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HP Software's community for IT leaders // January 2013
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CIO 2013: The importance of SaaS

HP Software CIO Saum Mathur says SaaS will be one of the biggest opportunities for IT leaders in the year ahead.

Looking at the dawn of a new year and wondering what issues CIOs should most prepare to confront, we asked HP Software’s CIO, Saum Mathur, where IT leaders should focus their attention in 2013.

“Top priorities for CIOs in the coming year would have to include mobility and BYOD, analytics, and cloud,” Mathur says. One of the key challenges for enterprise IT, he says, is cloud-based: the integration of SaaS services. We asked him to talk about why this is a challenge CIOs must prioritize, and how they can master it.

Q: Why should SaaS be so top-of-mind for CIOs in 2013?

Saum Mathur: Cloud, but specifically movement toward SaaS, is going to be a very big opportunity and issue for CIOs. First, SaaS providers have been good at going to the business, rather than to the CIO, to sell their services. The business is also good at giving them the contracts, which takes IT out of the loop. But that doesn’t diminish the CIO’s accountability for providing IT. The question is how CIOs will keep their arms around the movement toward SaaS, because it’s a movement they can’t block. How do you become a catalyst, while maintaining enough governance that you don’t lose control over your enterprise environment?

The second challenge is that I don’t think a lot of CIOs are thinking about the data. That’s one of the biggest things in SaaS: Who owns the data? In HP IT, when we’re a SaaS customer, we have a policy that we own the data. But that doesn’t mean anything if it resides with a SaaS provider. You can’t use it for analytics. How do you bring it inside and extract the value? We actively minimize the data that leaves our firewalls, and use integrated data stores to maintain our data not only for transactional purposes, but also for business intelligence to help us run the company.

Q: How does the trend of consumerization particularly have an impact on SaaS in the enterprise?

SM: Consumerization manifests as expectations regarding the user experience that we provide to our internal users. Gone are the days when you could have a very industrial-looking application. The new generation comes in playing with Facebook and these user-friendly, beautifully designed and integrated mobile apps and says, “What the heck is this?” They’re driving the trend: users should be able to transact their entire business in one interface, which is not what you find in most IT shops. 

Now, part of your functionality is internal, and part of it is delivered by the SaaS provider. How do you provide a seamless experience? Unfortunately for users, a lot of companies don’t. Within HP IT, we’re implementing technologies, strategies, and architectures to create a seamless user experience, regardless of the systems involved. It’s totally opaque to the user—they don’t have to know how it works: it just does. Whether a system is owned by internal IT or a SaaS provider—they don’t know: they don’t have to know, and it works. That’s another big SaaS challenge for the CIO.

Q: So, for CIOs who make “getting their arms around SaaS” a priority in 2013, what steps do they need to take?

SM: First, every CIO should define an enterprise architecture with a view of their various applications, how they hang together, and what they provide. Make the capabilities provided by SaaS providers a part of that enterprise architecture. For example, our architecture in HP IT enables us to outsource some business services and user experience to the public cloud and SaaS providers, while continuing to use analytics, metrics, and data virtualization in the private cloud.

Second, use the SaaS trend as an opportunity to drive standardization across enterprise data. Our enterprise data model and master data control point in HP IT have allowed us to not only standardize but also improve our data. We rely on our own standards, and structure our data according to those standards, regardless of whether we’re using our own applications or SaaS vendor platforms. With a common enterprise data model, we can easily translate to other models as needed. 

Third, CIOs should have a checklist of how to qualify a SaaS provider. Not every SaaS provider is equal. Some are very mature, but others are fly-by-night. You have to be very careful about who you’re working with, because it can impact your data privacy, your user experience, and your brand. Every CIO should document a policy with specific criteria for qualifying SaaS providers. Make it public within your organization: tell the business that you recognize SaaS as part of your enterprise architecture and you know how to integrate it—and by the way, here’s a checklist to help you qualify a good SaaS provider.

Q: So are you moving beyond the source of shadow IT problems, where IT is seen as the enemy?

SM: Right. CIOs won’t want to be seen as resisting the movement. Instead, demonstrate that you’re party to it and you’re helping. No one is introducing “shadow IT” out of malice—they’re motivated by specific business reasons, and they’re good reasons. But how do we make IT part of the discussion and part of the decision process? Clearly, IT needs to be part of the implementation and needs to own the integration and the IT deliverable, irrespective of whether the work is happening inside or via SaaS. Provide a framework that allows you to combine the traditional IT applications and SaaS offerings that will get your business the best results.

Q: What’s the end state? When CIOs have mastered the role of SaaS in the enterprise, what does that do to the structure of IT and the role IT plays in the business?

SM: With the right application development architecture, strategy, and tools and processes to support integration with SaaS solutions, CIOs and the IT organizations they lead start to shift beyond the traditional IT role of development and support. They take on a more strategic systems integrator role, collaborating with the businesses they support and putting all of the pieces together to help them achieve their goals. 

For more on HP’s approach to software as a service, and our SaaS solutions, visit hp.com/go/saas.


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