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Is SaaS a Solution or Another Layer of Complexity?

It’s a question that keeps business owners and decision makers up at night—do we solve our problems with a custom IT solution, or use one or more SaaS platforms?

On the front end, it might seem better to use something that’s already there—SaaS solutions are often “plug and play,” the costs are right there in black and white and the learning curve is usually slight. Plus, it makes it easier on IT since they don’t have to do all the work.

This thinking only examines one facet of a complex question however.  What happens if you require multiple SaaS solutions to meet your needs? This is when it starts to become a headache for your IT team.

In fact, a recent study by Better Cloud states:

It’s easy to think that adopting SaaS applications will benefit the lives of IT. No servers, no problem. However, the majority of IT professionals do not believe this is the case.”

Each new SaaS app becomes a new moving part, another spinning gear, adding a new layer of complexity that now needs to interface with every other gear in your infrastructure.

The IT team needs to deal with more and more vendors and they lose their ability to solve problems right away. If your team is hindered by limited visibility into the service and management side of the app, they now need to create a support ticket with the vendor and wait—and all the while, the business suffers and bleeds revenue while the system is down or running inefficiently.

This doesn’t even consider the constantly swelling torrent of updates from each app.  With a SaaS application, you are not in control of when changes are released.  New patches from different apps don’t always play nice with each other and untangling the mess can be a nightmare.  In addition, the ongoing updates can often effect the user experience and cause challenges with your users based on the lack of change control.

 Despite this—per the Better Cloud survey—large enterprises expect to adopt a staggering 52 SaaS applications, on average, into their infrastructure.

This statistic proves that organizations are finding, acquiring, and adopting new SaaS solutions to solve specific business technology needs, instead of working with IT to deliver a fully integrated, custom solution, even though that may be a better strategic approach. Clearly, there’s a void between user demand and IT but the question is why?

Quality versus Convenience

A well-crafted IT solution takes time; proper controls, security and management must be followed, QA sessions and debugging, all of which are upfront costs while the problem that started the whole process continues to run amok.  Historically, IT is overwhelmed with supporting day to day production needs, and it takes IT too long to deliver a solution for their users.  A SaaS solution takes a simple install to plug the hole in the dam. Until another one arises of course. The saturation of SaaS apps in the marketplace, easy to use and deploy, has created an untamable proliferation of apps within organizations.

This proliferation of SaaS solutions inside an organization has led to fragmented IT solutions.  We’ve engaged with many organizations where IT is completely unaware what the business uses to solve problems. One division may use Office 365 document libraries, while another uses Dropbox, and yet another use 

What’s the solution?

Collaboration. IT and the rest of the business need to work together. Each side must be flexible and balance speed with quality control.

And most importantly, establish proper governance to prevent fires in the first place. This eliminates the key selling point of SaaS and allows the IT team to deploy a more powerful solution. Often a simple customization, with only a slight trade off as far as time to deployment is concerned, offers more robust functionality than SaaS solutions.

Unfortunately, only 12% of IT professionals even consider customizability when evaluating SaaS apps.

The perception is that the ability to customize and integrate a given platform only benefits IT, but this is narrow sighted. In an environment where the complexity is increasing, and IT must continue to do more with less, the ability to customize and integrate a given platform can only benefit IT.

Many platforms and software tools allow customization with only a small amount of code or configuration, but non-IT people hear the word “coding” and associate it with “expensive” and “slow.”  Office 365 and SharePoint 2013/16 continue to provide IT a great platform to develop custom applications with faster deployment and reduce the need for SaaS solutions.  With Microsoft’s investment in the SharePoint Framework and the Office UI fabric, they have enabled IT and consulting companies to develop custom applications which can reduce the need for additional SaaS platforms.   They also continue to add to the ever-growing list of REST based API’s.

In addition, Microsoft and 3rd party tools such as Power Apps, Microsoft Flow, and Nintex enable the development of apps that will easily automate business processes, and integrate with other line of business applications, SaaS platforms and even social media platforms.

We should know.  At Timlin, we created our own ticketing system for our Managed Services clients that integrate with our Office 365 Project Server implementation which allows us to track time worked by individuals, as well as time spent on each client’s issues. That information is then rolled up into customized BI dashboards so we can forecast utilization, resource planning, and profit evaluation for our projects. 

Our own custom-crafted solution eliminates the need for a separate SaaS ticketing system, a time-tracking system and a reporting solution. This provides greater visibility to our clients during quarterly reviews along with more intelligent data.

The Takeaway
We’re not saying everyone should completely consolidate SaaS solutions into one highly customized solution.  But a custom-tailored suit is much more obtainable than you might think, thanks to platforms like SharePoint and Office 365.

Just a small amount of configuration or customization can deliver powerful solutions and automate tedious business processes, while keeping governance, control and security within your own two hands instead of in another vendor’s.  Not to mention, this approach simplifies your IT environment and reduces the chances for incompatibility problems you’ll end up spending time and money detangling in the future.

Sometimes a best-in-class SaaS solution is the right solution, but don’t be afraid to design your own. Either way, we can help guide you towards a solution that’ll make you and your IT team happy.

So, what are you waiting for? Contact us today for a free consultation!