Moving towards the cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) is no longer just about turning IT into an operational expense and reducing the cost of technology deployment, writes Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice President, Africa & Middle East at Sage. Although those benefits are significant, SaaS deployment is also about enabling your business to become more agile, productive and responsive.

In a larger organisation with an established legacy technology footprint, the shift to the cloud must be done in a managed and strategic way if it is to deliver these benefits. Here are some success factors we have seen in SaaS deployments:

Retool the IT department: Wider adoption of SaaS in medium or large businesses will bring about a great deal of change for the IT department – from governance and skills to working practices. Larger companies may face complex integration and data migration issues, especially if they depend on legacy line of business systems. IT needs to ensure it has the tools and skills to manage and secure a hybrid environment spanning SaaS, private cloud and legacy on-premise systems. The enterprise should audit the skills and solutions it currently has in place, then create a roadmap for migration to the cloud.

Preparing the people: The cloud will bring significant change to how the IT department and the wider organisation operates. IT personnel will need to learn new skills for managing a cloud environment, taking on a more strategic, advisory role and spending less time on routine helpdesk support. Employees will also need to learn new ways of working. Although many will be happy to embrace more modern technology, they may need to be supported with change management and training.

Enhancing the IT department’s agility: IT departments need to become more agile and responsive as the enterprise adopts SaaS. Their job will be to integrate services from multiple suppliers and help the business use as-a-service to drive innovation and growth. They will also face the prospect of departments procuring their own SaaS solutions rather than operating through IT – they will need to look at how this affects the company’s IT architecture.

Scoping and planning: For a smaller business with a couple of users and basic needs (accounting, productivity software, simple CRM), purchasing a SaaS solution might be as easy as signing up online with a credit card. Larger companies may find they need some work-around to integrate legacy applications and migrate data. A SaaS deployment must be scoped and specified as carefully as an on-premise deployment. Failing which, the company could discover unplanned costs and challenges.

Stamp out shadow IT: The fact that it has become so easy for the marketing manager, for instance, to procure a CRM system without IT’s say-so introduces several risks into the organisation. IT needs to work closely with business users to set security standards and architectural requirements to ensure compliance and integration issues don’t start to multiply. In an as-a-service world, IT departments also need to act faster to meet requests from business users so they don’t feel the need to resort to shadow IT.

Succeeding with SaaS

My top piece of advice for companies looking to deploy a SaaS solution is to start off with a business case that outlines the benefits it hopes to achieve.

Don’t focus only on the potential cost-savings, but also look at how it could improve agility, enable you to reach new customers, transform your workforce or streamline business continuity and information security. This will enable you to use SaaS as the cornerstone of your digital transformation effort.

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