2 mins read

Is a SaaS-first approach the golden ticket in product development?

Strategy Director

Strategy Director
With over two decades of experience in digital, Sam (aka Sevs) brings a rich heritage in design and build to the table. His career is marked by collaborations with clients such as John Lewis, ASDA Living, and Transport for London (TfL), which paved the way for his transition into user experience and digital strategy. Sam has been at Rawnet now for 11 years and leads the Strategy team with a focus on brand and communication, product design, customer acquisition, and ongoing optimisation. His time here has seen him deliver projects for a diverse array of clients including ITV Studios, Hornby Hobbies, Office Team, Whistl, Strutt & Parker, Woodland Trust, and the Berkeley Group. Sam’s career has equipped him with a versatile expertise in both B2B and B2C across multiple industries, which positions him uniquely to deliver successful strategy plans, roadmaps and reporting frameworks to ensure impact on core business objectives.

SaaS solutions are often hailed as the universal cure for rapid development.

They promise to facilitate market penetration. While the allure of quick deployment and scalability can be tempting, a SaaS-first approach to product development is not always the silver bullet it's made out to be, especially for brands aiming to truly stand out. Before opting for a SaaS-centric strategy from the get-go, it would be wise to consider the following.

The hidden costs and constraints of ongoing licensing

First and foremost, the ongoing licensing fees associated with SaaS products can quickly become a financial drain. Unlike one-time purchases or custom-built solutions, SaaS platforms often come with recurring costs that can escalate unexpectedly due to usage growth or pricing adjustments by the provider. Brands committed to making a difference need financial predictability to allocate resources efficiently, and unpredictable licensing fees can impede long-term planning and investment in innovation.

The deeper you entrench yourself in a SaaS ecosystem, the harder and more costly it becomes to break free. Transitioning to a new platform or custom solution involves not just significant financial investment but also the risk of downtime, data migration challenges, and retraining your team.

The dilemma of reduced personality

In a world where branding and user experience can set you apart from the competition, SaaS solutions can lack the flexibility needed to fully express your brand's unique personality. Customisation options can be limited or expensive to implement, leaving you with a product that feels generic and fails to resonate with your target audience on a deeper level.

Being at the mercy of the product roadmap

When you commit to a SaaS platform, you're essentially locking your development trajectory to the vendor's product roadmap. This can severely limit your ability to innovate or respond to market changes swiftly. If the platform doesn't evolve in a direction that aligns with your strategic goals, you're left with two choices: make do or undertake a costly and time-consuming migration to another solution.

When your core technologies are governed by external parties, your ability to customise features or address specific user needs is severely limited. This can stifle innovation and leave you unable to differentiate your offering effectively.

Integration nightmares and siloed systems

Integration issues are a common headache for SaaS adopters. Many platforms promise seamless connectivity but fail to deliver, leading to siloed data and disjointed user experiences. The more SaaS solutions you stack, the more complex and unmanageable these integration challenges become.

Relying heavily on third-party platforms means any issues they face—be it downtime, security breaches, or service disruptions—directly impact your business. You're at the mercy of their response times and resolutions, which can undermine reputation and user trust.

Striking the right balance

While SaaS solutions can offer value, especially to SMEs looking for cost-effective and scalable options, brands striving for market leadership and differentiation must carefully weigh these considerations. It's essential to balance the convenience of SaaS with the need for control, customisation, and the ability to drive your own development agenda.

Moreover, diverting attention and resources to navigating the limitations of SaaS platforms can detract from focusing on what truly matters: crafting high-quality content, enhancing brand awareness, honing your messaging, and supporting other business areas critical to improving your reputation.


While SaaS platforms can play a role in your digital strategy, a SaaS-first approach is not a one-size-fits-all solution. For brands aiming to make a significant impact, prioritising custom development and strategic investments in core areas will yield far greater dividends in building a distinctive, resilient, and customer-centric business.

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