Clear strategy key for SaaS e-commerce success

Gartner study advises business and IT managers to establish clear goals for their online stores before seeking hosted e-commerce services

Companies seeking hosted e-commerce services will find many different providers and products. So, to make good purchasing decisions, business and IT managers must first establish clear goals for their online stores, Gartner said Wednesday.

Once companies have identified the requirements for carrying out their e-commerce strategies, they can then properly evaluate the different SaaS (software as a service) vendors and offerings on the market.

Gartner is issuing this advice in the recently published study "SaaS Impact on E-Commerce" after finding that, by 2013, 90 percent of e-commerce sites will subscribe to at least one such service.

At a very basic level, a company must make sure that the SaaS provider it selects offers the e-commerce capabilities the business needs, at the proper scale and level of sophistication.

Other key issues that IT and business managers must evaluate before picking a hosted e-commerce provider include the hosted software's ability -- or lack thereof -- to be integrated with other applications, the vendor's billing model, and the time and effort their staffs will have to devote to configuring and supporting the service.

In addition, since data will be hosted in vendors' servers, companies need to clearly understand the data ownership stipulations of their prospective SaaS providers, Gartner said. Managers also need to understand that they will have little or no control over the software's availability if the vendors' servers hit a performance bump or outright crash.

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