SaaS Applications the new norm at work?
Most people are aware of the consumption (Software as a Service or SaaS based, pay per use) based services such as storage (Dropbox), music (Spotify), email (Google), television (Lightbox) and how some of these products are slowly following those users into their organisations. Organisations are also looking into the use of SaaS Applications because they provide more flexibility, capital cost reduction and the ability to directly charge costs to business units as well as freeing up IT team’s time.
But I would like to take the use of SaaS applications a step further and look at how this could be adopted by IT teams in businesses, by using Spark Ventures (the innovation and incubation arm of Spark NZ, New Zealand’s major Telecommunications company) as an example.
Cloud first @ Spark Ventures
I have adopted a consumption based (SaaS Applications) strategy here at Spark Ventures (@sparkventuresnz) and will explain what technology solutions have been used; and in each case, what has been gained by following this approach.
Our group is made up of a number of businesses including Bigpipe (an ISP, @bigpipenz) and Lightbox (a video on demand service, @lightboxnz), all supported by a shared services group including the operations team. We have taken the bold step of using only SaaS Applications for most of the core tools required to run an operational team as well the organisation as a whole.
IT Service Management
For most operational teams there is a need to use an IT Service Management tool. RemedyForce was chosen for its ability to integrate into our already implemented Salesforce.com platform, its ease of implementation and because it meets our requirements of functionality and mobility. RemedyForce also helps facilitate our need for innovation, speed of change and brings enough process (through the use of workflows) without inhibiting these needs.
Monitoring is also another consideration of an operational team. LogicMonitor was chosen as a suitable tool because it is cloud based and allows for a per host charge, which can be passed on to each venture. The functionality offered by LogicMonitor such as escalation based on criticality of the alerts to both email and via SMS, and the ability to monitor Web services were both critical in its selection.
The last main SaaS application used by operations is Atlassian’s Wiki product called Confluence. It allows our users to create, edit and share documents with each other. We use the Wiki style approach to knowledge management because it allows our teams to be self-managing and empowered.
We’re allowing users to comment on posts, edit an update, create their own article/posts and even subscribe to particular feeds/pages. Like any Wiki, it allows you to see who has made changes or commented on an article, therefore allowing instant collaboration. It also fits in well with other Atlassian based tools that are used such as Jira.
For collaboration services, we use the Google suite of products such as GMail, Google Docs and Google Hangouts. To further enhance mobility, these services are all accessible via any number of mobile devices. Google hangout(s) has also become an essential tool for instant messaging and instant communications during major incidents.
Another heavily used SaaS application is Salesforce.com, which is used extensively for CRM and case management. It resides on the same instance as RemedyForce allowing the re-use of users’ access, reporting and some processes across both Salesforce.com and RemedyForce.
BCP and DR
Our use of SaaS based solutions has enhanced our BCP and DR planning and provision because all of our users can mostly work anywhere with an Internet connection, including our Customer Care team.
The consumption based approach also frees up the operations team from having to manage these core tools. There’s no upgrades, storage increase, server licenses or server management, because we just give users access when an approved service request is received so such management is conducted by the user itself.
Consumption = flexibility
The use of consumption based SaaS services within an organisation can give small (including start-ups) and large companies alike the flexibility around function, capacity and cost. It also ensures IT can support the current needs (of both IT and the organisation) and future growth without investing capital in on premise infrastructure and software that may have spare capacity that’s not used for a number of months or even years
Consumption based services should form a vital part of any future organisational strategy and should be compared with traditional services as part of any product selection. Of course, with any cloud based services, suitable research and product selection should be undertaken to ensure it meets the organisation’s requirements, both from an availability and security perspective.