What goes into a SaaS procurement journey for marketing, branding or communications teams?

Implementing new ‘Software as a service’ (SaaS) solutions and processes into a business is an exciting prospect – particularly at a time with ever-evolving developments in innovative AI software. And although the time from enquiry to go-live can sometimes be lengthy, the outcome is, more often than not, worth it. 

Many SaaS products can add incredible value to your business and marketing functions. Whilst most companies you interact with will work hard to get the process moving as quickly as possible, it’s important to understand what lies ahead so you can manage your team’s expectations – as well as your own.

It’s important you understand each stage of onboarding, the benefits these offer and the support you will receive. This plays a vital role in establishing your own timelines and internally organising when you can hit that green button.

Here we explore some of the documentation you may come up against and break it down so you know what’s needed of you. Many of the following processes may happen concurrently, others may be dependent on another part of the process. 

Identifying your brand champion and stakeholder team

Successfully implementing a new SaaS solution requires strong internal advocate to spearhead the project. In addition, a broader team of individuals from across the business that perform the crucial role of ensuring the smoothest possible process to implementing the technology that can make a significant business impact. This set of people are known as your brand champion and stakeholder team.

Your brand champions

Typically the person who is driving the project will be your brand champion. They will have the strongest understanding of the software, its purpose and how it’s set to drive change within your business.

Your brand champion will act as a guide on your SaaS journey, and be the main point of contact for both parties, your company and the vendor. While they may not directly be responsible for signing paperwork – as that’s someone in the wider stakeholder team – they will coordinate what they need from various departments.

If capacity allows, we recommend assigning two brand champions, just to ensure there is more than one person completely up-to-speed – and to cover any holidays or absences should the process take several months, which can sometimes be the case.

infographic showing the role of a brand champion in the SaaS journey

Your stakeholder team

The stakeholders are the wider team of people who will also be involved in all of the following steps – usually across various departments including procurement, finance and IT.  You may not yet know who these people of which your champion or teams will comprise.

Infographic showing SaaS terminology cheat sheet

Next steps in the procurement journey

What follows are key steps and anticipated timeframes for you to be able to set expectations for yourself, the key roles mentioned above, and the teams that will eventually be benefiting from the investment of your new SaaS solution.

Signing of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

This is an optional but highly recommended step for your brand and, if required, will happen early on in the process. It’s at this stage a vendor can give you peace of mind that all discussions between you are confidential. This can range from ensuring any documents, visuals or other intellectual property shared are protected, to keeping new launches and information under wraps.

Many vendors will have a standard NDA already drawn up, but will usually be more than open to using your company’s template should this make you more comfortable. 

Timescale up to 1 week

Signing of a Letter of Intent (LOI) 

This can happen anytime from a verbal commitment taking place. While this document isn’t legally binding, it can give both you and the vendor written confirmation of plans to kick-off the project, and begin your onboarding journey together. It will also help the vendor put in place provisional timelines. 

Again, the vendor will likely have their own template ready for you to sign, but should be open to using your company’s own if preferable. 

Timescale up to 1 week

IT and Security Assessment

An IT and Security Assessment may sometimes be referred to as a Third Party Assessment or TPA. This will likely be the most challenging stage for your brand champion and vendor.

The vendor will supply you with information about their security, resilient technology, risk and mitigation strategies to demonstrate that their processes are all legal, compliant and ethical. Your team will be responsible for providing the questions they need to answer. 

It may take some time for your internal team to gather questions, and be completely satisfied with the answers. Depending on the level of detail needed, it could take longer than expected. That said, it is a crucial step for your team to understand that the vendor has your best interests before making such a big commitment.  

Timescale up to several weeks

Data Processing Agreement (DPA)

Your DPA could fall under your main contract/agreement, but not always. In isolation, this document essentially helps to ensure that your company’s data is handled properly, securely and legally. While companies will have their own template for this, and could be open to using yours, it is more than likely they will want to provide their own document for total peace of mind.

Timescale 1-2 weeks

Vendor onboarding 

This is a common process for any vendor or supplier, but will be an important step in your SaaS onboarding journey. Without payment, there’s no service supplied. Ensuring the vendor is accurately set up as a supplier on your purchasing and finance systems will mean you’re ready to go once the rest of the stages are complete. 

Your finance and procurement departments will be able to advise you of which information they need, but it is likely to include:

  • Company registration number
  • VAT number
  • Banking details
  • Registered addresses (which may need various proofs such as a letter from our bank)

Other countries may have additional procurement forms that need submitting such as a W9 form in the USA

Timescale up to 2 weeks

Main Agreement or Contract

This is the core document that governs your agreement with the vendor and outlines the nature of your professional relationship moving forward. It may include SLA information, product and pricing information or any of the documentation we have discussed, but it is likely that they will be handled separately in more detail. 

As your contract is the cornerstone of the SaaS implementation, it is likely to need many rounds of review. There will be questions from both sides and answers that need establishing before the final Ts are crossed and Is are dotted.

This is the lengthiest part of your SaaS journey simply because it includes the most detail, and it is a legally binding document, which means there is more at stake for each party. This will be what sets all expectations and delivery outcomes. While vendor or client template is likely to be acceptable, it will be a close collaborative process which will see a unique document formed. 

Timescale up to several weeks

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Although this information is often embedded into the core agreement, you are within your right to ask for a more comprehensive and specific SLA document (sometimes requested as an Annex or Schedule to the Agreement).

Timescale 1-2 weeks

Product and Pricing Information

You may also request more detail on product, onboarding and pricing outside of the core agreement. This usually includes a Sales Order Form and/or a Statement of Work. It is worth noting that no matter how far you are down the road, vendors are unlikely to budge on changing budgets and deliverables if details have already been agreed upon.

Timescale 1-4 weeks

Purchase Order

A straightforward document that follows the core agreement being signed. This will need to be issued by your finance team once your internal teams are all happy to proceed.


The right SaaS software can change everything — so prepare for anything 

The stages outlined in this article can all be straightforward, with the right support from your vendor. You may get assigned a dedicated Customer Success Manager or Account Manager who will make each action clear for you. 

For brand management platform excellence, we pride ourselves on delivering a thorough, straightforward onboarding process for our clients as part of the product and service Papirfly provides. As a global leader in all-in-one brand management solutions, our SaaS platform empowers teams to activate every element of a brand’s identity across the globe – so you can expect to experience first-hand the stages above, with each person and stage involved treated as equally important as the next.