5 Ways SaaS is Powering the Future of Consultancies
by Ben Kulakofsky
Bring on the golden age of consultancies.
Although not yet an industry-changing phenomenon, traditional consultancies are finding themselves increasingly responsible for the work that was once the realm of advertising agencies. As companies’ market positions become less a product of big advertising spends and more a result of user experience and data-driven intelligence, consultancies are perfectly lined up to woo marketers.
Many are even assembling creative services teams to meet content marketing needs, which are enjoying higher budgets over the last several years. Some savvy advertising executives are taking notice, such as Leo Burnett North America CEO, Andrew Swinand: “I don’t see my competition as WPP and Omnicom. I see my competition as the consultancies.”
As consultancies see themselves poised for success on a new frontier, they’ll have choices to make. New business means new infrastructure, and that needs thorough planning. The software consultancies adopt to support their creative services teams will help launch them into the future, or it will hold them back and give others the upper hand. To stay innovative, they should look to SaaS solutions instead of on-premise enterprise solutions.
Here are five ways SaaS is powering the future of consultancies.
1. Distributed collaboration
Distributed collaboration is at the heart of consulting. Clients may be based anywhere, and many larger consultancies already have globally dispersed offices, as well as teams spread across these offices. The ability to have face time with those clients — or at least collaborate in real time — underscores the core value consultancies have provided since their inception. That value is human judgment, and even in an era of algorithms, it’s powerful.
As the creative arms of consultancies grow, those making the work may not always sit in the same city as their clients. One of the hallmarks of traditional enterprise software is that it’s hosted on-premise, inhibiting seamless collaboration among dispersed offices. This means collaboration is not only more difficult and time consuming, but it loses the bespoke touch consultants offer.
On the other end of the spectrum, SaaS is cloud-based and centrally hosted. Users can access SaaS tools from anywhere in the world, as long as they have an internet connection. This has the power to make people as far from each other as Hong Kong and New York City feel as though they’re in the same office.
2. Brand consistency
This goes hand in hand with distributed collaboration. As consultancies move into the marketing and branding space, they need a way to keep clients’ assets consistent across the board. Brands hinge on being recognized. So if creative teams are working with inconsistent versions of a company’s assets, a brand doesn’t truly exist in the first place.
The best tool for combatting this is a central hub to track messaging, imagery, design standards such as hex codes, and more.
Again, this is the definition of a SaaS solution. Beyond the ability to collaborate across locations, many SaaS tools offer access controls that let an admin define which teams can use certain assets or areas of the platform. For example, admins may have the ability to designate certain roles who have permission to edit and publish content, along with others who can create content but must wait for a publisher or admin to approve it.
These roles and permissions help keep offices compliant and ensure control over branding elements for those who need it. If an asset is under development or the branding differs slightly based on demographics, there’s a guarantee of everyone using the correct version.
3. Cost of implementation and maintenance
"Because SaaS companies are more agile, they’re able to adapt their software to the needs of the customer..."
Rolling out creative services is a difficult and expensive process in and of itself. Factor in the time it takes for a new offer to become profitable, and consultancies are investing a considerable amount. Anything that can temper these costs will improve the chances of success and increase flexibility with the department’s budget.
The number one place for consultancies to examine costs for a new department is in the software they adopt. Traditional enterprise software and legacy solutions are very expensive to implement and maintain. They require teams of IT professionals and developers, servers, high electricity bills, and more.
Adding new features involves significant additional costs and is incredibly time consuming. All of this adds up to a hindrance to the ability of consultancies to take advantage of their position and push themselves into the future as leaders in marketing and branding.
SaaS offers an escape from the crushing weight of enterprise software. Because the software is centrally hosted, rather than being on-premise, a number of costs are never incurred.
With SaaS, there is usually minimal implementation for companies. Simply purchase, log in, and start working. There is also no maintenance. Vendors take care of that entirely on their own, saving their customers from hiring additional IT support and other costs. Lastly, gone are the days when new features and updates were cost prohibitive. Since vendors also handle that entirely, frequent updates are an important offering for most SaaS companies. SaaS customers can expect regular updates and feature rollouts.
SaaS customers can even exert a great deal of influence over the product roadmap for a service they use. A good client services team has their finger on the pulse of their customers and communicates regularly with the product team. Because SaaS companies are more agile, they’re able to adapt their software to the needs of the customer, rather than ask the customers to be the ones adapting.
4. Integration and scaling possibilities
It’s inevitable that one new piece of software is not enough. As the needs for consultancies’ new creative services become more complex and agency-like, they will need additional software.
When this happens, scalability and integration become concerns. How will previously purchased software interact with the new tools? Does the system have the capacity to accommodate enough new users? These are all important questions, which consultancies need to take into consideration before making any purchases.
Luckily, SaaS solutions turn all of these concerns into non-issues. Thanks to APIs that developers include with many SaaS tools, they integrate seamlessly with other software. In this way, a company’s ecosystem grows without roadblocks.
Because SaaS eliminates the need for consultancies to install hardware such as servers, it also makes scaling easy. They no longer have to worry about storage space, bandwidth, CPU power, distributed hosting, and more. All they need to do is upgrade their subscription package, and they can accommodate as many users as they need.
5. Improving adoption
A new tool does a company no good if their employees don’t use it. In fact, that’s a large investment that’s gone down the drain. For that reason, consultancies need to consider ease of adoption for all new software they purchase.
A huge benefit of most SaaS is that it’s accessed through the browser, a familiar environment to just about everyone in 2018. Single sign-on options also mean that users can access all their business tools without needing to log into multiple systems.
On the extreme other end of the spectrum, on-premise tools often use their own unique interfaces. Users need to sign into and learn each one separately. On top of that, because they’re not hosted online, users need to be in the office or log in through a VPN to access them. These are major sources of friction for a company’s workflow, and they often cause widespread abandonment of new tools.
Consultancies are quickly gaining ground in the marketing and branding sectors, scooping up business from advertising agencies thanks to their data capabilities and business acumen. However, their position as future leaders in this area isn’t guaranteed. The landscape of all industries is changing quickly, as everyone vies for disruption. Luckily, companies have the option of using tools that adapt in real time to this landscape.
To remain leaders, consultancies must be forward thinking in their infrastructure. Bringing on outdated tools to complement their new creative services departments will only hinder them. SaaS solutions, because of the agility and cost effectiveness they offer, are the wiser choice. They will allow consultancies to scale up as global organizations with offerings that match the needs of today’s clients.
For consultancies to realize the bright future they’ve glimpsed, SaaS is the only choice.
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Ben Kulakofsky is a digital marketer and content writer. His past work has been featured in the Guardian and Al Jazeera. When not buried in his notebook, Ben can be found catching midnight showings of his favorite classic horror movies.
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