Software-as-a-Service providers must avoid trying to lock customers into their ecosystem or risk losing a host of enterprise business, Hyperion CIO David Jack warned SaaS vendors. [See also: How to choose the right cloud services for your organisation]
The former CTO at Betfair and thetrainline.com said just making a service cheap does not necessarily get the attention of a CIO - but they are far more likely to be interested if the lock-in levels are very low.
"Lock-in makes me very promiscuous with my suppliers," Jack said.
The CIO at Hyperion was discussing the insurance company's move "away from a burning platform" to Anaplan, a cloud-based modeling and planning platform for sales, operations and finance.
"I want a vendor who is easy to engage with, quick to deploy and able to adapt," Jack said. "As CIO I want to select a product or service where we can get it wrong, but we can iterate.
"It should be endlessly configurable and adaptable."
Jack said that the selecting and deploying the cloud software took "a shade under three and a half months" - with most vendors immediatly walking away from Jack and Hyperion's brief because they thought it was too ambitious.
"There is no magic trick to deploying SaaS solutions," Jack said, "but you need to choose a company with the right objectives, a willingness to share information, work with an open book and have an agreed set of behaviours.
"This allows us to really collaborate and work on ideas rather than revert to a contract whenever something goes wrong.
"A good SaaS supplier is happily plural and doesn't want to keep me in a silo - they know they can't sell me everything in the stack so there's no need for them to try anymore.
"And on the customer side you need to have a willingness and ability to take a risk. We had to get buy-in from the top - but we're lucky to have a very enlightened board and investors.
Business benefits of the cloud
Jack said that one of the benefits of deploying SaaS tools is freeing up an organisation to focus on business change rather than getting bogged down in complex outsourcing contracts.
"By not having to focus on developing day to day my teams are freed up for change," he said.
"I don't want a team of people measuring SLAs, I want them to focus on our KPIs and growth which is crucial because customer innovation is really based on how a system is used and not what the technology is capable of."
Jack also discussed Hyperion's upcoming merger with RKH, which he said the companies hoped to conclude early next year creating the world's largest insurance intermediary. Even without the deal, Jack said, Hyperion has been growing at a rate which would make them twice of size of they were last year by the start of 2015.
"RKH reflect many of the same values we do with employee ownership a really clean modular architecture, so our starting points are very similar," Jack explained.
"Our stack might be very different but our starting philosophy is the same.
"My next objective will be how quickly can we get this acquisition up and running; it will be a real test of progress.
"By the time the FCA give approval, we should already by ready with key parts of Salesforce.com, Workday and Anaplan."
Finally, Jack warned against getting caught up in the hype around cloud computing and SaaS products.
"SaaS isn't new, religious or particularly difficult," Jack said. "Essentially it's a model which has been around for years; and it's not a religion where you choose to opt in or opt out, people are increasingly trying to hybridise.
"It can be really easy, and if you don't like a provider, you can change. We adopted an HR SaaS provider, and got rid of them six months later because they weren't moving fast enough for us."