Most LMS vendors operate or either wish to operate in a SaaS engagement model. While there is no denying the possible pros of SaaS (for both the vendors and the customers), the learning domain offers some unique challenges to vendors in going the SaaS way. Below are some critical challenges of SaaS specific to vendors of Learning Management System:
1. On-premise Hosting
Moving to SaaS would mean limiting LMS hosting on cloud servers and providing on-demand service to the customer. While this works for your SMB clients, many training companies and enterprises require on-premise hosting as it’s a must-have requirement for their stringent IT policies. They simply cannot risk of any of their data being hosted external to their premises.
2. Physical Separation of Database
This is similar to the aforementioned challenge. While your LMS may support multi-tenant architecture, most training companies and large enterprises require independent instances of database, and are not comfortable with just a logical separation of the database. In most cases this is, again, due to their stringent IT and data security policies.
3. Version Upgrades and Regular Maintenance
SaaS would benefit your operations team by easing up the version upgrade and maintenance process. But in practical situations, it is almost impossible to have a common schedule for maintenance and version upgrades for all your clients. While this may sound trivial, barely qualifying as an issue, many large enterprises and training companies have training sessions spread across different time zones. Each client requires time to prepare for a version upgrade and this differs from time to time and completely depends on how the version upgrades are going to impact them. At times you would even face resistance from clients for version upgrades.
The challenges mentioned above are also true for the customers. And it would be simply unfair to force your clients into adopting a traditional SaaS engagement model by completely ignoring these challenges. You need to identify a middle ground to make this a viable option for your clients, while ensuring that you do not sacrifice on the benefits of moving to a SaaS engagement model.
The following are some of the important pointers that you can consider while implementing SaaS or as I like to call it an ‘Hybrid SaaS’ approach:
Providing option to choose between dedicated LMS instance and shared LMS instance
This provides flexibility to your clients to choose between a dedicated instance and a shared instance as per their requirements and budget. This addresses SMBs’ requirements of limited licenses as well aslarge enterprises’, and that of training companies’ too, which work with multiple corporate houses with ever growing license requirements.
Providing option to choose between Cloud Hosting and On-premise Hosting
This flexibility addresses the requirements of both – SMBs who prefer shared hosting over the Cloud and large enterprises, which due to their security policies prefer in-house or dedicated hosting.
The major challenge with this Hybrid approach is supporting version upgrades and maintenance as it requires upgrading the individual instances deployed for your clients thereby making it a time- and effort-intensive process. But then, on the plus side, this approach gives more flexibility and time for your clients for overall readiness and plan their upgrades better. As a vendor, it would always make sense to find out ways to address the resulting operational challenge rather than impacting client business. To a large extent this can been addressed through efficient internal and external communication strategy and planning with your client-facing teams. This will also provide further flexibility to your clients to choose from a gamut of options and service plans as per their needs and budgets.