Enterprise Readiness

Scaling Your SaaS to Enterprise: What Does It Take?

Satya Devarakonda

Scaling SaaS products for enterprises is easier said than done. If your SaaS team is planning to expand into the enterprise customer segment, there’s a whole new set of IT, admin, and security capabilities you’ll need to tackle before getting started.

Enterprise organizations evaluate SaaS products very differently compared to smaller businesses. SMBs typically look for products that solve their core challenges, are user-friendly, and offer affordable, transparent pricing. More than half the battle is won with a high-quality product that’s easy to use.

However, scoring high on “product readiness” alone isn’t sufficient for you to land enterprise deals. You’ll need to demonstrate that your product is “enterprise ready” if you want to acquire larger organizations.

What does "enterprise readiness" mean?

Large companies go through a rigorous software evaluation process involving stakeholders from various teams:

  • Business teams assess the core functional features and use cases and act as the internal champions of SaaS products. Examples: Sales teams assess CRM software, HR teams evaluate HRMS solutions, etc.
  • The Chief Information Officer (CIO) and IT teams look for IT and admin capabilities such as user authentication, user provisioning, fine-grained access controls, and audit logs.
  • The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and InfoSec teams evaluate if the SaaS product meets security and compliance requirements.
Enterprise customers expect SaaS products to meet their IT, admin, security, and compliance requirements before they're even considered for a purchase decision.

Meeting the needs of these different stakeholders is crucial if you plan to expand into the enterprise market. If your SaaS product doesn’t meet these criteria, you’re unlikely to get through the evaluation process, thereby losing your opportunity to operate in the enterprise market.

In other words:

Your SaaS product can be considered enterprise ready only when it meets all the requirements of Business, IT, and InfoSec teams of a large organization.

What are the requirements for enterprise readiness?

For SaaS startups in their early or growth stages, scaling into enterprise feels like venturing into uncharted waters.

Knowing the complete list of enterprise expectations ahead of time will help you plan your SaaS product’s path to enterprise readiness and execute the roadmap more effectively.

Broadly speaking, the enterprise requirements for your SaaS product can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Workspace Management: The ability to manage users/collaborators and test/deploy features
  • Data & Analytics: Features that enable data-driven decisions
  • IT & Admin: Centralized controls for authentication & access management
  • Security: Capabilities that make the data and app secure
  • Integrations: Automations that connect and enable internal tools to work together
  • Availability: Uptime monitoring and disaster recovery

At first glance, this list seems simple enough — which is why many SaaS engineering teams default to building these enterprise-level features themselves. For example, they might estimate that it will only take a couple of sprints to build Authentication capabilities.

But this cannot be farther from the truth. We spoke with 50+ SaaS teams to understand how they’re scaling into enterprise, and almost every team greatly underestimated the time and complexity involved — leading to long, frustrating delays.

Here’s how the full list looks once you peek under the hood and look at the requirements under each category.

No items found.

Now that we’re aware of the exact enterprise requirements, let’s explore your options for implementation.

How can my SaaS product become enterprise ready?

These functionalities, while not part of your core SaaS product, are absolutely essential for expanding into the enterprise customer segment. If you’re looking to make your SaaS product enterprise-ready, here are your choices:

Option #1:  Build in-house

Building these capabilities internally gives your engineering team complete control of the codebase and the ability to fully customize these features.

However, while many SaaS teams often default to developing these capabilities in-house with dedicated teams, it comes with several major business risks:

  • Distracts your product & engineering teams from building your core SaaS product: Developing these capabilities internally diverts your team’s focus and impacts your core product innovation.
  • Increases time-to-market and cost: Building and stabilizing these capabilities takes 4+ quarters as well as a dedicated team of 4-5 platform engineers. Additionally, the substantial time required for hiring the team further slows down your SaaS product’s velocity towards becoming enterprise-ready.
  • Deals slip away: Enterprise customers simply won’t wait for your SaaS product to catch up to the expectations they have around admin and security capabilities. Your competitors are going to swoop in and capture prospective customers while you’re held up here.

This option can be effective if you’ve secured a significant foothold in your market, face minimal threats from the competition, and manage a large engineering function with dedicated teams for developing platform capabilities. But if your SaaS company is in the early to growth stages, building these features in-house is incredibly risky.

Option #2: Leverage open-source software

Open-source libraries enable your team to quickly launch the first version of these capabilities and test the waters. Since open-source is free, there’s no need to worry about additional software or subscription costs.

However, you will need to consider the following:

  • Open-source libraries are general purpose toolkits — they’re not built for specific, complex SaaS use cases. Your engineering team will need to understand their architecture and dig into the codebase in order to customize it to your business needs and customer workflows.
  • Your team will still be responsible for ongoing engineering overhead like debugging, creating admin portals, change management, maintaining security posture, audit logs, data security, compliance, hosting and managing infrastructure, scaling, and other upgrades.

Time to market seems quicker with open-source. However, the added customization, engineering, design, and infrastructure work is usually grossly underestimated. This defeats the purpose of using open-source tools in the first place. With regards to developing enterprise capabilities, we don’t consider this to be a very effective option.

On the other hand, if you are looking for boilerplate code that you can customize and are willing to invest the necessary time and resources, this might be the right option for you.

Option #3: Use third-party platforms

Transitioning into the growth stage, SaaS companies face the dual challenge of strengthening their core product and expanding to the enterprise segment. Regardless of where your company is in its growth journey, developing these enterprise capabilities internally diverts your engineering team’s focus and impacts your core product’s innovation.

In the last few years, modern platforms have given engineering teams the flexibility and freedom to focus on their core SaaS product and not be burdened by the overhead of building additional capabilities. Many engineering teams today use purpose-built products such as Twilio for communications API, Sendgrid for email API, and Sentry for app monitoring.

Similarly, B2B SaaS companies would benefit from third-party products that offer enterprise capabilities such as authentication, user management, authorization, audit logs, feature flagging, and more. For example, a SaaS-first authentication platform would:

  • Significantly reduce your time-to-market with pre-built authentication and user management components
  • Solve enterprise use cases such as single sign-on, admin portals for config, pre-built login box, customization options, CRM integrations, and analytics tools
  • Reduce the burden on your product and engineering team by allowing them to focus on building your core SaaS product

While your team will still need to spend some time learning a new tool, you’ll benefit from a multitude of pre-built capabilities, reduced engineering costs, and more peace of mind with built-in security and integrations.

Choosing the best path to enterprise readiness

The build vs. buy question is not only a technical decision but also a strategic imperative that can shape your growth into the enterprise segment.

The fact remains that using a third-party product built for SaaS products accelerates your time-to-market and allows your engineering team to focus you on your core product with minimal resources.

When the time comes for you to make the leap into enterprise, which option will you choose?

Introducing Scalekit

The founding team at Scalekit has had first-hand experience building enterprise features and has severely underestimated the engineering work involved in the past.

We felt that there should be an easier path to enterprise readiness. Struggling with delays, months of build-time, and dedicated engineering teams shouldn’t be a right of passage for startups.

What if SaaS startups could scale for enterprise — without the extra work or wait time?

Our mission at Scalekit is to help SaaS products easily unlock access to enterprise customers by reducing both time-to-market and overhead.

Much like how AWS revolutionized cloud infrastructure, we’re dedicated to simplifying enterprise infrastructure for SaaS teams.

Join us on our journey to streamline enterprise-level authentication and user management for SaaS products.

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