Software-as-a-Service: Suggestions for Mid-Market CIOs

Posted by Rick Davidson on January 23, 2015

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Senior IT leaders and CIOs considering integrating new SaaS applications with on-premise systems will have to solve thousands of problems along the way. But don’t let that be a showstopper.

Even though SaaS is relatively new, most of the implementation issues have been solved before and now include best practices for repeating successes. Experienced third-party SaaS system integrators and managed service providers can save an enormous amount of time and money while offloading the technical headaches. Still, CIOs and senior IT leaders need to understand the size and scope of the challenges involved in deploying and integrating multiple SaaS applications with on-premise applications.

Here Are Seven Recommendations That Will Help You Get Started:
  1. Get involved early in the evaluation and selection
of SaaS vendors to ensure compatibility with the technical standards and interoperability across the existing application portfolio.
  2. Ensure issues like service level agreements, security, e-discovery, data ownership, data privacy and data migration during contract exit are understood and incorporated into the SaaS vendor contract.
  3. Determine all costs related to configuring, deploying and supporting SaaS applications. This would include integration, regression testing, data governance, business intelligence and single sign-on (SSO) capabilities.
  4. Implement a disciplined end-user training program to accommodate the 2-3 annual product releases from SaaS vendors (note: all SaaS customers are required to upgrade to the latest version of the software).
  5. Implement a rigorous regression testing program to identify and mitigate issues with SaaS API fidelity and deprecation while improving the efficacy of your testing capabilities through automation.
  6. Perform back-ups of production data and SaaS configurations to address inadvertent deletions of company data by internal staff (note: SaaS vendors maintain backups, but recovering data from SaaS vendors can be costly).
  7. Actively manage account usage to avoid over- or under-payment of user licenses within the constraints of the SaaS vendor subscription model.
Allocating Staff Roles

Another key consideration for most CIOs considering a mixed SaaS and on-premise application portfolio is to determine which support roles should be performed by internal IT staff vs. which ones are best managed by an external partner.

A direct assessment of staff skills is the only way to know, and a training program is advised where internal skills and capabilities fall short. The table below can give you some basic guidance on allocating resources.

Internally vs. Externally Provisioned SaaS Roles
SaaS configuration/customization21
SaaS-to-SaaS integration1
SaaS-to-On-Premise integration1
Functional, integration & regression testing21
Data governance (ownership, qualty, stds.)12
Business intelligence21
Security – access, authentication1
Business analysis1
Project management1
Help desk12

1: primary responsibility
2: secondary responsibility

Internally vs. Externally Provisioned SaaS Roles for Mid-Market Companies

Integrating new SaaS applications with on-premise systems won’t be easy, but the rewards are worth the expense and effort. As a senior IT leader or CIO, you can save a lot of money and time by getting directly involved at the earliest stages of planning and remaining actively involved. SaaS and integration experts, best practices and analytics will help guide you.