SaaS case studies

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I have reproduced here case studies from customers of two of the most famous Software as a Service (SaaS) providers – Google and – along with a case study from Alliance Boots, a customer of Huddle, a smaller provider that focuses on providing a single specialized SaaS product to a growing customer base. The Google customer story is on The Guardian Media Group who switched from Microsoft Office to Google Apps. The SunTrust Banks ( case study shows that even some financial services companies are sufficiently confident that their data is safe in trusted public clouds. And to prove that public cloud providers really believe in cloud computing there is a brief case study on how Google made use of the public cloud.

Alliance Boots

Alliance Boots, the international, pharmacy-led health and beauty group which operates Boots high street stores in the UK, has transformed key aspects of its business through the use of Huddle ( online SaaS tools for projects and collaboration. The implementation in August 2008 comprised 300 users within Boots’ support offices (Huddle, 2008). The tool was required by Boots to ensure the customer was at the heart of all decision-making processes from trading and ranging decisions through to creation of store layouts and marketing activities. They chose Huddle because it was a ‘credible’ off-the-shelf solution for online collaboration that was quick to implement.

At first Huddle was primarily used for internal communication and collaboration, but Boots went on to make some
of its tender process documents available on Huddle to be shared externally with potential business partners. A key concern for Boots was data security so internal data, including customer data from Boots Advantage loyalty cards, was restricted to certain IP addresses only.

Huddle has radically changed the way our key business units operate, in that our Customer Insight material is now accessible by all teams all over the world via a simple web browser without having to download anything onto their individual computers. Our business units consult with each other more efficiently through Huddle. The key benefit is thatmaterial now flows freely throughout the business to support critical business decisions.

The main change in working practices, and a continual challenge, is to drive the team to continually upload documents and refer users onto Huddle rather than clog up e-mail systems and shared networks. When material is uploaded and shared, there is no question about where the latest, most current version resides, so we don’t waste time looking for it or waiting for our beleaguered e-mail server to download it.

Now, when people come to us with queries, in nine times out of 10, they have already looked up background research on the Huddle workspace, so less of our time is wasted explaining things.

Martin Duffy, contracts manager
in Boots’ Customer Insights team

SunTrust Banks, Inc

In 2004 one of the largest banks in the United States, SunTrust Banks, Inc, saw a need to differentiate itself by providing a personalized, localized service to its clients while improving the productivity of its relationship managers and maximizing cross-selling opportunities among its five lines of business. With numerous systems running in the background, SunTrust found it difficult to get a consistent, comprehensive view of client data. Moreover, the sales methodology in which SunTrust had invested was not supported by its tools. Given the intensely competitive nature
of the banking industry, SunTrust sought to deploy a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system quickly, and fitted the bill (, 2004).

We needed sales automation, we needed it integrated with key legacy systems, and we needed it yesterday. With the help of the [] professional services team, we were ready to begin training our people in 77 days; in 90 days the110-person pilot was up and running.

Jim Wilson, group vice president of delivery services and
planning, SunTrust Banks, Inc

To assess the risk of storing data in an external system, SunTrust assembled a team to ensure that Salesforce. com could meet its standards for security, performance and availability. Other must-have capabilities included customization and integration with other systems, and ticked these boxes, too.

SunTrust deployed the CRM in two stages to eventually reach 2,700 users in its Commercial Banking and Business Banking divisions. With help from consultants, SunTrust integrated the CRM with a proprietary data warehouse that serves as an integration hub for its other systems, affording a complete view of customers and relationships across the business, and they customized the CRM to drive its sales methodology. Headline results for
the deployment were:

  • The project was delivered on time and $175,000 under budget.
  • After two years of using the CRM, SunTrust experienced significant return on investment including a 67 per cent increase in capital market fees and a 29 per cent increase in treasury fees year over year.
  • In two years the company also saw a 31 per cent increase in wealth management referrals and a 5 per cent increase in loan referrals.
  • SunTrust achieved a marked increase in lead relationships, achieving the highest in the industry.
  • Improved employee productivity resulted in thousands of additional sales opportunities that yielded millions in revenue.
  • The ramp-up time for new relationship managers was reduced from months to days.
  • The time relationship managers spent preparing for sales meetings was cut by more than half.
  • SunTrust enhanced its corporate culture by providing the tools to develop client relationships and foster
    increased internal information sharing and accountability.

The Guardian Media Group

In August 2008 the Guardian Media Group (GMG) began its switch from Lotus Notes e-mail and Microsoft Office applications to Google Apps, and within six months 300 Google sites had been set up for internal collaborations and 70 per cent of users had accessed their accounts (Robinson, 2009). According to GMG’s technology director Andy Beale, they wanted a system that would address their needs for a more productive and collaborative workplace, and Google was a model their people were familiar with. ‘The way we were doing it before pretty much summed up as word attachments in e-mail,’ he said (Kobie, 2009). The benefits they experienced were:

  • no official training was required as many staff were already familiar with Google Docs and Gmail;
  • the only implementation tasks were to do with migrating e-mail accounts;
  • fewer calls to the helpdesk about e-mail issues after switching from Lotus Notes;
  • users are now using Google Postini to manage their own e-mail blacklists and retrieve messages, which used to require an IT administrator’s involvement;
  • there were quick savings to be made on Lotus licence costs.

The decision to switch to Software as a Service (SaaS) and place their data in a public cloud was not taken lightly by GMG and they carried out a risk assessment before proceeding. Aside from potential security risks there were major concerns about sensitive information being stored in the United States where the Patriot Act allows the government to inspect any data stored on its shores, so they had to be confident that Google’s systems gave them full control of their information, including setting access permissions and deleting data.

Google Apps forms a major part of our strategic IT objectives for the business. It facilitates a new way of working for ourstaff and cuts out a lot of the administrative and functional difficulties most traditional IT departments have to deal with.

Andy Beale, technology director,
Guardian Media Group

Google and

Google Enterprise, which offers enterprise solutions to organizations of all sizes, used to store customer data in multiple systems, which made it difficult for them to view their total sales pipeline. They chose the CRM because it was a system that they could customize and integrate with Google Apps and other Google products (, 2007). Users can now communicate and  collaborate with Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Sites and Google Docs seamlessly within Salesforce CRM. The company subsequently acquired Postini, an e-mail services company, and dMarc Broadcasting, who were both customers of, too, which facilitated the integration of their sales people. And Google did not keep their integration work to themselves; other customers can also benefit from using the two clouds in tandem (McMullan, 2008).

With Salesforce CRM and Google Apps, we have one seamless experience. Our sales teams can collaborate, put together a presentation, and deliver in a timely and effective manner.

Google (, 2007)



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