SaaS sprawl. We've been hearing about it for years now, and all signs point to us hearing about it for years more. Why? I have a theory, and it may mean you need to start freezing your credit card.
For the past decade, a lot of us in the tech industry have heard the same terms used over and over. The, at one point rather revolutionary, “cloud-first” startups have become increasingly commonplace. Looking for a SaaS app first to solve a problem instead of hiring engineers to create a homegrown solution is the preferred method for a good portion of companies today. The benefits of a SaaS app are often just too good: reduced deployment and implementation time, little to no required physical space, configurable best practices-based processes rather than building everything from scratch.
Cloud applications have since become ubiquitous and downright mandatory in large part, no doubt, because of the ease with which they are deployed. But it’s not all sunshine and roses.
Take a trip with me for a second to a favorite film of mine: Confessions of a Shopaholic. In this fun little movie, Isla Fisher plays a character who is burdened with debt because (almost) every time she sees a piece of couture she likes, she absolutely must have it.
It reminds me a bit of how some organizations handle their tech stack. Hear me out:
- To track leads, we need a customer relationship management platform (CRM).
- To send email blasts, we need a marketing automation platform (MAP).
- For Sales to send emails, we need a sales engagement platform (SEP).
- To vet leads, we need a data enrichment tool (or 2).
- To store and share documents, we need a document management system.
- To have a website, we need a content management system (CMS).
- To serve files to visitors on our website, we need a digital asset management platform (DAM).
- To share company info internally, we need an intranet.
- We need an internal communication tool, so we need a group chat software.
- To have online meetings, we need a video conferencing platform.
- To host online events, we need an event management platform.
- To support our customers, we need ticketing software.
- To get our customers to self-serve, we need a knowledge base.
And the list could go on for miles. It’s reminiscent of a scene from Vegas Vacation:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these systems don’t all have valid uses. Nor do I think there should be one platform that does literally everything. SaaS platforms shine when they focus on doing a few things really well rather than trying to boil the ocean.
But when you can just whip out the ol’ credit card and purchase a new platform without a second thought — and with reasoning as basic as Fisher’s — the problems start happening. And of course, there’s an app that exists for every single minor pain you experience. But the result is a tech stack that looks more like a ramshackle monster than a well-oiled machine.
Here’s the hard truth: you can’t really fix a problem without starting at the source. If you only pile layer upon layer of systems that weren’t designed to talk to each other well, you’re only creating more barriers to actually solving the pain you started off with. For instance, if your goal is to be a data-driven business, you have to make decisions informed by good, accurate, timely data. If you already have 13 different layers through which data can get corrupted, overwritten, or otherwise messed with, your goal will never be attained — especially if your solution is to keep adding layers.
And before you say, “Let’s just create one place where we keep all the data”, a ‘single source of truth’ does nothing to make that data better, it only adds yet another layer onto your already-too-full tech stack.
What you should instead do is to build a good foundation on which you can scale. Only by taking a step back, evaluating your current environment, and then making a plan for where you want to be can you set the stage for both now and future success. One of our Data Superheroes, Lauren Morton, said something related to this that stuck with me:
Unfortunately, the corporate retail therapy approach to SaaS applications isn’t the only cause behind chaotic data. In fact, a recent survey Syncari conducted with RevGenius found 3 culprits and revealed some clear problems with the way businesses handle their data today.
Download the report for yourself and learn more about the multitude of reasons why chaotic data is such a problem, and how you can fix it.