A gap has opened between the perception and the reality of SaaS (software-as-a-service) in the enterprise. Not just a gap -- a chasm.
And while your IT organization is standing on one side, a lot of your users are probably standing on the other.
Ray Wang, a partner at Altimeter Group and the author of the blog, A Software Insider's Point of View, has been following this trend for a while. In anecdotal terms, he sees the same thing that a lot of other folks see: While IT is still skeptical about SaaS, the business users they serve are chomping at the bit to adopt it.
But anecdotal evidence is one thing. Backing it up with numbers is another. And Ray Wang's got some really interesting numbers to share.
He recently asked both IT leaders and business procurement managers at 100 Global 2000 enterprises the same question: "Are you using SaaS in your organization for major business processes?" He got responses from 46 enterprises -- not a huge sample, but I think it's big enough to be tell the story.
It probably won't surprise you that out of those 46 IT leaders, less than a quarter said they were using SaaS applications today. There was a lot of interest in SaaS, but also a lot of questions -- about data integration, about support, and especially about governance and risk management.
But what about the procurement managers on the business side of these enterprises? That's where things get interesting: All 46 of them had signed at least one SaaS contract, involving anywhere from five seats up to 2,000 seats.
Here's what these managers were telling Wang about their decisions:
As the procurement head at a large professional services firm indicated, "The teams will buy whatever they need now. IT has no clue!" "Business has to go around IT because they are too busy keeping the lights on", retorted a procurement manager at a global 10 pharma. A procurement manager for a large multi-national manufacturer stated, "Our main issue with SaaS is finding enough solutions that will support our needs."
These business leaders aren't just working around IT to get what they need. They're cutting IT out of the loop and not looking back.
According to Wang, when he went back to the IT leaders with the results of his survey, they responded with "amazement and surprise." That's understandable, but it raises the question: What are they going to do about it?
In the long run, this is a situation where nobody really wins. IT is losing control over how, when, and why business users implement SaaS solutions -- and they're losing respect and authority in the process. But business users are also losing IT expertise and risking their ability to work with IT to address their long-term needs.
Ultimately, it's IT's job to bridge this chasm. IT leaders need to spend less time digging in their heels and more time actually communicating with business users. They need to weigh the risks of adopting SaaS against the cost of doing nothing -- and letting users take matters into their own hands.
Maybe it's not the most attractive choice in the world. But it's one your IT organization has to make.