Name: Ken Harris
Company: Shaklee Corp.
Location: Pleasanton, Calif.
Challenge: Shaklee is a rapidly growing mid-market company that sells premium quality, natural nutrition, and personal care products, environmentally-friendly household products, and state-of-the-art air and water treatment systems. When I came onboard three years ago, one of my tasks was to see how technology, which was mostly legacy, could support a strategic shift. I have a smaller budget than most larger organizations, yet still have the same breadth of services I need to cover, and I had to find a way to be a lot more efficient with the money I spend to support these needs.
Solution: I mapped out our business and then color-coded each area based on the condition of the technology. It became clear where we needed to make technology investments fast. For instance, we were spending a lot of money in product returns due to incorrect addresses. So we replaced our in-house address verification system with a SaaS offering from StrikeIron, Inc. that connected into all of our databases. That enabled us to get our feet wet and see immediate benefits. Even though we pay an annual fee, weve saved three to four times that annual payment by avoiding supply chain and shipping costs for returns. We also have SaaS providers for our data warehouse and Web site search and analytics.
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Impact on IT: Theres a whole cultural thing you need to go through. Your internal skill set changes from purely focusing on technology to understanding business, analytics and project management. Ive never been in an IT role where there hasnt been more work than people and money needed to do it. You have to help your staff understand that IT will get kudos if they are able to provide better service to their users.
SLA advice: Start off with top-to-top discussions and establish an open line of communications. You have to be able to say that if something happens, we can access each other and get something done. I dont sign an agreement until Im comfortable that will happen.
Contingency plans: Whenever we look to structure a SaaS-based relationship, we do contingency planning that addresses what happens if the vendor doesnt deliver the application or doesnt stay in business. If we cant put together a decent alternative, then we dont go through with the deal.
Final thought: Most vendors have a problem making a commitment ensuring 100% uptime, but I have a problem if they dont. I put detailed specificity with incentives for meeting and penalties for missing six nines of availability and capability into all my SLAs. Until they carry the same level of responsibility I have to carry, it wont work.