"The cloud" has been a hot subject the last couple of years, and has been considered especially attractive to SMEs due to making it possible for whole information systems to be fully managed by the vendor. This can unburden the customer organization regarding for example large investment costs, hardware and software maintenance, while also adding flexibility and scalability.
There are three types of service models: infrastructure, platform and software, which dictate what the customer and vendor manages. In Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which is the focus of this study, a third part manages both the applications and hardware and the users access these resources through the Internet. However, with the usage of SaaS comes several issues for companies to handle and make use of, for example security and mobility.
This master thesis' aim is to present organizational effects of SaaS usage in SME user companies, by studying customer organizations post implementation. A qualitative comparative study was conducted where we held semi-structured interviews with SME users mainly at their own offices. In total six interviews were conducted at five different companies. At least two years usage experience was a criteria we set to ensure we could retrieve enough data from the companies.
To fulfill the aim of the study we set out to find common issues affecting SMEs using SaaS systems. Through a pre-study, including literature studies and customer interviews, we determined which of the common issues that could be considered most relevant. Factors taken into consideration was how SaaS specific an issue was and how relevant it is in the post implementation phase, and how much data we were able to retrieve regarding an issue through the interviews. The relevant issues were: price model, vendor relation, frequent updates, mobility and integration. Further, five hypotheses were derived, one for each relevant issue regarding the organizational effects of SaaS usage.
An analytical model was constructed mainly based on DeLone and McLean's (1992; 2003) original and updated Information System Success Model. The model helped in deriving organizational effects of usage from the different relevant issues. By using the analytical model with interview and literature study material we came up with the findings of this report, as described below.
The possible price models enables companies to be more flexible with their IT portfolio. Also, it was concluded that the costs of SaaS are based upon usage, which could make it harder to estimate, especially if the usage varies. But it can also be a strength enabling customers to scale their usage as needed.
In general, the vendor relation between a customer and vendor was not too complex, however with one exception. Our main discovery was that certain factors of SaaS usage affect the degree of experienced vendor lock-in differently. These include the nature of the pricing model, contract binding times and data ownership rights. Further, the level of trust and lock-in level could also affect the customer intention to change system.
Frequent updates, which are managed by the vendor, reduce time and effort in regards to maintenance performed by customers. However, sometimes the updates could also cause problems when the customer had own configurations.
The mobility offered by SaaS systems extends organizations ability to work. This includes increased geographical freedom for mainly employees of an organization.
We found that integration is much more of a general issue for information systems. But in SaaS connection of services are possible and can thus enable further value than each service can on its own. However, integration also causes increased lock-in and system management.