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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Wednesday 12 Oct 2011
SaaS – the future standard for HR technology available today

SaaS – the future standard for HR technology available today

The technology sector is infamous for its use of buzz words and jumping onto the latest bandwagons. Two of the latest ones are Software as a Service – SaaS for short and Cloud computing, conjuring up an image of computing in the sky! 

So let’s start by describing what these words mean in plain English. 

Cloud computing is used to describe software and data storage accessed via the internet and usually provided by another supplier. The best analogy is to think of cloud computing as the IT industry's equivalent of a power station run by a utility company providing electricity to your home or office. To most of us, it would be madness to consider running our own personal power station when there is a national power grid. Cloud really moves computing into the same business model adopted by utility-based services such as power, water and gas. 

What makes Cloud-based computing so attractive is that it is near infinitely expandable to meet the increasing needs of computing power without the complexity and cost of buying more servers and adding more internal IT employees. Its use tends to be priced on a usage model, much like other utilities, rather than the fixed capital costs of internal equipment. This flexibility and lower reliance on stretched internal IT resources makes this model very attractive. 

SaaS is the concept of putting business application software like HR, payroll, financial systems, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software into the ‘cloud’ and configuring it in such a way that customers share elements of the software. Customers then access their bit of the system without the traditional need for buying and commissioning servers in their offices and having unique versions of the software locally installed. 

Most analysts agree that Cloud computing and SaaS-based business application is the future, so it is more a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ these concepts become the standard way of using software and computing power.

CRM and HR applications are at the forefront of the SaaS revolution, with increasingly high levels of adoption. Salesforce.com is best known in the CRM space. And Ceridian has long been a SaaS provider of both HR and payroll solutions before the term SaaS was even coined. 

Looking specifically at the HR world, what does SaaS and Cloud really offer? Once you have a web-based solution that is delivered from outside your corporate networks new capabilities emerge. Employees can access their data from home or on the move from their own PC, tablets, etc. Ceridian has recently completed a large programme with a major retailer and, unusually for the retail sector, online has been the prime method chosen for providing payslip details. This has been made possible by using the employees’ home computers with access via the internet in the same way you use hotmail or Facebook. Employee and manager self-service are therefore becoming easier to use as the bar is set by these popular and sophisticated web applications. 

Ignore SaaS at your peril! 

David Woodward
Chief product and innovation officer 
Ceridian UK