Sneaking SaaS Creates Integration Hassles

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I wonder if IT is getting tired of being seen as the fuddy-duddy of the enterprise. There's plenty of advice out there about the need for uptight IT departments to lighten up and give business users more freedom to select technology solutions they need to do their jobs. Like the kid who's denied permission to ride a skateboard and goes ahead and does it on the sly -- either buying his own board or using a friend's -- some business users will use unsanctioned hardware and/or software.


As most parents know, if a kid feels strongly about the skateboard, better to lay out some ground rules (pads and helmet, no riding on city streets), than to just outright prohibit it. Similarly, it's better for IT and business users to be open with each other about their respective needs and concerns before frustrated users go ahead and start using stuff without IT's knowledge. Ideally, the two will be able to meet in the middle, with IT realizing it needs to support a broader set of solutions and users realizing that IT has plenty of valid concerns in its role as caretaker of a company's technology.


Just like the parent, IT ultimately will be on the hook for dealing with problems arising from careless and/or clueless use. It's an even bigger issue when entire departments, rather than individual users, operate under IT's radar.


IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson made that point about software-as-a-service and cloud computing about a month ago in a post that detailed how different companies deal with cloud integration challenges. Some particularly nasty integration issues can result when business users get a SaaS solution with no regard to integrating it in the future with on-premise software and/or other SaaS applications.


Just how big of a deal is SaaS integration? In another post, Loraine shared results of a Gartner survey in which 56 percent of companies that abandoned a SaaS solution in favor of an on-premise approach told Gartner it was because integration requirements between on-premise applications and SaaS had become "too significant."


Altimeter Group partner Ray Wang, one of the expert sources quotes in a SearchDataManagement.com article, says SaaS vendors are doing a good job of ensuring their products will integrate with back-office financial applications. SaaS-to-SaaS integrations with different data or process models present a greater challenge.


Some advice, from Wang, and from THINKstrategies Managing Director Jeff Kaplan:

  • Make sure you consider integration before buying a SaaS solution. How will it integrate into legacy on-premise apps, other SaaS apps and the data source environment?
  • Include business users, IT and systems integrators (if applicable) in integration discussions.
  • Have a business architect map out important data values and analytics a company wants to measure.
  • Consider working with a systems integrator that specializes in SaaS integration. Loraine wrote about some of the options earlier this year.


Lest you get discouraged, I'll close with a quote from Kaplan included in the SearchDataManagement.com piece:

The good news is -- the way I like to describe it -- there's a shorter distance between the dots. Even though there are new data sources and applications that need to be integrated because of APIs, Web services and other de facto standards or best practices, it is possible to get the job done more quickly and cheaply than in the past.