SaaS or on-premise solution: which do you choose in switching to a Smart Building?
The office building has undergone profound upheavals in recent years, with the background of needing to make it a place to strengthen attachment to the company and collaboration between teams. With this in mind, the office must offer spaces that promote discussion and creativity, while ensuring that they are viable economically: as employees no longer travel to the workplace every day, the private space on offer must be flexible and shared.
The only way to combine all these requirements is to put in place procedures and tools which the employee has full use of. In other words, the employee making the effort to travel to his workplace must benefit from an impeccable experience. So, employees must be able to book their workstation or a meeting room in 2 clicks, be notified of the arrival of a visitor by a push notification, be informed of and easily indicate their participation in a business event in the premises, etc.
The transformation of an asset into a smart building, a connected building and service based, therefore must include the implementation of an application specific to the building. Several types of tools exist to achieve this changeover:
- SaaS (Software as a Service) software, which can be used online by subscription from the publisher of the solution. These turnkey platforms allow fast set-up without a physical installation. Technical maintenance and visual and functional updates are included in the rental.
- On-premise software (“Agency” model), developed specifically by a web agency at the request of a client. The operation and maintenance of these tailor-made solutions must be carried out and supported by the customer or entrusted to a service provider (who will have to be remunerated).
The digitisation of buildings, a phenomenon for occupants to use
If the real estate world has been slow to turn in the digital direction, a more global phenomenon is emerging aimed at making all the services offered in buildings more accessible (online). This is a consequence of the emergence of co-working and co-living. The range of services today is at the heart of the building attractiveness strategy, and is in line with the needs and wishes of the occupants.
The Smart Building, in which the user can complete their entire journey using their smartphone alone, is the favourite solution for real estate players and their occupants. The solution put in place must solve all the problems, within a single tool:
- information & reception (virtual badge, mapping, access to documents and useful contacts);
- communications with other occupants (messaging, classified ads, etc.);
- daily activities & services (reservation of a room or a sports course, ordering of meals or dry cleaning, payment for services / click & collect articles from the market place, visitor announcement at reception or arrival of a package );
- problem solving (emergency contacts, feedback and follow-up of incidents).
It is crucial that all the services are grouped together in a single platform. The service offer has flourished in recent years, but the support and service providers being numerous, it is often difficult for employees to know where to find information or how to order a particular service.
Thus, it is not uncommon to find within the same building:
- an application for the company restaurant
- an application to reserve a room or a workstation
- an application to report an incident
- an application to consult and book a sports course
- an application to consult and order a service / item from the concierge
In practice, the offer is inaccessible, due to a lack of overall visibility, being forced to download numerous applications, a multiplication of passwords etc., while it is also very expensive for the company. It is therefore essential to ensure that as many occupants as possible benefit from it.
A connected building: the ingredients of a successful application
When switching to Smart Building, several criteria must be taken into account in choosing a solution:
- the features must be useful to the occupants and managers of the premises;
- ergonomics must comply with the best market standards;
- the platform must be technically sound and regularly updated;
- regular additions of features must be made in order to adapt to the usage;
- the adoption of the platform must have human back-up;
- the financial and human cost must be correlated with the expected benefits which come from using the solution.
These essential elements can be addressed by the SaaS model as well as by the Agency model.
The tailor-made on-premises “Agency” model is a proprietary solution that is difficult to upgrade
Choosing the “Agency” model means choosing a unique app, entirely designed around the specific needs of a particular Smart Building. In practice, this translates into the creation of an application from scratch, the costs of which are entirely borne by a single customer. The project, which spans several months, also requires a significant investment of time on the part of the internal teams in order to write the technical specifications and monitor the progress of the project.
When it is released, the application perfectly reflects the connected building services offer, as it exists on the day of deployment. It is in the long term that the on-premises solution may fail. The app being unique and ultra-specific, it does not benefit from networking interaction, and each graphic and functional update must be supported by the customer (financially but also in terms of project management). Technical maintenance also increases the overall bill.
In a changing environment, where new features are introduced each month, fixed solutions are unsuitable and particularly subject to the vagaries of business life, for example, budget cuts leading to an end of updates, change in the customer’s team causing a loss of expertise in handling the solution, and so on. The teams in charge of the project end up losing interest in it, and the application is just another unused tool that has been very expensive.
As well as the evolution of functionalities and the economic ups and downs of a company, technology is a field that is changing very quickly. The speed of obsolescence is accelerated by the GAFAMs, which have accustomed individuals to a pace of innovation that is difficult to follow.
The SaaS solution, an off-the-shelf app for shared costs
The alternative to the on-premises model is to adopt the SaaS model with an off-the-shelf application, which is often not very customisable. Several customers then have the same tool – with different bodies – which makes it possible to pool costs. On average, a SaaS solution is thus 5 times cheaper than a solution developed by an agency.
In addition, the implementation of a SaaS solution can be carried out in a very short time, while requiring limited recourse to the customer’s teams, who only have to configure an already existing application. But above all, the SaaS model gives scalability and adaptation to the latest uses. This solution avoids the preparation of new development budgets each year. The price of the changes being structurally included in the subscription to the solution, is not likely to change.
However, the standard nature of such a solution constitutes a significant obstacle for many customers. More than a simple software solution, the Smart Building application is also the showcase of the building and / or the culture of the company, so it cannot be identical to that of other users.
With a mixed model to meet the needs of a Smart Building
The needs of occupants in their places of living and working are identical: communication, community and services… they want to have easy access to all of their building’s offers within a single application. However, each building is unique and each company wishes to be able to offer its own experience to differentiate its brand and to contribute to the creation of a united community.
This is why today’s Smart Building requires the flexibility of an off-the-shelf app but with a high level of customisation. By using this model, customers have a scalable tool while benefiting from the pooling of costs and offering their occupants a unique experience. Integration of dedicated service providers, but also offering colours, “Adaptable SaaS” is based on a cutting-edge platform while offering a high degree of customisation. The building becomes a brand. The customer thus benefits from an optimal solution and controls his financial and human costs thanks to an annual rental system with the freedom to terminate at no additional cost.