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7 Mistakes SaaS Businesses Make and How to Solve Them

Zandra Moore Chief Executive Officer
Publish date: 7th June 2024

The margin for error is slim in the fast-paced world of Software as a Service (SaaS). Minor missteps can have significant repercussions with countless competitors vying for the same user base. To ensure your SaaS application stands out and thrives, it's crucial to avoid common pitfalls that can hinder your success. In this blog, we asked Panintelligence CEO Zandra Moore and CTO Ken Miller what they think are some of the most frequent mistakes in SaaS development and offer actionable insights to help you steer clear of them.

1. Measuring the wrong things

BI is all about measuring metrics; what mistakes do some companies make regarding the metrics that really matter?

Ken: measuring the wrong thing. It’s hard to measure the things that deliver the right value to your business. It comes down to defining the right OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Make sure the key stakeholders are involved in the definition of those metrics.

We often see companies too focused on customer acquisition, and not enough on retaining customers. But keeping what you’ve got is as important as bringing in new customers.

Finally, access to data in the first place is also a big problem we see. Often companies have data locked up in various different places, with various different service providers. So you’ll need to have a well-thought-out data strategy, which enables you to access all the data you need, and put it into one place, if you really want to unlock the value of that data. (If you're looking for advice on Extracting, Transforming and Loading data read our advice on the best ETL tools).

2. Not adapting or moving quickly enough

What mistakes do large, legacy software companies make, which smaller SaaS companies can take advantage of?

Ken: Large legacy companies can’t move quickly enough and can’t adapt and understand their partners requirements as quickly as smaller companies can. It’s a factor of their size as they become successful – it’s hard to innovate at a very large scale.

It’s a problem seen in many areas of business, not just SaaS or tech; the bigger a company gets, the more difficult it can become to maintain close personal relationships and tailor your product to your clients.

So as a smaller player, your advantage is to be fast and agile, build brilliant relationships with your partners, and to respond rapidly to the market. Do that – and you can win market share from much bigger competitors.

3. Building products or features that customers don’t actually want or need

When it comes to SaaS products specifically what mistakes do you often see other SaaS companies making with their offering?

Zandra: SaaS products are built from a necessity to serve a need that is not being currently met. However, often SaaS businesses misunderstand the gap in the market and don’t keep their customers at the centre of the conversation as they design and build out their software.

The key is to involve your users or customers and their use cases as early as possible and have constant feedback from them through the design phase. Apply this same thinking whenever you are building new features to your product; maintain a close relationship with your customers so you can always build a product that serves their real needs, rather than what you assume their needs are.


4. Not prioritising your company culture or investing enough in your own team

What mistakes have you made and seen in terms of company culture and building teams?

Zandra: Leaders sometimes focus too much on the things that can be measured, but don’t give enough thought to investing in their own staff, because it is more difficult to measure directly. But the people you hire and lead are absolutely essential to the success of your business.

Where companies get it right is when they prioritise culture and investment around people. A great company culture is a hard thing to build but easy to lose. Communication is a key part of company culture; it’s easy to assume that everyone knows what’s going on and are happy with what’s going on.

So, invest time in ensuring people are informed correctly and in a timely fashion. Also – live by your cultural values. Recruit on your cultural values. Everyone in the business needs to take ownership of your cultural values. And the leadership needs to live by those cultural values.


5. Starting to build rather than assessing what’s already on the market first

When it comes to ‘build vs buy’, what mistakes do SaaS businesses make?

Ken: misunderstanding the value that partnering can have. Development teams will always want to build because that’s what they are used to doing. And while monetary cost is one consideration, it’s build speed and time-to-market that’s even more critical to consider.

No one can afford to be slow to market these days. You need to keep your team focused on your core product rather than get sidetracked on building other tools which will take much longer.

A common scenario we see from SaaS companies looking for BI tools, is that they start the build process and spend lots of time and resource before looking at what is already out there on the market.

Here at Panintelligence, we’re often brought in after the internal team have failed. So consider what’s already out there and could be added to your stack providing value almost instantaneously. Also - don’t make assumptions about expense. Understand the complexities and added value.

In short, before making the build vs buy decision, take a good look at the market, as well as your in-house resources.

6. Assuming your customers don’t want more sophisticated data tools

When it comes to the value of data analytics for SaaS companies, what mistakes or misconceptions have you experienced?

Zandra: that the customers are happy with the access to data they already have. That they are happy with just extracted data and doing the work themselves. That they only want simple data insights. That they are not expecting more and only looking for retrospective reporting.

Actually – your customers probably want a more sophisticated level of data analysis. There are now expectations of suggestions, recommendations and predictions that customers want from their BI tools. SaaS vendors need to recognise these growing expectations and offer them accordingly or risk becoming irrelevant.


7. Hiring the wrong people – or the right people at the wrong time

When hiring and leading a SaaS team, what are the pitfalls to avoid?

Ken: Hiring is really difficult; The people stuff is the hardest stuff. We’re complex. If you hire someone at the wrong time and can’t support them properly, that’s when people leave.

Cultural fit is also absolutely essential. Hire the right people with the right cultural fit. If you get that wrong, both parties are unhappy. One bad apple can start to degrade your culture. This is especially hard when working remotely.

So – build in enough time to support people properly. Being able to identify problems sooner rather than later – ideally pre-recruitment. Working with the right recruiters has been vital to us. They understand the sorts of people we want.  Work is such a big part of your lives, we have to make the working environment as happy as possible.

See how our predictive, embedded analytics tools can help your business with a free Panintelligence demo or come and join our team: see our job openings here.

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Zandra Moore, Chief Executive Officer Zandra Moore is a passionate tech leader and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the technology sector. As co-founder and CEO of SaaS software firm Panintelligence, she leads a team focused on delivering analytics into the heart of SaaS applications, enabling users access to key information at the right moment and with the right focus. She has been at the forefront of enabling more women in tech. Zandra founded Lean In Leeds and is an active member of WILD (Women in Leeds Digital), both UK organisations focused on increasing female representation in tech companies. She is also a founding member of the UK Government's taskforce for diversity in fast growth companies.View all posts by Zandra Moore
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