PA Consulting Group’s IT experts Scott Lever and Larry Scinto discussed the question, how is SaaS (software as a service) changing IT?
"SaaS isn't so much changing IT as complicating IT,” Scott was quoted as saying. “SaaS is great in concept and, in some cases, great in execution. But, it's a mixed blessing for CIOs. SaaS solutions tend to cut across other enterprise initiatives CIOs are trying to drive forward, such as application and infrastructure consolidation efforts, single sign-on and user authentication efforts, standardization, and enterprise security. SaaS initiatives are frequently driven by business executives without the full participation of IT, creating conflict.”
Larry noted that SaaS vendors might promise business users and executives a hassle free, complete solution, but these services can present challenges for larger IT departments and global companies that must integrate data, information, and workflows between SaaS applications and other corporate/business applications and processes.
Scott commented, “IT professionals tend to be a little bit more realistic about the advantages and disadvantages of SaaS. But a business manager has to sort out the legitimate concerns from a fear about SaaS challenging the IT model.”
More is required from IT departments after cloud-based software and services are deployed, particularly in the area of training and support. Larry noted that “there has been a large increase in service desk and service management requirements from SaaS just as with any outsourcing. This leads to a significant amount of communications and change management required across both business and IT stakeholders, and more training and customer support will be needed as business users seek to tweak and customize SaaS workflows, outputs, reports, and other elements.”
Said Larry: “This will require IT support and education, as traditional SaaS solutions look to provide a standardized set of workflows or outputs. Stakeholder expectations need to be managed to understand that there are flexibility trade-offs with SaaS. Configuration options will not meet all business customization requirements or desires. This is an important point to take into account when evaluating SaaS opportunities. Applications and IT solutions that require future changes or customizations may not be good SaaS candidates.”
On the prevailing attitude of IT managers toward SaaS, Scott said: “Those who worry about IT risk and compliance are very cautious about SaaS models because so much is outside the control of the IT department. Industries that are risk averse and driven by regulation and compliance concerns – oil and gas, finance, and life sciences – are typically early adopters of new technologies, but with SaaS they are largely taking it slowly -- or only letting it be used in areas far away from the core business. Privacy concerns are also slowing its adoption in certain business functions, such as HR and finance.”
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