Features v functionality: how to try out an SaaS application

Don’t commit to an SaaS application just because it boasts your checklist of features. Take it for a test run and make sure those features are functional.

Cloud in blue sky: SaaS apps

(Hat tip to Kim Ubert for the original image)

Functionality comes down to efficiency and design. Any vendor can use the word intuitive on their website, but a trial run of the application in your business should tell you if an application’s actually functional. Answer the questions:

  • Does it improve efficiency?
  • Does the design make it useable?
  • What is the learning curve?

When searching for the perfect SaaS application for your business, you want software that has all the features your business needs for its operations, but you also want it to be useable.

Improved efficiency

Of course, the idea behind moving your business to the cloud is to improve your operations. The functionality of an application is determined by the effect it has on efficiency in your business.

Count the steps a task takes with the application and compare it to your current way of doing things. If the cloud doesn’t simplify your job, it’s not doing its job.

If your workforce is mobile, an application needs to travel well. What’s the sense of taking your device with you if you can’t use the application? Test the application to see if it keeps up with your daily grind.

Form and function

We try to split the world into those who value form and those who value function. A great cloud application values both.

Looks matter in a product, but a pretty interface won’t mean a thing if your employees can’t figure out how to use it. In an application, symbols and labels have to work with the design to make a functional user interface.

It’s called the knowledge gap. The first encounter with an application is the starting point and the ability to complete tasks and objectives is the end point. Good design is what closes the gap and makes an application not just intuitive, but useable.

Learning curve

Your employees will be the truest test of whether or not an application is functional. Functionality and intuitive are another way to say obvious.

Implementing a cloud application into your business continues even after you’re in the cloud. Each new hire will train on the software. Be aware of the time and money it takes to train. It should be easy for an employee or customer to navigate the software and recall what they were taught as they move toward working independently.

Recognise a functional app

When you have a list of cloud applications in front of you, certain criteria like price and features will lead you to a trial run. Test its efficiency, measure its intuitiveness and gauge the learning curve. An SaaS application will only improve the way your business runs if you emphasise functionality over features.

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