Almost every organization uses third-party/add-on/partner applications to enhance the native capabilities of their main cloud collaboration platform.

In fact, all of the main technology players — Microsoft, Google, AWS — see their partner and add-on solution ecosystems as a competitive advantage and have made significant investments in cultivating them.

But developing a strategy for tracking and administering third-party subscriptions can get complicated. Though an organization may need the additional capabilities to meet and scale their operations, it’s hard to know where the balance is between adding functionality and overwhelming already limited resources with microservices that need a lot of attention and oversight.

Solutions That Report vs. Solutions That DO

Judging the value of specific SaaS solutions can be hard as vendors across the spectrum use the same language. But if you squint at the copy hard enough and know what to look for, you'll start to understand the differences and know which questions will help determine whether or not a solution can decrease your workload while meeting the needs of your organization.

For example, flag the words “help” or “enable.” These common descriptive patches gloss over functionality holes.

If a solution claims to be a proactive enforcement tool by “surfacing data to help you take action,” then its value is in reporting, leaving you to take the action. In cases like this, the data better be game-changing and unavailable anywhere else, because the only proactive step the tool is taking is to nag you.

Transformative solutions don’t just bring additional capabilities via administration tools, they take the next step and actually do the work. They bring automated features that reduce the burden of managing processes for your users and admin teams alike.

Related Article: Where Businesses Are Automating Office Processes

Does the Tool Reduce Your Workload?

When looking at solutions to help your organization scale, consider these three questions:

1. Does the Solution Do What It Says It Does?

Every solution is going to require some level of configuration, but if a tool claims to help you scale or automate processes or administration, how much manual review does it require? To what degree can the solution off-board processes from your admin teams and your users? Does it help people find workspaces or content more easily? If the solution adds processes, spreadsheets or workloads to your IT team's existing burdens that’s typically a red flag.

2. Does It Solve the Problem, or Just Address the Symptoms?

The easiest way for new vendors to compete quickly is to put lipstick on a pig. This means glitzy interfaces with better UX than the platforms they support.

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Are they really bringing scalable capabilities to your organization, or are they saving small amounts of time through click reduction and interface simplification?

Does the solution improve the way the organization works, and address the reasons why new or more functionality is needed, or does it just provide tools to address the results of how people are working?

Related Article: From Service-Oriented Architecture to Microservices

3. Can Your IT Team Articulate How This Helps Your Organization's Productivity? 

Ask your teams who are knowledgeable about productivity and admins tools how this will save them time and manage processes. Find out if they are excited about it because it solves a real problem in a scalable way.

Procurement cycles dominated by accounting teams means decisions are made by the people who know the least about IT and productivity workflows. While this may result in a short-term cash gain, it won't deliver higher-value gains in productivity.

Productivity, risk mitigation or other areas automated solutions are designed to support rarely appear on a balance sheet, so it's important for IT and business decision makers to quantify the value.

With so many options, it takes a team of experts to wade through the functionality to separate fact from fiction, and to determine which solution companies bring the most value for the long term. The last thing you want is a solution that only adds overhead.

Take the time to do it right because there are plenty of third-party solutions that bring scalability, productivity and automation to take your organization to the next level.

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