Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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8/28/2007
03:48 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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SaaS, Mashups, And The End Run On IT Departments

In its early days, one of the hottest selling points for software as a service was "you know, you don't really need your IT department to do this." SaaS vendors have to be more subtle these days. But end-user mashup tools could raise some of the same questions of how much end users should do without IT's help.

In its early days, one of the hottest selling points for software as a service was "you know, you don't really need your IT department to do this." SaaS vendors have to be more subtle these days. But end-user mashup tools could raise some of the same questions of how much end users should do without IT's help.Serena Software is the latest vendor (BEA and IBM among the others) offering tools aimed at letting non-IT teams do enterprise mashups. My colleague Andy Dornan notes that IT pros are wary of such efforts, but end users-as with SaaS-might not bother to ask permission. Dornan writes:

Serena sees ordinary users as a source of technology innovation and a way to better align business with IT. This is largely a good idea: The public Internet is so far ahead of most internal enterprise applications that many tech-savvy users who've played with Google Gadgets or Yahoo Pipes have skills that can be harnessed in the enterprise. The hard part is enabling this without giving up all control or distracting other staff who just want to get on with their jobs.

Steve Lohr sparked some good discussion of the issue on the The New York Times tech blog after talking with Serena CEO Jeremy Burton, who said IT has been pared back too much to keep up with business-app demand, and end users increasingly expect to do things themselves:

The emerging corporate culture of user-generated innovation will fuel the trend. "The generation that is sitting in their dorm rooms building Facebook applications is going into the workplace in the next few years," Mr. Burton said. "The whole mindset is innovation without permission."

The evolution of SaaS business applications may provide some evidence of how this could play out. I recently spoke with Dan Carmel, CEO of SpringCM, a growing SaaS enterprise content management company, who said IT departments' view of SaaS has changed markedly. I asked him the extent to which SaaS is sold around the IT department. "Eighteen to 24 months ago, I would've said software as a service was an end around of IT," Carmel says. "More and more, we're contacted by IT." Our research in April also found growing acceptance of SaaS by IT departments.

What do you think? Are end user mashups the future of IT, or just its future headache?

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