SaaS vs. PaaS in the Pursuit of Perfected Data

For a hands-on marketer intent on delivering personalized, next-best actions at scale, the difference between software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) may seem academic. Whichever delivers customer data to the marketer in the time and condition needed to run effective campaigns is their top concern; upstream technical details are secondary.

If both SaaS and PaaS solutions may claim to deliver perfected data, however, then the next logical question for marketers is how can they be sure the solution will deliver the visibility and change control a brand needs for its customer data?

The reason this question is important is because visibility and change control are important components for ensuring that perfected data remains fit for purpose. Marketers need visibility into how changes are managed such as attaching to a new data source, and visibility into enterprise data. Both ultimately impact the experience delivered to a customer.

PaaS vs. SaaS?

Before diving into whether a SaaS or PaaS provides better visibility, it may be worthwhile to make the distinction from a functional standpoint. Standard descriptions of SaaS vs PaaS tend to focus on delivering a finished solution (SaaS) versus providing a ready-to-use platform to configure or customize a solution (PaaS). But for the marketer shepherding high-value customer data, the more important distinction will be where that customer data is held. In a SaaS, the managed service includes a database inside the service and effectively has custody of the data, whereas in a PaaS the data storage is inside the client’s own cloud services so the client has custody. In a PaaS infrastructure, the client – the company using the solution – owns and controls the security perimeter around their data, rather than turning it over to a software service vendor to manage.

In healthcare, financial services and other highly regulated industries with sensitive customer data, maintaining custody inside the company’s security perimeter is a requirement; they will simply not consider another option. Many will even demand even more stringent data controls, such as PII vaults, data clean rooms, user-based and role-based controls, etc., to meet regulatory and corporate governance standards as well as customer expectations for data safety and privacy.

Conversely, for smaller organizations with limited IT resources and less stringent requirements, having the software vendor manage the data – turning over custody – may make more sense.

Custody vs. Control

On the visibility front, one consideration in turning over the company’s data to a vendor to manage is the level of limitations placed on the data, or more accurately limitations on the company’s choices for the control of the data. Beyond the standard SLAs for HA and DR, there will typically be guarantees that compliance needs are met, but there is a difference between satisfying generic compliance mandates by industry or geographic area and satisfying a company’s specific compliance needs to support their vision of perfect customer experience.

For example, a SaaS vendor may guarantee that GDPR/CCPA needs are met. For many companies, checking off the compliance box to avoid fines might be sufficient. For others, giving up custody of the data might make it more difficult to control the experience that they’re delivering to customers with respect to preference management.

A significant part of the value exchange that a brand builds with a customer – receiving first-party data in exchange for a personalized experience – entails meeting customer expectations around channel preference, frequency, product affinity, as well as personal details like clothing sizes, gift lists, and purchase preferences. This type of active engagement may be best handled with a preference center where the customer can see, select, and refine their choices for how they will interact with a company. SaaS vendors will likely offer basic features around preference center controls (for showing information to the customer as well as implementing the actual preferences in marketing, e-commerce and other interactions), and brands will need to weigh whether those are enough to meet customer expectations.

Single Cloud, Single Version?

Another visibility issue is the ability of a SaaS solution to deliver a consistent single view of the customer, particularly if it uses a collection of different infrastructures and clouds. One good alternative is to put all customer data records into a single database, such as you might find in a CDP, and use that database to control views, exports, and interactions, applying both user preferences compliance rules to every interaction. This can work with the database inside a brand’s own cloud subscription using a PaaS or as part of a SaaS solution, with the data held in the SaaS vendor’s database.

Finally, if customer experience remains a priority, a company considering SaaS and PaaS solutions must consider how readily changes and updates to customer details can be made for each scenario. That, in fact, is one key Redpoint differentiator and a solution to the single view question. With rgOne, master data management provides the option to push preference and compliance requirements and all notifications into upstream systems. All changes are applied, and records are updated as soon as data is ingested.

Managing customer experience, closing the loop on data quality with end-to-end visibility, and meeting compliance and customer privacy needs are among the factors a brand should consider when deciding between a SaaS or a PaaS solution. Both options may offer the ability for a brand to have a singular database that carries all customer software and allows them to drive the results they want. Custody of the customer data is the main distinction. If driving a personalized customer experience is a priority, before turning over precious data, brands should put vendors through their paces, knowing exactly what a vendor means – and what they can deliver – when they talk about data quality and a single source of truth for customer data.

Related Content

Marketing Data is Too Important to Cede Control of the Security Perimeter

The Cloud Advantage: Control Your Own Security Perimeter

No Data Left Behind: Analytics, Orchestration, and Making Data Work For You

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