A quick look around the software industry today will show even the most casual observer of trends that things have changed, and changed quickly. Not so long ago most software projects were complex entities that required the involvement of both the business and IT resources. Many large implementations were driven by IT as most projects required large hardware and software investments. There was a requirement for significant IT investments, in both time and resources, to get the systems installed, tuned, and to keep them running and functioning. The move to Software-as-a-Service has allowed many departments to deploy software in a much quicker, and less IT driven process. So from a business perspective, the good news is that IT is gone, right? You no longer have a need to open tickets, wait on the server guy, or even worry about what the hardware is doing…or do you?
While SaaS has been a great boon to implementing projects and getting rid of some of the traditional on-premise headaches of years past, SaaS components still need to be managed and monitored from an IT viewpoint. The great abundance of Cloud and hosted offerings has created, and will continue to create, its own unique set of pitfalls. If an organization is not cautious, then it will end up in a different sort of trouble, one best surmised as cloud chaos. So let’s look at some areas where IT still plays a critical role, and why their insight can prevent problems down the line.
Managing Service Expectations
Purchasers of SaaS are buying a service. At the end of the day, cloud is just a version of your on-premise software, sitting somewhere else. There is still a server, there are still tuning considerations, and network considerations, and a host of things to manage. The good news for the client is that managing it isn’t their problem. The bad news, is that delivery of a quality service becomes paramount, and the client has less control and influence than over traditional IT departments. This is a perfect area for IT to step-in and deliver value. Someone must serve as the liaison between the client (in this case the consumers of the data) and the SaaS provider. The liaison role is to ensure that the following items are managed and executed properly:
- SLAs and Ticket Responses
- System Performance
- Disaster Recovery
Assuming that any or all of those things are ‘happening’ or will work when needed is a recipe for unforeseen issues.
Security is often an afterthought in SaaS implementations, NOT involving IT can open organizations to data security issues and in some cases, litigation. As such, involving IT should ensure that cloud or SaaS solutions take a common approach to authentication criteria, data encryption, authorization and auditing concerns.
Integrate Data and Applications
Data integration between systems will be a huge factor to consider, especially if multiple SaaS vendors are involved in hosting applications. The flow of data between systems must be maintained, even though the vendors and solutions may be fragmented or siloed. An IT department will now need to focus on understanding and maintaining web-based integration tools like REST and other API driven solutions.
Ensuring Quality and Integration
The volume of SaaS solutions and the ease and flexibility of setting up a new product offering are awesome. That said, it is quite easy for a company to have projects launching their own solutions and products.
The very power of SaaS can cause integration issues and lead to products creating ‘rogue’ silos of data. The role of IT should be to understand the strategic layout of an organization and to provide thought leadership around the best-in-class solutions that deliver value, ease integration, and provide the greatest ROI to the organization.