Keep In Mind Basic Rules Still Apply Regardless Of Deployment Option

The proliferation of SaaS solutions provides organizations with a myriad of sorely needed point and disruptive solutions.  Good news – business users can rapidly procure and deploy, while innovating with minimal budget and IT team constraints.  Bad news – users must depend more on their SLA guarantees and deal with a potential integration nightmare of hundreds if not thousands of potential SaaS apps.  Though the 7 key benefits of SaaS outweigh most downside risks, organizations must design their SaaS apps strategies with the same rigor as any apps strategy.  Just because deployment options have changed, this does not mean basic apps strategy is thrown out the window.  Concepts such as SOA, business process orchestration, and enterprise architecture will be more important than ever.  Here are 10 strategies to consider as organizations take SaaS mainstream:

  1. Begin with the business process and desired business value. Understand the desired business value and outcome.  Map back the key performance indicators (KPI’s) to the business processes. Identify what processes will be covered by the SaaS solution.  Determine overlaps and hand-offs between on-premise and SaaS to SaaS that are required to measure the desired KPI’s.
  2. Engage stakeholders early and often. Today’s apps strategies must constantly evolve. Change is happening so fast that line of business leads and IT leaders must collaborate in real time.  The result – an ever changing list of requirements.  While SaaS allows business leaders to make go-it-alone decisions, success will require close collaboration on short term and long term requirements, dependencies, and strategy.
  3. Bet on future suites, SaaS platforms or PaaS (Platform-as-a-service). Winners and losers will emerge in this wave of Cloud computing.  Vendors such as Netsuite, Workday, Zoho, Epicor, and SAP have built or will be building suites.  They provide safe bets as more and more functionality will be rolled into their offerings. Concurrently, organizations should also choose vendors who bring a vibrant and rich ecosystem to the table because those vendors will win in the market.  Salesforce.com and NetSuite already provide users with a platform to build on apps.  Other vendors such as as Google Apps Engine, Microsoft Azure, IBM, and Zoho provide rich developer communities.  Partner and customers will drive innovation which is why platform adoption (i.e. today’s middleware) makes a difference.
  4. Augment with best of breeds, but avoid best of breed hell. No one platform can provide every solution, but choose wisely.  Best of breeds provide deep vertical capabilities and rich last mile solutions.  However, no one wants to manage hundreds of vendor relationships.  Create frameworks that allow business users to work with vendors which support open standards, integrate well with your existing integration strategies, and follow the bill of rights.   Reduction in the number of vendors will become a priority in 2010 going on into 2011.
  5. Assume hybrid will be the rule not the exception. Prepare for hybrid deployments throughout the decade.  Despite the benefits of SaaS and broad adoption in 2010, legacy apps will not go away.  Just count the number of mainframe and client-server apps still in use today.  Many on-premise apps will take time to migrate to SaaS. In some cases, legal requirements will prevent data from being stored off-site.  Software plus services offerings from companies such as Infor, Lawson, Microsoft Dynamics, and SAP may become the norm in 2010 as companies seek private and public cloud solutions.
  6. Design with good architecture. Keep your enterprise architects (EA’s) or hire some more.  Inevitably, more and more SaaS solutions will enter the organization.  EA’s will proactively plan for new scenarios and account for future business requirements.  Organizations should keep some rigor in terms of standards for solution adoption while accounting for the need to rapidly innovate.  Business leaders will need some frameworks on which solutions to adopt.
  7. Choose the right integration strategy for the right time. SaaS integration strategies will evolve based on the organization’s SaaS adoption maturity.  The first set of solutions will probably require point to point integration of data.  Over time, users often migrate to centralized integration services that account for process.  Some will go full enterprise service bus (ESB) and look at business process orchestration as well.  Consider solutions from CastIron, Boomi, Pervasive Software, Informatica, and SnapLogic.  Going forward customer data integration and master data management will be more important than ever.
  8. Minimize long-term storage costs with archiving. Storage represents a significant long term SaaS cost.  Savvy clients can reduce the cost of SaaS storage with a myriad of technologies such as EMC, IBM Optim, and RainStor.  By archiving, organizations will experience faster transaction times, maintain compliance, and reduce storage fees.
  9. Hedge risk with SaaS escrows. Most SaaS vendors will require 5 to 7 years to achieve profitability.  End users often demand software escrows in the on-premise world when they are concerned about vendor viability, takeover threats, and other related breaches to performance or service level agreements.  Software escrows vendors serve as the trusted third party independent organization which holds a copy of the software code.  This often includes user data, source code, documentation and any application executables. SaaS escrows work in a similar way.  Vendors such as EscrowTech, InnovaSafe, Iron Mountain, NCC Group. and OpSource can provide such services.
  10. Protect your rights. Client – vendor relationships in SaaS are perpetual.  Organizations have one shot to get the contract right and begin the relationship with the right tenor.  Apply best practices from The Customer Bill of Rights: SaaS. Work with vendors to find the right balance in approach.

The Bottom Line For Customers – Build Frameworks That Support Easy Line Of Business Adoption

The broad adoption and trajectory of SaaS solutions requires organizations to rapidly replace edicts and 5 year plans with guidelines and policy frameworks.  The goal – enable anyone in the organization to procure a SaaS solution that meets key guidelines and standards.  The result – flexibility, security, and scalability that allows solutions to be used on-demand and in concert with existing applications.

Your POV.

As you work out your SaaS apps strategies, drop us a line and let us know how you are deploying, what challenges you’ve faced, and what successes have you achieved.  We’re happy to weigh in.  Feel free to post your comments here or send me an email at rwang0 at gmail dot com or r at softwareinsider dot org.

Copyright © 2009 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC. All rights reserved.