SaaS products have afforded team members and departments within a company the ability to communicate and collaborate. Sharing data and information gives every member of the team the same information, but doesn’t necessarily translate into next steps. With so many different people at different levels and with different job titles and responsibilities using the same tool, the challenge is to make the data a useful and natural part of each job workflow.
Workflow vs. User flow
End users of any SaaS product are looking for two distinct flows – workflow and user flow. User flow is the user interface and workflow is the ability of the platform to provide not just data, but ways to use the data that moves the user and company toward overall goals.
A supportive user flow experience is essential to using the platform in a productive way without the need for weeks of user training and time spent navigating through inelegant tools. A positive interface model provides the user with a homescreen that will logically lead them to the next step in a clear path to task and goal accomplishment. An intuitive product ideally provides a homescreen or dashboard that gives an overall picture and basic information with the opportunity to simply drill down and look at data and information on a more granular level. It can be overwhelming to get the granular data all at once without an opportunity to view the information in a more general way.
The goal of an effective workflow is to make the data useful enough to be shared between people and routines within an organization. At a granular level, specific insights can be passed around to address specific goals and tasks. Within an organization, specific teams need a way to collaborate with the available data and insights. The challenge for SaaS platform providers is that each department and each member within a department must use the product to inform very diverse workflow needs.
One Workflow Does Not Fit All
Finding a platform with a workflow to meet different types of organizations or even the roles within an organization is difficult. At the lower end of the SaaS product market, platforms such as BaseCamp are designed for one type of user. These types of products are simpler and are segmented at the product level, but they have limitations. At the higher end, products may be differentiated by user or organization around the same core platform. These higher-end products provide three to four different ways to deal with the differences in industry types or the varied roles of the end users.
When considering a SaaS platform, customers should be looking for the flexibility and scalability of the product to fit easily within the existing organization. An optimized user interface is the most obvious end-user requirement, but an optimized workflow management system within the platform makes the tool an integral part of the ecosystem.
The problem of workflow continues to be among the top three challenges indentified by marketers and SEO departments, alike. To solve this problem, workflow management tools have made their way into the market. The biggest problem with tools that sit at the top of the workflow pyramid is integration. If a workflow management tool is effective, it needs to integrate seamlessly into all the tools already being used. Using the tool shouldn’t be a project in itself. The user interface must be seamless and allow for collaboration between various types of users. The future of truly collaborative tools lies in their ability to be as reliable as desktop software has been and as collaborative as browser based software is now.
The future of SaaS software lies in the platform integrations between providers. In this scenario, everyone wins as users get the seamless integration of tools and features while using a single dashboard or home screen. Data sharing has become more common as SaaS platform providers have learned that providing a good service to customers outweighs the risk of losing a customer to a collaborator. After all, the customers you own are the customers you deserve based on providing a good product and good customer service.
The biggest challenge to product integration is the large technical cost. Providers must prioritize what integrations will best serve their customers and serve the largest market need. While trying to keep all the technology as a monopoly will limit a provider’s ability to deliver the best tool, stuffing every available feature into a tool does not serve the needs of the user.
The trend is clear. Software is moving from device-based to browser-based and collaborative. While the market is competitive, only about 10% of the potential market has been tapped by these products. Providers have a lot of room to grow and users will be afforded the opportunity to choose between many different solutions to the same problem. The focus for users and providers alike must be the ability to fit tools into an effective workflow. New tools and future iterations of existing tools must advance users toward corporate and individual goals.
If you’re looking for a SaaS solution to your marketing intelligence problem, give us a shout and we’ll get you started with a personalized demo of our platform.