AAA of Northern California, Nevada, and Utah is making its way toward an end-to-end SaaS deployment. The destination is not just a set of horizontal apps but a complete enterprise SaaS deployment.
AAA NCNU is one of dozens of AAA clubs offering its motorist members a mix of roadside assistance and other travel services. AAA NCNU, like its peers, needs to manage customer relations, bill members for its services, and track its finances. And to tackle those tasks, it's turning to the cloud.
Here's the rundown. In November 2011, Workday, the enterprise SaaS provider that sponsors this site, reported that AAA NCNU had gone live with Workday Financial Management, Human Capital Management, and Payroll. The transition from an on-premises ERP system took five months, according to Workday.
The SaaS migration continued this month, with Aria Systems announcing AAA NCNU as a customer for its SaaS-based subscription billing system. The AAA club uses additional SaaS offerings including Salesforce.com. Aria Systems plans to integrate its billing platform with Salesforce.com and Workday.
Taken together, the SaaS rollout is about as thorough-going as it gets: The cloud solution stretches from customer acquisition and relationship management, through the billing process, and into back-office operations. It's the type of enterprise deployment that SaaS proponents have theorized about, but seldom seen.
Startups and small businesses may go heavily for SaaS, but enterprises tend to wade slowly into the model. They often pick SaaS for a particular process and, if it proves successful, move on to the next process with a given department.
So what's driving AAA NCNU's SaaS adoption? On the billing side, at least, flexibility appears to be an important factor. Jim Alexander, director of implementation services at Aria Systems, tells us the organization had been leveraging the billing infrastructure of AAA's insurance arm.
"They wanted to move away from the insurance-based billing system that they had been a part of for so many years," Alexander says, noting that his company mainly deals with AAA's membership business. "They wanted greater flexibility in the way they offer products and services. They were looking for faster time-to-market solutions. That caused them to look at a cloud billing solution."
AAA NCNU's SaaS billing adoption followed an earlier, problematic cloud deployment in the same functional area. A couple of years ago, the club pursued a SaaS billing project, which was eventually disbanded. AAA NCNU, however, renewed its SaaS billing push earlier this year, selecting the Aria Subscription Billing Platform.
The organization stayed with the SaaS direction for a couple of reasons. For one, AAA NCNU wanted its billing system in production by the end of 2012. Alexander says the organization knew it couldn't meet that schedule if it opted for an on-premises software solution.
AAA NCNU received some additional assurance on SaaS-based billing through a proof-of-concept (POC) project. In April, Aria Systems launched an extended POC "that gave them confidence that Aria, as a cloud-based vendor, could meet their needs."
For the POC, Aria Systems agreed to include about a dozen of AAA NCNU's highest-priority use cases. Alexander says the company spent five weeks loading up its system with AAA's data and implementing the club's use cases.
According to Alexander, less than 10 percent of Aria Systems' sales efforts involve POCs.
Aria Systems' cloud rollout is now in what Alexander terms a solution design phase, which is scheduled to wind up this month. He expects the system to go live by the end of the year.
The AAA NCNU case demonstrates that enterprises are indeed taking a broad approach to SaaS adoption. It also underscores the notion that organizations are selecting SaaS for reasons other than rapid deployment and lower up-front costs. The cloud's appeal, for a growing number of customers, stems from its flexibility and modern code base.
Cost may have initially attracted buyers to SaaS. But enterprise customers are finding much more to like about the approach.