Time to Accept SaaS as Part of the Enterprise - InformationWeek

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Commentary
1/26/2007
04:42 PM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Time to Accept SaaS as Part of the Enterprise

I was on a plane the other day, and I heard one salesman say to another, "I have that Salesforce.com." The other salesman said, "I have that Salesforce.com, too… a very fancy Website." To many people, SaaS-delivered applications are really just "fancy Websites," but it's crucial that these apps work and play well with existing enterprise processes.

I was on a plane the other day, and I heard one salesman say to another (sounds like a bad joke, eh?), "I have that Salesforce.com." The other salesman said, "I have that Salesforce.com, too… a very fancy Website."

Website? Perhaps SaaS is much more than just a Web site pretending to be an enterprise application. Indeed, it's really another set of enterprise processes that are delivered in a different way, critical to the overall meta-processes that drive your business.To many people, SaaS-delivered applications are really just "fancy Websites," working outside of the real domain of the enterprise. However, as these applications mature, many of the SaaS-delivered applications out there will become (or have already become), true business processes that have to work and play well with existing enterprise processes. This synergy going forward is critical. I'm not sure how many SaaS customers realize that, but they should.

What's causing confusion is that SaaS applications appear to the IT elite in these organizations as something out of their control, thus out of their scope of understanding. In fact, many SaaS applications found their business by wiring around internal IT, in essence, adding the applications covertly. Thus to IT, these SaaS applications may be viewed as bastard apps that aren't part of the overall strategy, nor mapped as enterprise processes. That needs to change if SaaS is going to have any value at all.

So, how do you bring your SaaS-delivered applications and processes into the enterprise fold? It's really a matter of strategy, planning and acceptance. Let's take them in reverse order.

Truth-be-told, most IT departments are not accepting of SaaS. It's a huge change in thinking to accept that applications they don't control will provide value to their business. However, now that SaaS is moving along at a good pace, that value is well proven. So, get over the fact that in some instances you may not be able to hug your server.

If you accept that SaaS is a new fact of life, than you must plan for its use. This means understanding the business processes that SaaS brings to the enterprise table, and how those processes will have synergy with your existing processes contained within existing systems. The more synergy, the more value, and integration and SOA could be core to realizing that potential.

Finally, there needs to be an overall strategy for how SaaS fits into your architecture and long-term IT planning. Chances are good that more SaaS-delivered applications will come into our portfolio, and you need a strategy as to how they will fit into the business objectives of the company or agency.

This is the next generation of enterprise architecture; an architecture in which applications that exist within the enterprise may become fewer and fewer, as SaaS continues to make more economic sense.I was on a plane the other day, and I heard one salesman say to another, "I have that Salesforce.com." The other salesman said, "I have that Salesforce.com, too… a very fancy Website." To many people, SaaS-delivered applications are really just "fancy Websites," but it's crucial that these apps work and play well with existing enterprise processes.

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