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SaaS and the impact on flexible working

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8th Jul 2013
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The article was written by Nick John, MD of FCP Internet Limited, a supplier of recruitment software through recruitment solution evolve.

The working environment is changing and flexible working is the next big thing. For a business, this is a way of meeting employees’ shifting needs by giving them the option to work from home on a regular basis, job-share or keep a part-time schedule. The idea behind it is thinking of work as an activity – not as any one specific location.

It is being taken advantage of by many business owners. According to a survey of 1,000 managers by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) [PDF, 1.27MB] flexible working is being offered by 94 per cent of organisations. This is ultimately leading to an increased demand for cloud services such as SaaS (Software as a Service).

What is the relationship between SaaS and flexible working?

If you didn’t know, SaaS is a part of the cloud computing facility that allows access to software and data from wherever you are and through whatever device you may be using – as long as you have internet access. This has benefits for employees who wish to choose the option of flexible working, as it gives them access to vital work resources; whether it is during office hours or at the weekend, in the same city or abroad, and on a laptop or mobile phone. For business owners, this can go a long way to consolidating office resources by saving on costs and reducing management overheads of previously required PC structures.

Why choose flexible working anyway?

The study mentioned above in the opening segment also looked into why businesses are choosing flexible working and its increasing prevalence. In response, managers mentioned benefits such as an improved ability to retain staff and serve customers. In another study of office workers in Britain, 70 percent said they are more productive out of the office, 90 percent said it does not have an impact on colleague collaboration, and 38 percent said they experience increased creativity. There is an obvious demand for this choice, if not by all, and cloud computing through SaaS is making this decision easier for business owners to implement.

What are the advantages?

The relationship between SaaS and flexible working has a number of benefits for employers and employees:

  • Mobile access: Many SaaS systems allow remote access via mobile devices and tablets, giving flexible working employees access to data that is essential to their workflow from practically anywhere.
  • Internet prevalence: The majority of locations offer Internet access round the clock, so there will be limited times that employees are unable to access company data that is essential to their work. This means standard working hours and practices can be replaced with ones more relevant to a business’ specific needs.
  • Scaling up: Businesses grow and need the infrastructure in place to do so. This remains the same for businesses with a flexible workforce. SaaS allows for scaling up without having to worry about upgrading the entire system.
  • Workflow needs: Different businesses have different needs and processes and so does their flexible workforce. SaaS can meet the unique needs of a business and give remote workers the tools to progress.
  • Growing workforce: Adding new users and building a flexible workforce is simple to do with SaaS.
  • No need to commute: Employees are going to love any employer for this one.

What are the disadvantages?

There are issues surrounding the relationship between flexible working and SaaS for business, including:

  • Security: A single flaw in the architecture of SaaS can leave business data vulnerable to attack. That single flaw may be a remote worker. In such cases, offline backups may seem like a smart idea to remedy the situation, but this can actually increase exposure to breaches.
  • Internet access: SaaS relies on an internet connection and so will employees who choose flexible working.
  • Data loss: There is the potential for a careless SaaS provider or flexible worker to lose important business data. This is not only bad for business, but could lead to difficulty with the authorities if laws are in place to regulate sensitive business data.
  • Response time: In business, work needs to be completed quickly if targets are to be met and clients are to remain happy. However, latency issues can become apparent when using SaaS and so it is important to make sure that the applications your employees need to use will work at a good speed.
  • Downtime: So, SaaS is going to be the resource that your employees rely on when they are working remotely – but have you considered potential downtime? Many of us already know how unpredictable technology can be. This is no different for cloud computing. That is why it is important to have a service-level agreement in place to cover downtime.
  • Insider attack: By allowing employees to work from home you are placing them with a great degree of trust. This could benefit your business and improve productivity, or it could leave business data at the hands of people who cannot be trusted.

In the end, a business owner must weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of using SaaS together with flexible working for their specific needs and goals. Yes, the structure of work is changing and it will continue to do so, but whether SaaS is the answer to flexible working and other modern working issues is ultimately a business owner’s decision.

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