Four CIOs Talk About SaaS Adoption - InformationWeek

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Four CIOs Talk About SaaS Adoption

From slow rollout to complete overhaul, the common thread seems to be a healthy review and evaluation stage long before a commitment is made.

Choosing to migrate to a software-as-a-service approach to technology takes patience, good timing, and in some cases a lot of faith that the benefits will outweigh the risks. Those were the key lessons one group of CIOs revealed during a panel discussion at a Salesforce.com conference this week.

Chief executives from four companies -- Wells Fargo, Symantec, SurfControl, and Schumacher Group of Louisiana -- bared their SaaS souls on Tuesday in an attempt to educate other IT decisionmakers about how to make the leap to on-demand software. The panel was sponsored by Salesforce.com, which is a SaaS provider, and all four panelists were Salesforce.com customers.

That said, each of the panelists acknowledged that their decision to try SaaS in any form could apply to more than a dozen other vendors whose products don't come shrink-wrapped. The point was well-received by an audience full of representatives from companies with more than 1,000 employees.

Despite their different situations, the common theme among the four panelists was that each had been reading about SaaS products for some time and each considered browser-based products as an alternative to their existing systems.

The Schumacher Group of Louisiana, an emergency medicine management firm based in Lafayette, La., was contemplating adopting a SaaS product in 2005 when two hurricanes -- Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita -- came ashore, according to chief information officer Doug Menefee.

The Group provides patient and physician management services including Cobra and EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act) to many of the surrounding hospitals hit by the hurricanes. The company had an existing homegrown system at the time and was looking at moving to a different data center or shift to an on-demand model. Although it looked like the Group made a knee-jerk decision, Menefee said the company had spent the previous three to four months comparing SaaS products against Microsoft products. The team used the two hurricanes as the catalyst to make the switch, Menefee said, against the recommendations of some key employees.

"We went against what the developers wanted to do and went with the recommendation of senior executive management," Menefee said. "Because it is a paradigm shift, there was a learning curve. But now I have a creative development team instead of one that gets to write code all day long.

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