SaaS Apps and Feature Gaps
by April 20, 2017

Filed under: Network Performance Management

We’re slowly getting used to cloud and SaaS applications in every area of our lives—including at work. Even huge enterprises are starting to move important business apps to the cloud, like Office 365 and Google Docs. That shift affects IT and end users a lot, as both adjust to using and supporting new, cloud-based tools. Sometimes those SaaS applications lack the features of their in-house counterparts.

Evaluating SaaS apps against their previous in-house versions isn’t so simple, and neither is figuring out which cloud application to choose. Comparing Office 365 vs. G Suite, for example, isn’t an apples-to-apples choice. They each comprise a lot of applications with a lot of features, but there will be differences in how the apps look and how users experience them. They each have areas of strength and weakness. And born-in-the-cloud apps like G Suite are clearly different from apps like Word Online, which many users already know but has played catch-up to the cloud.

Ideally, as an IT team member, you should know the details of what the application does and doesn’t do relative to the on-premises one it’s replacing. Users will be asking. Or, if they’re not asking specifically, they may be grumbling to coworkers. You’ll see their unhappiness through increased helpdesk tickets or in a lack of adoption.

Beware the Missing SaaS Features

There are some common SaaS feature gaps to watch out for:

  • Telephony issues: Skype for Business and Google Hangouts both come with some problems around telephony that IT should understand before adopting, especially if they’re coming from a well-performing in-house system. For example, Skype for Business doesn’t have auto attendant and hunt groups, two important features for business users.
  • Configuration or customization problems: You may hear complaints about missing SharePoint Online features if a department has moved from SharePoint Server. The configuration and customization options are more limited with SharePoint Online. Some companies might consider a hybrid deployment here, leaving SharePoint Server in-house.
  • “Small” technical issues or missing features: For IT, they may be small. For users, they’re probably huge. These are issues like the lack of a table of contents feature in Word Online, or potential issues saving Word files in Office 365 or opening Word files. It’ll be up to you to address the fixes and feature requests you can, and know what your organization can do without till the next upgrade.

If you’ve adopted something that’s entirely new to your business, like Slack, or if the new application doesn’t have an on-premises counterpart, it won’t be “Where’s my undo button?” questions. Instead, you’ll probably hear requests for features the product doesn’t yet have. You might have to tell your users to be patient. And remember, you’re only hearing the complaints. There are probably some fun new features that users actually like that you won’t hear about.

And, of course, some problems that arise with SaaS apps will lie with the vendor, browser or network—but that’s a story for another day. For best results on managing missing SaaS features, manage users’ expectations and know your SaaS applications inside and out.