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HP Software's community for IT leaders // June 2012

Master SaaS sourcing, cut the chaos

The benefits of SaaS in the enterprise can be undercut by impatient users with credit cards making purchases without IT oversight. Here are five steps to get things back on track.
In some organizations, the cost, speed and popularity of software as a service has led to every admin, product manager and developer randomly adding software to your IT portfolio without even having to raise a purchase order.

Given how pervasively SaaS solutions can be procured by groups and individuals across your enterprise, you should take steps before chaos results. How many of your employees have a credit card and Internet access? That’s the size of your problem.

5 steps to help get your SaaS back on track:

1. Consolidate SaaS demand. The trick is for IT to regain visibility—funneling all the business’s ideas about software application needs to IT—while also responding as quickly as a SaaS vendor does. Cast yourself as the value creator and establish quick and simple processes, and you’ll gain internal respect and avoid SaaS sprawl. Get people to think: “Let me run it through my IT folks to see whether they have a simple answer in the next 24 hours. If not, then we’ll look to build/buy/borrow a service.”
2. Educate your users. Your users need to understand that although decentralized procurement is an easy, immediate fix, it can lead to redundancies, inefficiencies and risks if not managed properly. The crucial message is: “Look before you click.” Employees need to see that IT really understands their needs, knows the vendors’ solutions, and can help them make better choices for themselves and the company.
3. Simplify the catalog. We all know that too many choices can be worse than not enough. Your employees want an easy-to-use catalog of software and services, with clear and distinct options, preferably categorized by the type of solution provided. Without an easy-to-use catalog, employees are more likely to go outside for what they need.
4. Monitor the user experience. Paying for a service isn’t the same as getting it. SaaS services can suffer from the same perception of poor service quality, difficult processes and long lead times as internal IT. Carefully monitor the quality of what you procure—and what your SaaS providers deliver. Start by establishing an early warning system (ideally using automated end-user monitoring in addition to social business and collaboration tools) to monitor employee satisfaction. In doing so, you’ll have the facts you need to work with suppliers on behalf of your users.
5. Publish the experience. Establish a way to clearly communicate the successful SaaS choices, best vendors and best practices. You can do this via a monthly online update, email alert or blog. You’ll find that, rather than venturing out on their own only to select service that lacks the right functionality or quality, people will naturally cluster around the best user experiences—especially if you include the feedback in your service catalog. The side-benefit is a self-managing system for reducing shadow IT.

Sourcing as a discipline

Having generally been promoted through the technology ranks, CIOs don’t necessarily master the sourcing skill set early in their careers, but it is becoming increasingly central to the role now. While the aforementioned steps are reactive, focusing on satisfying user demand, there’s also a proactive value. Setting up a smart catalog of SaaS services forces you to articulate which core services require internal IT’s attention—and frees up the resources to tackle those key functions.
Sourcing is a discipline, with specific rules and strategies. In mastering it, you’ll not only teach your users to see IT as a knowledge base rather than an obstacle, you’ll also create an IT team better aligned with key business objectives.

Learn more about HP’s approach to software as a service at the HP SaaS page. Tackle cloud-based strategies at the Converged Cloud page.


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