In a recent blog, we explored why product development teams are migrating to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms to anchor their companies’ digital transformation strategies.

But in addition to all the benefits enjoyed by product design teams, project managers and engineering executives, SaaS platforms have become especially attractive to the CIO and their IT teams.

Many companies are being driven by their CIO’s cloud-first strategy to streamline business operations, improve employee productivity, drive cost savings and keep the company competitive. Moving as many business processes to the cloud as possible is saving IT teams significant amounts of time and money.

SaaS tools provide an immediate impact on boosting:

  1. Scalability
  2. Security
  3. Profitability; and
  4. Reliability

Let’s take a closer look.

The Scalability of SaaS

As companies grow, the need for more employees, contractors, and the software solutions required to support them grows too. SaaS, by the very nature of not having to install software, enables rapid deployment with instant provisioning and de-provisioning of users from a central administrative console. New users can be up and running within minutes, compared to hours or days with on-premise solutions. This enables project managers to reallocate engineering resources quickly to ensure that projects are finished on time. When a contractor’s term expires or a project is completed, users can be de-provisioned in seconds and their access to company data revoked instantly.

The elastic nature of the cloud enables SaaS providers to allocate more compute and storage resources based on global demand. As workloads increase and more users are added, more resources can be added on-the-fly. This is all taken care of automatically. With “unlimited” storage and compute power, IT teams don’t need to worry about managing and maintaining their own servers, networks and storage.

The Security of SaaS

Sending sensitive data over email or by any other medium is a potential security risk. This includes employees’ laptops or any remote computer that needs to download data in order to work with it. Once data has been transmitted outside of the company firewall, there is no way to know where it is or who has it. An unknown number of uncontrolled copies can sit on servers and computer hard drives in an unknown number of locations. This may be acceptable if those locations are known to be within a trusted network, but that cannot be guaranteed. Uncontrolled copies can also lead to incorrect versions of data being used to make business decisions or to manufacture components, amounting to millions of dollars in scrap and rework every year.

SaaS delivers the software application and associated data together from the cloud. No data is transmitted or downloaded locally to any user’s computer. All data processing operations are carried out remotely and the results are displayed on the end user’s device. Even when sharing design data with others, there is no actual transmission of data. This keeps sensitive IP secure at all times. SaaS applications are secured by strong cryptographic cipher suites, encrypted storage, single sign-on (SSO), two-factor authentication (2FA) and other security measures that go way beyond what most companies are able to implement (or afford) on their own.

The Profitability of SaaS

The SaaS delivery model eliminates many IT overheads. Equipment such as workstations, dedicated servers (as well as the installation and maintenance of server rooms with adequate cooling, fire protection and physical security), network infrastructure, firewalls, VPN, storage, backups and disaster recovery plans are no longer needed – and utility costs are greatly reduced. Software maintenance such as downloads, installs, upgrades, service packs, license codes and all the troubleshooting and downtime that goes along with those activities are a thing of the past.

SaaS licensing is based on an annual subscription model, shifting the cost from high capital expenditure to low operating expenditure, lowering the total cost of ownership and reducing financial risk. This frees up IT capital for other investments and improves strategic planning and visibility.

The Reliability of SaaS

Cloud reliability is often raised as a concern, as an outage could mean that important software and services are unavailable and a business may not be able to operate while that key service is offline. Unlike desktop software that may crash and lose or corrupt data, SaaS platforms are built to withstand system failures. Data is saved automatically and replicated across multiple geographic regions, and redundant servers are queued ready to take over should a failure occur. Often a user will not even notice that there was a problem as these failover systems automatically take over in a matter of milliseconds.

A true SaaS platform will never have any planned outages or downtime, and software updates are applied automatically every few weeks requiring no IT intervention.

Many companies already use cloud-based software for business-critical areas such as accounting, sales, cybersecurity and human resources. Product development teams are now finding the same efficiency and productivity benefits when managing their designs in the cloud as well.

How to Approach Digital Transformation

A digital transformation strategy often calls for company financials, customer data, employee records, and other sensitive data to be stored in the cloud. Arguably, that data is even more sensitive than product design data, yet there is still a reluctance from engineering to trust the cloud with their IP.

The users of these other SaaS tools don’t give it a second thought. The data is there when they need it, without having to expend too much energy trying to find it or work with it. Compare that to engineering, where it is estimated that an engineer can spend up to 30% of their time searching for data. Would those other areas of the business put up with those levels of productivity? Of course not. It would be impossible to get anything done. So why should engineering tolerate such inefficiency?

For established companies moving a business system from on-premise to the cloud, the process can be fairly simple or more involved depending on the class of software. For HR systems where employee data fields such as name, address and social security number are fairly standard, the transition is not so difficult. For product development, where data, data formats and process workflows are unique for each company, there is no off-the-shelf solution to migrate legacy data.

Therefore, it is recommended that when implementing a new product design platform, all new projects should be started on the new platform and existing data still be kept in the old systems. Data can then be migrated on an as-needed basis when existing parts need to be reused. When old designs need to be modified or maintained, it is prudent to keep at least one license of the old software.

Existing product development processes and data management workflows are often developed around the capabilities of a legacy system. Since all systems are different, trying to replicate the same processes as before can lead to frustration and disappointment when implementing a new solution. Just because a specific process has always been used, doesn’t mean that it should continue to be used with a new tool. Many product development platforms have workflows that will address most of the design processes you currently employ, and some will do things differently. It’s best to regard this as an opportunity to revisit your business processes if a particular workflow makes more sense.

Startups have no such problems. There are no legacy systems to weigh them down, so it makes sense to go for the cloud right from the get-go. More often than not, startup teams are dispersed geographically and have limited budgets, so the cloud makes perfect practical and financial sense.

Get Your Introductory Guide


If you are exploring a switch to cloud-native SaaS product development tools, Onshape has prepared an introductory guide to get you started. In this eBook, you will learn how a SaaS platform can immediately improve your company’s scalability, data security, profitability and reliability.

Get a headstart on reducing downtime, improving your intellectual property (IP) protection and cutting IT overhead. Get your copy of the Introductory Guide to Cloud-Native Product Development today!