The as-a-service revolution has not yet reached its zenith. The earliest benefit of software as a service (SaaS) ushered in a shift away from on-premise software which tended to carry a high up-front cost, to a new model with lower up-front costs but monthly recurring fees, which allowed enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other enterprise software within reach of smaller and midsize companies.
Eventually overcoming initial concerns over security, SaaS has quickly become the predominant software delivery model, fundamentally changing the entire software industry from development to sales and changing the very nature of how organizations procure, deploy and manage applications.
More to the point, it's triggered an end-user revolution that has placed control firmly in the eager hands of departmental managers and
The as-a-service model is based on abstraction, something that has permeated not just business, but everyday consumer life. As-a-service apps like Amazon Alexa have dramatically changed how consumers interact with their devices, making voice commands the new interface for everything from running a smart home to channel-surfing. Smartphones include as-a-service apps for everything from banking, to ordering food, connecting to your automobile (or if you don't have an automobile, connecting to an Uber), and more, with most of those phones now featuring voice interface connections to smart assistants like Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant.
That abstraction is the heart of SaaS, but at the same time could be its downfall without proper measures in place to prevent the positive elements of decentralization from becoming IT anarchy.
Shadow IT versus productive decentralization
All of this democratization carries tremendous advantages. Costs are lower.
There is a fine line between productive decentralization, and what is commonly referred to as "Shadow IT." The latter is
This approach also may result in higher costs, effectively eliminating one of the big advantages of SaaS. Without a centralized role in procurement, vendor management and negotiation is overlooked, often resulting in unnecessarily higher costs of acquisition, possible duplication and situations where apps may be acquired and then not used, resulting in ongoing monthly fees for ghost apps that are no longer active.
SaaS best practices and maintaining visibility
The biggest risk of SaaS and "shadow IT" is that apps will become invisible. Squirreled away in departmental silos, SaaS apps are increasingly isolated, and the cost benefits of SaaS are quickly lost.
Best practice involves getting the best of both sides – preserving the autonomy and fast response that departmental managers demand, while also preserving a centralized role to avoid the costly missteps of shadow IT.
Technological solutions are easily at hand, but the first wave of protection against SaaS confusion is a set of best practices, created by the IT department, championed by upper management and communicated effectively to the rank-and-file:
- Use good password protocols for your SaaS apps.
- Don't download an app from a provider you've never heard of before without vetting it first.
- Regulate whether or not employees can use SaaS apps on their personal smartphones while connecting to the corporate network.
- Facilitate better communication between end-users and managers, and the IT department. Create an "Open Door" IT policy.
Once a sound set of best practices and policies are put in place and understood, then it's time to reinstate at least some IT control over the growing SaaS ecosystem. Cloud brokers like Cisco's Cloudlock
SaaS management offers a platform that can bring a unified view of SaaS. Still, SaaS management relies on manual oversight, a lack of metrics and no centralized way to impose accountability among departmental SaaS owners. A newer type of SaaS management has emerged in the form of The Autonomous IT, which adds a new layer of automation to SaaS management while imposing best-practices rigor
Effective SaaS management answers
The next step in SaaS
The as-a-service model is nothing new, but it is only just now reaching its most mature stage at which it can be effectively controlled. Economically, this is good news for the enterprise, which in the past enjoyed only incidental benefits that were, for the most part, left unmeasured and unregulated. The next generation of SaaS is reigning in shadow IT to preserve the decentralized benefits of the as-a-service