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SaaS Week

Krissi Danielson

IT Managers: SaaS Happens, So Have a Plan

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It stands to reason that SaaS would be primarily an IT decision. After all, when all is said and done the question boils down to spending big bucks up-front for an in-house solution now, or pay a monthly or annual fee for a turnkey solution provided by someone else. Either way, the net effect for regular Joe User should be fairly marginal as he or she typically doesn't care as long there's a nice UI and the tools get the job done.

That's why may seem a bit surprising to hear analyst Ben Pring's comments at the Gartner ITxpo symposium in Cannes, France yesterday. Three out of four SaaS decisions are made by business managers rather than IT folks, Pring said.

Part of the reason was general dissatisfaction with the common high levels of unused licenses that plague the traditional client-server enterprise software. But there's a bigger factor in play here. Pring quoted from Tash Shifrin's article:

"...businesses could pay for the functionality they actually needed and pay from operational rather than capital budgets -- allowing greater flexibility. Users did not have to worry about infrastructure support or managing the software," he added.

Bingo. In a perfect world, budgets are mere tools for helping companies stay on track for long-term success. In reality, budgets are responsible for a fair share of bone-headed moves as well.

I'm not saying SaaS purchases are by default bone-headed -- far from it -- but it's a considerably smaller expense that a mid-level manager can make a snap decision about for say 20 user without breaking the budget, whereas getting a big Oracle solution for the same thing would take 12 months and involve numerous painful battles within the organization.

On one hand, this is great in that it enables department X to tap into service Y, which may help them achieve goals they would otherwise have missed. On the other hand, if departments A through W had the same bright idea, there's a chance the company as a whole would benefit from going the traditional route with a big-ticket implementation. Or it could be that the requirements differ. Or the maintenance costs could be so high it's a wash. Or any other scenario in between.

The bottom line seems fairly clear, however: SaaS makes for a very tempting offer for business manager, since it provides instant usability for a modest price. As an IT professional, it falls on you to reclaim the initiative and help make sure they sign up for the right services with the options open to evolve into the next stage -- whatever that may be.

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