Dell's just-announced partnership with Salesforce.com, in which Dell will provide integration services for Salesforce software with or without Dell hardware, may provide a glimpse of the answer to a question IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson asked a few months ago: Will you still need systems integrators with SaaS?
Some vendors pitch software-as-a-service as a true plug-and-play solution. But sorry, Virginia, there really is no such thing in the enterprise software world. Integration issues have long been one of the biggest question marks associated with SaaS. However there are elves (systems integrators) who, for a price, will look after managing service-level agreements with your SaaS providers and ensure your SaaS applications play nicely with each other and with on-premise software and hardware.
Systems integrators will be especially useful for organizations that use multiple SaaS apps and for SMBs that have few, if any, in-house IT resources. (Dell is targeting the latter group with its Salesforce offering.) Dell has done its homework. Based on research released earlier this year, it looks like plenty of SMBs will be investing in both CRM software and integration solutions in the next few years. Dell just beefed up its services capabilities by purchasing Perot Systems.
Systems integrators that specialize in SaaS solutions won't be the only possible answer for SaaS integration. As Loraine wrote, some organizations will opt to buy do-it-yourself integration tools like Boomi's Widget. Or SaaS companies could use such tools to create pre-integrated solutions for their customers. SIs will likely remain the best option for organizations with any kind customization needs beyond the basic, though, as few SaaS providers will want to get into the customization game.
Whether or not organizations opt to employ services providers like Dell, hopefully they won't neglect the people and process issues that are just as important for the success of SaaS implementations as they are for more traditional software deployments.