Focusing on Transformation
In January of 2007, Network World published an article stating that “user satisfaction with software as a service (SaaS) is starting to slip, but customer interest in this method of outsourcing IT functions is continuing to grow“, and says that recent survey results clearly demonstrate SaaS being “a dominant force going forward”. That was 10 years ago, yet the same message is being played out today as managed services and hosting continues to grow in popularity. IT outsourcing makes sense for thousands of businesses, whether the software is part of the package or not. Today, outsourcing IT is almost an imperative if the business is to keep up a competitive pace.
Users need and demand mobility and will get their anytime/anywhere access to applications and data however they can get it. Businesses require agility in their technology, which is difficult when significant investments in hardware and infrastructure must be earned out prior to any new investment. Making systems accessible from outside the firewall, securing them in a reasonable manner and keeping them up and running all the time so users can access at any time is not a job for part-time IT. Keeping the systems on and available at all hours requires full-time IT management, and this is in part what fuels the popularity of outsourcing it all.
SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) goes a long way toward helping businesses manage their IT costs in that the systems are part of the service. The hardware running the application, the storage of the data and the support accompanying the solution are all part of the package. Unfortunately, the SaaS solutions is not generally the only thing in use by the business, so continued reliance upon PCs, desktop software and locally stored data causes IT management costs to persist. One size does not fit all, even with online application services. Although customizations and add-ons can help a single app become a broader solution framework, there is usually something left behind that ends up anchoring a process or function to the desktop, device or local network, and requiring IT management and administration to go along with.
Application hosting services compete somewhat with SaaS in that the systems and management of them is included in the hosting service subscription fee. While the business user retains licensing of applications and the flexibility of using the software already embedded in the operation, the organization is enabled to focus on operational improvements and not on the underlying systems supporting them. By reducing or eliminating the requirement to directly manage and maintain servers, complex networks and user working environments, businesses are able to focus their in-house technical energies towards innovation and improvement. The centralized nature of the system facilitates new collaborative capabilities while allowing the business to build on the knowledge and base of information already invested software and processes.
Outsourcing IT service provisioning and management is just a baby step towards improving the business agility and positioning the organization for growth. Real digital business transformation begins with a change in the business mindset: not simply a focus on operational processes and improvements, a new strategy should evolve where the enterprise is situated to interact with its market seamlessly, at any time and all the time. Businesses that wish to compete at this level must consider whether or not purchasing and maintaining their IT infrastructure is where they wish to focus their energies or if they’d rather invest their technical talent towards market building and transformational objectives.