In the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) era that we’re now living in, one of the most important things for you to understand is that the role of the information technology department isn’t over when an enterprise app is released. In many ways, it’s really just getting started.
In certain companies, the IT department is tasked with making computing resources available to employees – end of story. In that scenario, they would have little to no actual involvement in the management of SaaS software.
More commonly, however, the job of IT is much larger. They’re supposed to manage, secure, and integrate any and all company information. Not the technology itself, mind you – just the information. In that environment, the phrase “managing SaaS” suddenly takes on a much larger role – one that involves the management of that data INSIDE a SaaS application.
Managing Enterprise SaaS Apps: Breaking Things Down
For the sake of discussion, let’s say your company’s IT department operates more like the latter than the former. At that point, managing an enterprise SaaS app would involve:
- Setting standards that any particular vendor must meet BEFORE the purchasing department will approve funds needed for any SaaS solution. These standards include but are not limited to things like data security, backup, business continuity, disaster recovery, integration, SLA (service level agreement), and even data ownership.
- Making senior company executives responsible for any and all data security and enterprise reporting.
- Thoroughly documenting the existence of ALL SaaS agreements. This includes an overview of what data from the Enterprise Conceptual Model is managed in that particular SaaS, what points of integration are used, and more.
- Conducting a review of the integration points with the company’s security team on a regular basis.
- Setting up some type of Architecture Review Board to make corporate decisions on the use of SaaS apps used to manage data, all in a way that is in line with the company’s existing operational model. This means purchasing must receive a signoff from the ARB BEFORE an invoice is paid, for just one example.
- Making sure that only an architect is allowed to present a business case.
- Requiring that a thorough architectural analysis is completed BEFORE any case is considered.
- Setting standards required to be met by that architectural analysis.
- The list goes on and on.
Because of the rapidly growing selection of SaaS vendors (and the associated volume of SaaS products to contend with), it can absolutely feel like the work of an IT department in the modern era is never done. Oftentimes, companies will seek outside assistance in terms of managing and maintaining the numerous apps they’ve come to rely on daily.
If that feels like the direction that your own company is headed in, there’s ultimately nothing to worry about – you just need to keep a few key things in mind.
The Ongoing Evolution of SaaS Management
All told, there really is no “one size fits all” approach to the management of enterprise SaaS apps – just like there is no “one right way” to use the apps themselves. So much of your decisions to this end will come down to the specific company you work for, what its goals are, and what it hopes to accomplish moving forward.
Business managers are usually quick to make the jump to SaaS not only for the sake of efficiency but also for the flexibility and wide reach of the apps themselves. These managers are often less technically inclined than IT employees, however, and may make decisions without first understanding how any new SaaS app would fit into their existing enterprise landscape.
Therefore, one of the most important elements to account for during management becomes that integration itself. If you start with integration in the center of your process and work your way outward in a logical manner, so much of the “hard part” of SaaS management suddenly becomes far easier.
This will, of course, require you to address a few key areas. These include:
- Potential security concerns. If IT should suddenly fail to achieve visibility over a “stealth” SaaS application, the security and data integrity of the entire organization could be compromised. Don’t forget that end users are ultimately in the hands of the SaaS vendors themselves. Some of your company’s data is going to be stored in the data center of your SaaS provider. There really is no getting around this. Because of this, it is of critical importance to begin any relationship with a vendor with a service level agreement that meets both of your needs.
- The specific makeup of that service level agreement will again vary depending on the organization. Some can last for only a year, while others may be up to five years. No matter what is decided on, there must be a mechanism in place to make sure that the vendor is actually living up to their end of the deal. In that way, the management of enterprise SaaS apps also includes the management of SLAs. You must not only go over any SLA with a fine-toothed comb, but you must proactively monitor that SLA to make sure that all parties involved are adhering to it.
- The technical considerations. Some SaaS applications don’t allow businesses to use old product versions. In most cases, this is a good thing – but it might not be for you, depending on your needs. Likewise, performance issues will need to be monitored and managed. These can include things like slow up-times, data loss, and even vendor lock-in.
Thankfully, there are a number of different tools that you can use to help manage your enterprise SaaS apps in a far easier way than ever before. Appiro is just one example of a systems integrator (SA) that has become available in recent years, joining similar solutions from Salesforce, ModelMetrics, and others that enable SaaS app use in mobile environments.
Overall, remember that SaaS apps will span both on-premises and on-demand apps. We’re living in a world where data can now be both managed and integrated via third-party sources, which is a good thing. However, a new level of technical expertise will be required to actually match the right tool to the right enterprise at exactly the right time.
Enterprise SaaS management is not impossible. In truth, it isn’t really that difficult. But it does require you to look inward, coming up with the right approach for your particular brand. Only then will you put yourself in a position to both properly leverage the apps themselves AND meet the needs of your end users on a constant basis moving forward.
Make no mistake about it: in a SaaS environment, there is no goal more important than that one.
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