Five Takeaways for enterprise applications in a cloud-first world
Tim Croy, Ampliphae's Chief Technology Officer
Software as a service (SaaS) and Cloud-based applications have dramatically changed the process and route new applications and services are introduced into the organisation.
Traditionally applications were sourced or developed based on a lengthy process which started with part of a business specifying what their requirement was for a system to support their business needs. Project scope and specifications were drawn up and then an application was either sourced or developed in line with considerations for integration into existing enterprise systems, compliance requirements and ensuring the integrity of the security infrastructure was maintained.
With the relatively rapid rise of SaaS and Cloud-based applications, that process has changed radically for many companies disrupting how IT services or systems arrive in the organisation.
Gone are the business cases, lengthy appraisals, impact assessments, infrastructure purchases, pilot programs, data migration and formal roll-outs - now it can be rapid, agile and dangerously invisible to the IT department.
This is how things used to happen (in general):
Classically, introducing a new application or services took weeks or months as a central department, such as IT, became familiar with a new application and carried out an assessment of whether it was fit for purpose, what will be required to support its deployment (infrastructure and support) and develop a plan for formal roll-out. Figure 1 below shows a brief model of how applications are selected, appraised, adopted and rolled-out within an organisation.
Fast forward to the present day and in Figure 2 below, there is an example of a ubiquitously recognised and deployed app - Microsoft Office. If we consider a classic enterprise application such as Microsoft Office, a typical roll-out would look as follows...
Bringing a new application into the organisation begins with a discovery period as decision makers encounter an application for the first time and raise awareness amongst stakeholders within the organisation. Once the Discovery Threshold is breached then a controlled assessment is carried out (across all functions, i.e. technical, commercial, etc.) leading towards a decision to either adopt the application or decline to do so.
Eventually, once the assessment team has given the go-ahead the application is rolled-out within the organisation, forming a Planned Commitment and often crossing the Irreversibility Threshold. Typically, this process can take weeks or months and, in some cases, relies on a significant capital spend as uplifts are required for infrastructure and computing equipment.
Here's the change - SaaS is typically brought into the business by an individual consumer, not central IT, and branches out virally across the organisation. The SaaS delivery, marketing approach and pricing models all support introduction by a consumer and viral adoption, generally leading to dependence before finally an upsell to a payment plan.
The growing SaaS market and availability of innovative services has dramatically impacted how applications are adopted and rolled-out across an organisation. The traditional application roll-out process has been superseded by a 2-minute end-user sign-up!
Business consumers can simply adopt a new SaaS application by entering their e-mail address - a couple of clicks of a mouse and any individual within the organisation can sign-up and register for a cutting-edge, innovative SaaS application. The roll-out time has been cut from months to minutes.
The 5 Takeaways
1. Decentralised decision making and Consumer choice
The decision of which applications to adopt and how to roll them out is no longer the preserve of central IT or the traditional stakeholders. Exposure to SmartPhone Application Marketplaces and ubiquitous availability of the web have enabled end-users to find 'an app for that', and they now exhibit the same consumer behaviour within the enterprise. Meanwhile, the SaaS vendors actively target and market their wares to the end-users rather than central IT and the traditional decision makers.
2. Instant Gratification
Consumers expect instant results - and that's what SaaS vendors deliver! Registration and sign-up is low-friction, taking seconds or minutes and often requiring just an e-mail address. The SaaS business model provides for quick-start, with no credit card required - freemium and introductory trials permit the consumer to become 'hooked' and enable the vendor to upsell later once the consumer has crossed the Criticality or Irreversibility Threshold.
3. Viral adoption
Consumers, through engagement with social media, have embraced 'sharing' and 'liking' as a mechanism to discuss products and services with their friends. SaaS applications typically grow virally within an organisation as users share with their colleagues.The vendors permit consumers to introduce others easily by simple e-mail invitations or URLs that they can share.
4. Loss of visibility
The number of potential sources of new SaaS application adoption (every person in the org) and the rate of churn (new apps are created every day) means that keeping a track of the services used within the organisation is a challenge.
This is a continual process - new applications may enter the business every hour, and an application that was the flavour of last month may go out of fashion as quickly as it was discovered.
5. Lack of oversight
Although the organisation no longer has control over which applications are adopted or visibility of how applications are being used; oversight is still required.
Aspects such as basic security (password rules, encryption, etc.), data sovereignty and business continuity are equally as important for consumer-selected SaaS as they are for centrally purchased IT solutions.
Ultimately, the organisation's management and typically the IT team are still accountable for the governance wrap around the services the organisation relies upon.
What's the answer?
There's no point fighting this change; it's driven by societal factors, large marketing budgets and favourable pricing models - and really good innovative solutions that people want to use!
You don't want to resist this change in any case - you need to adopt SaaS, not stamp it out. (i.e. it's your process that's broken, not the world around you!)
The solution is to adapt your process to the new world order. This starts with understanding what applications are being introduced - you need Authoritative data to determine this - then figuring out which apps are critical, and understand the benefits and potential risks.
Rather than enforcing policy upon your people; you should accept that your people understand how to do their job, which apps will assist them to do their job better, and encourage them to become part of the solution and collaborate with the IT function.
References : Figure 1 and Figure 2 are found below, simply click on one and left or right arrow to the next