Grudging Acceptance Is Not Enough — Time for IT to Embrace SaaS

 

I’ve noticed a growing trend among Asia Pacific organizations over the past 6-12 months: complete IT resistance to SaaS has steadily given way to more pragmatic discussions, even if IT has come to the table grudgingly. Over the next two years I expect this trend to accelerate. In fact, I believe that many SaaS solutions, particularly those that cross business and functional boundaries, will be rapidly subsumed within the broader IT portfolio, even if they were originally sourced outside IT.

Many SaaS vendors report already seeing more IT involvement in procurement, requirements definition, RFP creation, and negotiations. The clear procurement guidelines published by the IT department of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) is one high profile example. Don’t get me wrong, in most instances business decision-makers will still lead, particularly in identifying the required business processes and determining how best to consume SaaS-based services. But IT decision-makers are getting more involved, particularly around integration.

Some areas to consider as you look to work more closely with business decision-makers to evaluate and negotiate SaaS and other public cloud deals:

 

Shared needs are pushing organizations toward a more collaborative approach . . . Ironically, backlash against some of the early hype around SaaS solutions in areas like total cost of ownership and ease of use and consumption have begun driving business and IT closer together. As SaaS solutions become more strategic to core business operations and hybrid cloud and on-premises usage scenarios become more common, issues with integration and end-to-end process support are becoming clearer. This in turn is driving convergence between formerly unrealistic, overly simplistic business expectations for SaaS solutions and overly resistant, territorial, and control-conscious IT.

 

. . . but IT must do more than provide checklists. In most instances, IT is still only involved for due diligence in areas like security, bandwidth, and Internet requirements; governance and accountability considerations; and integration. All too often, IT’s role is to provide a checklist, not add value. IT must be far more actively involved in rethinking and evolving IT’s role from managing technology to delivering value, whether that value is delivered on internal technology and infrastructure or not.

 

Hybrid usage scenarios will drive expanded IT involvement. Over the next 12 to 18 months, we expect to see more IT involvement in defining and mapping cloud architectures and ensuring fit with existing systems, particularly where hybrid cloud and on-premises usage scenarios are the focus or likely outcome. Key considerations include single sign-on, monitoring and management capabilities, and integration, particularly where business processes are likely to cut across multiple fragmented divisions, entities, or systems.

 

I expect IT involvement in SaaS procurement to increase most quickly among multi-national corporations (MNCs) operating in the region, since they can immediately add value and support SaaS adoption where organizations are augmenting existing on-premises solutions in other regions. For business-led SaaS initiatives — far more common among local organizations and SMBs — IT must still communicate the overall value of its involvement, which includes educating business decision-makers on the risks of uncoordinated SaaS purchases.

I analyze Asia Pacific SaaS adoption trends in my most recent report, “SaaS Adoption Trends in Asia Pacific for 2013 and 2014”. But as always, I’d love to hear what you’re seeing within your own organizations.