From Fear to Fixed: How to Overcome a Bad SaaS Investment
POSTED : September 8, 2022
BY : Loren Bors

We’ve all bought something and realized it wasn’t what we needed. We often return products, exchanging them for the right size or a different color. Even a car purchase can be (mostly) walked back.

This was the promise of SaaS. It just works, and, if it doesn’t, you can rip it out. Don’t like that red CRM? Buy the blue one instead. If blue’s a no-go, try purple.

Difficult truth: SaaS doesn’t work that way. The effort required to configure and deploy a solution, even a cloud-based one, is immense. Once users get involved and these applications become a part of their day-to-day routines, it doesn’t matter if the solutions are loved because they work or despised because they don’t. They’re embedded, sticky, and incumbent. Rip out at your own risk.

Many of our clients are frustrated by some piece of their tech stack. It doesn’t work the way it should, it doesn’t provide value, there are no insights, it isn’t connected, the services around it don’t smooth the bumps created by the out-of-box technology features—the list goes on. There are a million reasons why a piece of software fails in an organization.

When teams don’t understand what went wrong, an awful paralysis grips decision-makers. Everyone knows they need something different, something that does the job the first solution failed to do. But how do you know the mess won’t happen again? That uncertainty is so powerful that organizations suffer through poor performance, bad user experiences, and impaired business outcomes to avoid repeating that same SaaS mistake.

So, how do you move forward without the fear of slipping on the same banana peel? Here’s how to walk the steady path to a better SaaS investment.

First: Get the teams that represent the tools, content, and users together and do an honest postmortem. What specifically didn’t work, and how did those failures manifest? Often, several small issues, like lax standards for tagging assets, snowball into deep user frustration. If you haven’t documented the core issues with the system and its owners, you risk repeating those mistakes moving forward. Conversely, taking the time to air the dirty laundry and write down all your breakages in a single place overcomes uncertainty—a core driver of decision paralysis.

Second: Build your evaluation of potential tech around critical use cases, supported by features. Many organizations compile a piecemeal list of requirements and hand it over to vendors, who, inevitably, find a way to check every box. This approach only sorts out vendors who were unqualified from the start and won’t help your organization find the best fit from among the viable candidates. Use cases and scenarios, on the other hand, force vendors to show you how their tech fits with the daily journeys and priorities of your users and owners. It also has the side benefit of jumpstarting the tech implementation process by giving your chosen vendor an understanding of your users and their day-to-day activities.

Third: Build an internal roadmap, a budget, and set of commitments for your team. No technology works without change management. No technology works without product ownership. And no technology works without data-driven feedback via telemetry and users. Whatever team or governance group is responsible for driving business outcomes through the technology must own these components of the tool’s experience. You cannot deploy a tech solution and then go looking for a governance model.

Furthermore, considering a tool based solely on its tech costs without understanding the organizational cost of managing the tool—support, improvements, integrations, etc.—will create a series of pain points in the user experience soon after deployment. If your team isn’t going to manage one or more elements of the tech, be sure that you are selecting a services provider and the technology in parallel. It’s a single program, and you need to treat the software and the services as symbiotic components, not issues to be resolved one after the other.

Finally: Think of your SaaS investment as a product being launched in market, not an internal process you’re implementing or deploying. Companies are talking about employee experience more than ever— as they should! But, they don’t always connect the dots between the effort they put into generating customer excitement during a rollout and the excitement and enthusiasm for a tool that will substantially improve the efficacy and efficiency of an internal team. Build internal marketing assets, get execs to front the roadmap and previews, and invest in a period of hypercare after launch to squash bugs and issues. Set the standard with users that this tool is important, and that the organization is investing in them through it.

You’re not going to avoid mistakes and missteps. There are too many permutations of the user experience, too many potential requirements, and not enough time to get everything perfect before the first user logs into the production environment. Great technology-led experiences aren’t about perfection, they’re about how you drive a purpose and govern the technology behind the experience. By following the process above, you put yourself and your team in the best position to deliver value through a SaaS investment and learn from past mistakes. Get rid of your fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Better performance and better business outcomes are waiting.

If you or your teams need someone to manage the tech selection and rollout process, send us a note. At Catalyst, we create great experiences through technology, and we work with technology partners who embrace our philosophy. To learn more about the SaaS investments selling teams are currently investing in, download our whitepaper, Enabling the Future of Selling.


Loren Bors

Loren Bors

Senior Director, Digital Selling

Mary Fritz

Mary Fritz

Delivery Director, Digital Selling