Don’t be Fooled by ‘Barbie® Cloud’ HR Systems

hr systems, hr saas, fake cloud systemsI took the title and input for this blog from John Hoebler’s, Technology Lead at CrossCountry Consulting, excellent post recently entitled, “Don’t be fooled by ‘fake cloud’ finance systems” – I changed the title ever so slightly, to really place emphasis on the level of fabricated fashion in today’s SaaS vendor space, and of course it’s important to HR professionals too!

One can immediately see the Barbie® doll, and recognize it’s not a reality – it’s easy to do that from one glance. However, SaaS (Software as a Service) is hidden from view, under the hood, safe and sound…or is it?

Real SaaS vendors might start to sound like a broken record soon, however, buyers are still unequipped, unsure and unaware as John points out in his article the “fake” SaaS vendors are using clever marketing to fool their buyers.

Two great posts on real SaaS

First, John’s definition is easy to understand, he breaks it down into 4 basic types; 1. On-premise. 2. Hosted, 3. Single-tenant cloud and 4. Multi-tenant cloud. I urge you to read John’s full post, but here is a quick summary:

  1. Traditional software, you own the hardware and have the application installed
  2. Same as 1, except your vendor hosts your server and software for you
  3. Same as 2, except your vendor owns the hardware and software, and they rent to you
  4. None of the above! The vendor is smart and the customer is smart, too

Ok, so #4 is much more than that. The vendor owns the hardware and software, but the same version of the software is used by all customers. By the way, this is one of the killer questions to ask your supposed SaaS vendor, as John pointed out:

“what percentage of your customers are on the latest version of the software.” If they say anything other than “all of them” then it is not the “real” cloud.

John goes on to point out the many additional benefits of real SaaS:

“Upgrades are pretty seamless, frequent and vendor led typically with little effort on your end. The vendor does the heavy lifting for everyone at the same time. The vendor can also innovate and adapt to the market very quickly as they only have one version of the software to support and enhance. You get changes faster and more frequently in multi-tenant solutions.


Since all customers are all on the same version of the software, when another customer finds a bug, the vendor can fix it and release the updated version to all of their customers simultaneously. This way, bugs are found and fixed long before you even know there was a bug.


There is a much stronger sense of community and support. Customers can collaborate more openly as they are all on the same version of the software. When you talk to another customer or call support to open a ticket, you don’t need to qualify the discussion with “I am on version 8.3, tools 9.2138 running on DB2 in a virtualized environment with apache Web servers.” You can just say “how can I process my deferred revenue so I can recognize it?””

Secondly, if you are looking for even more detail on the difference of real and fake SaaS, then head over to Naomi Bloom’s “modest rant” on real SaaS, as Naomi likes to put it, Blooming SaaS.  Naomi provides an even richer set of definitions for real SaaS in her own passionate way.

John’s and Naomi’s points resonate with me.  Having myself been a buyer of SaaS applications prior to joining Dovetail, it was these qualities I looked for in my selected vendors. It was also these qualities that resulted in faster deployments, quicker return on investment, and overall lower total cost of ownership versus the fake SaaS vendors. If those 3 benefits alone don’t resonate with you, I’d be surprised!


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