Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adopting SaaS - 5 Tips to Pain Free Integration

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is rapidly becoming one of the most important IT technology delivery models.

It's simple to acquire, cost-effective to run, and offers an immediate value to the business.

According to analyst firm Forrester Research, SaaS adoption grew more than 50 percent from 2007 to 2008. And Gartner believes that 25 percent of enterprises will be using SaaS by 2010.

But for SaaS to deliver true value to the enterprise it must be connected with the enterprise's existing IT investments, whether they're on-premise like SAP Business One, or on-demand such as Salesforce.com.

Forrester believes that 65 percent of IT managers recognize integration issues as the top barrier for SaaS adoption.

If enterprises want to give themselves a competitive advantage then, they should consider using a business integration tool.

For the tool to be effective, vendors should ensure it fulfills a number of criteria:

  1. It must be fast - otherwise there's no advantage over manually coding. Make sure it has plenty of pre-built components and a well-developed technology stack. This only comes from vendors with plenty of experience. Try to avoid start-up integration solutions with few proven customers.
  2. It must be intuitive enough to allow for rapid and easy customization - at some point, you'll need to make changes to existing IT systems or acquire new systems that will have to be hooked up. If the integration tool is not intuitive and the process is slow and expensive, you're CFO will prevent you from making changes whenever possible. Which means you'll be in less of a position to react to new business opportunities.
  3. Make sure it supports a high variety of platforms, databases, standards, and middleware. This helps ensure fast project completion with no technical hitches.
  4. Make sure it's been validated and certified by the well-known application vendors like Salesforce.com and SAP. This is important - you don't want an integration tool that's going to corrupt your applications or create unwanted surprises to their interfaces.
  5. Try to avoid hardware solutions - your CIO will thank you. The last thing he wants is another box into his work-space that he has no control over. Stick to code - but ideally, use a solution where the hard coding is pre-packaged for you - ideally in a metadata engine.

There's nothing to fear from SaaS adoption and plenty to gain if the enterprise does it right. With a good SaaS integration strategy there's now every incentive for enterprises to take their business to the next level.