CIO Symmetry

Feb 4 2010   10:00PM GMT

SaaS applications meet the needs of SMB IT in more ways than one

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Going forward, IT is being asked to work more closely with the business, driving value and realizing investment benefits — while also maintaining technological support for the business. In order for midmarket IT shops to meet some of these goals and deliver strategically, something’s gotta give.

And it would appear something has. Midmarket IT professionals I speak with are dabbling increasingly in cloud technologies in one way or another. Private cloud? Not so much. But Software as a Service (SaaS) applications and managed or hosted services are seeing some real pickup.

A recent study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by analyst firm Freeform Dynamics Ltd. suggested that organizations increasingly rely on IT and cloud technology. Of the 3,193 SMBs surveyed, 55% view IT as critical to their business, and 65% are using hosted software to some extent.

Earlier this week I spoke with Jeff Kaplan, founder and managing director of ThinkStrategies Inc., a consulting firm in Wellesley, Mass., about SaaS and how it’s affected IT. According to Kaplan, many IT professionals initially felt threatened by the emergence of SaaS applications.

“IT thought that if SaaS solutions were successful, then the business side might question whether IT was delivering real value,” Kaplan said.

On the other hand, if the solutions failed after a unilateral adoption by the business side without IT being consulted, the CIO and IT staff would still be called in to clean up the mess.

But that’s not how it went down.”In reality,” Kaplan said, “SaaS was a savior.”

Helping the business find the right SaaS solution to meet its needs (including thoroughly evaluating the vendor for reliability, scalability and security) is the very value that IT delivers to the business, Kaplan said. In turn, choosing SaaS applications can reduce some of the tactical, day-to-day burdens on IT — including time spent on software deployment, maintenance and management. This frees up resources in IT, allowing more time to work strategically with the business side.

How is your IT shop balancing needs and expectations?

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