CIO Finds Planning, Specialized Tools Key to SaaS Integration

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How much of your internal IT would you be willing to outsource to cloud computing? How about half? Would half be too much?

Douglas Menefee, the CIO of a Louisiana-based, privately held emergency medical practice management firm, outsourced more than half of his company's IT functions, according to "Software Integration: The Next Generation," a recently published CIO Insight article.

The piece mostly focuses on SaaS, though, and as Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor of Illuminata, pointed out in this IT Business Edge Q&A, that's only one type of cloud computing.

Menefee's decision raised several questions in my mind:

  • How is that not an integration nightmare?
  • What about security?
  • Did everyone in the IT department leave or get laid off?

Apparently, the integration issue isn't as much of a challenge as you'd think. Basically, Menefee made strong APIs a key requirement for service providers. The company also added some specialized tools, including a Cast Iron integration appliance, which helps with application integration through the firewall.


It sounds pretty painless, actually. It would seem planning before you subscribe really is the best SaaS integration plan.


The security question is a bit more tricky, particularly since the company had to follow the HIPAA requirements. In fact, the company had to keep its GE software on-premise to stay in compliance, though Menefee says he'd be willing to reconsider when -- not if -- major service suppliers start meeting federal patient record standards. And he specifically mentions security as one reason why he'd outsource the function; he believes a big company such as Google could provide better security than his IT shop.


Using SaaS providers also helped Menefee build in more redundancy.


And what about his techie staff? Menefee says lower staff turnover has been one of the unforeseen benefits of cloud computing. Three years ago, turnover was 87 percent. Last year, none of the staffers on the 40-person team left.


I'm no Aristotle, but it seems to me a leap of logic to attribute a reduction in staff turnover to cloud computing - particularly given how much the economy's changed in those three years. But, I mention it because Menefee and CIO Insight seem to find it significant.


The article also identifies another unexpected benefit. Menefee says moving IT functions to SaaS providers has freed him up to focus more on strategy and less on tactical issues. Apparently, the key to achieving IT/business alignment is to do less IT -- who knew?


Perhaps I sound a bit skeptical. Obviously, this approach worked for Menefee's IT department at a mid-sized company. Check out what he has to say, but for a more balanced look at cloud computing, click on the link in the second paragraph of the article to read the five-page feature on cloud computing CIO Insight published in March. It's worth a skim, though you may find much of it -- particularly the discussion on Nick Carr -- familiar.