tenants every week. 

SaaS means faster resolution time 
Our current customers won’t be able to tell you that there are no errors in our intranet product. However, I believe they could tell you that errors are relatively minor AND that they are most of the time fixed within 24 hours of discovery. And “fixed” means they are deployed to all customer tenants. 

It makes a big difference whether a problem is left to fester and cause people to do workarounds that in effect makes the problem bigger and possibly results in corrupted data. 

One could say that fixing an issue quickly makes the issue smaller! 

SaaS fits with SaaS 
SharePoint Online and Office 365 is kept updated by Microsoft. They continually update SharePoint Online behind the scenes, invisibly and without explicitly notifying anyone. 

Obviously, it’s a bad idea to have a product on a SaaS platform that is not SaaS because it means you are not able to act as fast as the platform you are based on. IntraActive is updated at least as often as the SharePoint Online platform and through Microsoft’s “First Release” program, we can test IntraActive against future versions of SharePoint Online and make sure we are always up to date. 

SaaS provides herd immunity 
While not inherently a direct consequence of SaaS, it is common for SaaS products to be used by many customers at the same time and that is true for IntraActive as well. 

Herd immunity means that if there is an issue, then probably just a few tenants experience it (otherwise it would have been caught in testing) and when it is fixed for them, it is fixed for everyone so the vast majority of tenants never experience it. 

SaaS costs less 
While the base cost is higher for the SaaS based software vendor, it costs less for the software vendor to maintain (calculated per customer) and those savings are of course passed on to the customer to maintain competitiveness. 

Additionally, code is running on SharePoint Online and in a centralized environment, so each customer does not need to pay for any extra computing resources. 

SaaS developers have more fun
Developers working on a SaaS product can focus more on creating valuable features and solving real problems instead of spending time on troubleshooting and tedious routine tasks.

The IntraActive product team is able to create a superior product and everyone benefits from that!

Software as a Service (SaaS) is the definition for software that is stored in the "Cloud" so that the buyer of the product doesn't have to worry about local installations, backups, updates etc.