How IT and business leaders need to shift their thinking in the era of SaaS

Decisions around foundational technology like enterprise business software are critical to the long-term success of any organisation

So what are the key considerations for both IT and business executives when it comes to procuring, implementing and managing the technology you need to run your business in an era of increasing change and complexity?

Business line managers need to engage, change and challenge

For business line managers the first step is to engage with the IT department.

They can offer important advice around issues such as:

  • Seamlessly auto-categorise spend
  • The ability of any solution to integrate with existing solutions
  • Impact to cross-functional business processes
  • Implementation and change management
  • Return on investment modelling

    IT groups often excel at project management, and they have a holistic view of the organisation so they understand the impact of any one system on all other systems and processes. Make sure you leverage that expertise.

    It is also important for business managers to evaluate their organisation’s change management maturity. This needs to be a matter of priority. Out of this exercise, the goal should be to implement those processes necessary to improve capabilities  before the deployment of new enterprise solutions.

    While there are several change management maturity models and evaluation approaches available, choosing a model that provides actionable advice is essential.

    Don’t just settle for conventional wisdom — there are plenty  of myths around cloud computing. For instance, don’t accept ‘security’ as a catch-all excuse for refusing to adopt cloud services — professional cloud service providers are likely to have more robust security protocols in place than the typical IT department.

    Take a simple issue like security patches to fix system vulnerabilities and other bugs. Keeping these up to date is core business for cloud providers, whereas it can be just one more maintenance task for a typical IT department that might de-prioritise it behind other jobs.

    IBRS Advisor Dr Sweeney said while there may be valid reasons to keep enterprise solutions on-premises, these should be fully articulated from the perspective of “why not?”

    IT - strategic, advisory and change enablers, not road blockers!

    For senior IT executives there is a different — though related — set of issues to consider.

    Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud infrastructure have fundamentally altered the dynamic between business units and the IT department.

    Traditionally, the relationship between IT and other business units had been mildly adversarial, as IT juggled the complexities of ‘keeping the lights on’ while trying to continuously improve and innovate to meet business needs.

    The expansion of the IT ‘as-a-service’ industry, mainly through SaaS, has enabled business managers to select, procure and deploy the applications they need with minimal IT involvement.

    At a strategic level, the growing importance of business line managers in the IT decision-making process means that IT leaders must adjust for this shift in the way enterprise technology is procured. In this new world, the IT group becomes an internal ‘as-a-service’ change agent for the organisation.

    For many traditional IT groups that will involve a shift from a technical risk-minimisation approach to more of an advisory mindset — where the goal is to help business stakeholders solve their specific business needs.

    And just as importantly, IT must ensure that the wider organisation avoids problems such as redundant investments, the fragmentation of processes, or the creation of isolated information silos.

    Dr Sweeney also cautions that change management involves much more than mere re-training. It is important to engage the stakeholders with business line responsibility and help them to drive through the necessary changes in their organisations.

    “Identify business unit ‘visionaries’ to take ownership of change management programs, who will educate at all levels about how these solutions will fundamentally alter staff and customer (or citizen) engagement and change how work is done, rather than just ‘how-to-use’ training.”

    It’s vital that IT pre-empts potential integration problems. Work with business executives to identify your organisation’s enterprise solution architecture, and set yourself the goal of becoming a trusted advisor to business units seeking to procure new solutions.

    Finally, be sure that investments in enterprise solutions are in line with trends in your market. If others in your industry are heavily investing, you’d better know why!

    Publish date

    04 Nov 2020

    Find out more

    These issues are covered in a report by IBRS, called State of Enterprise Software Report 2019.

    Download the full report for an in-depth analysis from IBRS researcher, Dr Joe Sweeney.

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