Enterprise forecast: mostly cloudy

Read time 10min 30sec
Ryna Barlow
Ryna Barlow

Gartner's most recent public cloud forecast predicts that the market will grow by 17.3% in 2019, with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) maintaining its hold over the largest segment of the cloud market with a 17.8% revenue growth at $85.1 billion. The research firm found that most organisations were steadily moving their content environments to SaaS, developing 'purpose-built, cloud-based content solutions and solution services applications'. ResearchAndMarkets' SaaS market outlook report is on a par with Gartner, albeit with a slightly stronger growth outlook of 21.2%. Both organisations recognise the myriad benefits that SaaS offers to enterprise ability and agility.

SaaS isn't just about turning IT into an operational expense and reducing the cost of technology deployment. It's about providing the business with the responsiveness it requires to remain competitive and resilient. It has the potential to increase flexibility, reduce IT spend, improve risk and recovery, boost productivity, and enhance collaboration. However, SaaS is not the elixir that will cure all ailments. It introduces its own specific set of challenges around integration, security, data management compliance, connectivity and implementation. Successful SaaS deployment requires that the organisation shift existing infrastructure and processes methodically, easing the transition to allow for people, customer and process to adapt.

People are pivotal to the long-term success of SaaS. The IT department requires the skills to manage, deploy and refine SaaS within the enterprise, the employee has to understand the tools and technologies now at their disposal, and the customer has to see the benefits before they will take the leap of faith. Gartner recommends that the enterprise converts only 50% of its existing customer base at first. This will not only minimise financial impact, but allow for time to assess and redress any problems that may arise. While many people will see the advantages of SaaS, others may need support with change management and training. The IT department will see significant change as SaaS permeates the enterprise and should be given the skills development required to take full advantage of the SaaS roadmap. They should also be an integral part of the SaaS strategy and deployment planning.

This, of course, highlights the importance of a clearly defined strategy before embarking on any SaaS deployment. There's plenty of hype, but a steady approach with a clearly defined strategic imperative will see the organisation deliver on compliance, security and sustainability. One size does not fit all. Repeat this mantra, relook SaaS investment, repeat it again. Then craft strategy and deployment around the unique requirements of the enterprise. Yes, the business can learn from the success stories and mistakes of others, but ultimately, the best results are defined by the realistic implementation of SaaS within the specific confines, demands and strictures of each organisation.

The IT department will see significant change as SaaS permeates the enterprise and should be given the skills development required to take full advantage of the SaaS roadmap.

Any shift in process or technology will kick up the dust lying beneath legacy platforms and infrastructure and a steady approach is far more likely to manage the challenges as they arise. As the IT department becomes increasingly agile and responsive throughout the SaaS adoption process, it will be increasingly capable of harnessing the potential of SaaS to overcome legacy problems and address customer or employee issues. Ensure success through strategic, steady and focused deployment of SaaS solutions that map back to a business roadmap, IT capability, and customer and employee adaptability.

Slowly does it

Best practice in SaaS deployment from the frontlines.

Brainstorm: If you were to offer one piece of best practice SaaS deployment advice, what would it be?

Pieter Bensch, executive vice-president, Africa & Middle East, Sage: Start off with a business case that outlines the benefits you hope to achieve from a SaaS deployment. 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.

Edward Carbutt, executive director, Marval South Africa: With the general impression that SaaS will simplify everything, organisations ought to remember that any technology implementation is still about the people, processes and technology. These three aspects must be collectively considered to provide full business value.

Chris Hathaway, operations director: cloud and governance, Cloud Essentials: The cloud has the potential to be much safer than on-prem environments, but it also has the potential to be extremely vulnerable without a proper security strategy in place. Make sure you consider all the security aspects and have the right protections in place before you migrate your first byte of data to any SaaS platform.

Brainstorm: What are some of the most common challenges the organisation faces when moving to SaaS?

Grant Bennett, country manager, SUSE South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa: Once an enterprise migrates to SaaS, constant connectivity is required in order to work efficiently. If your organisation has employees working offline without access to the internet because they're constantly on the road, this will be a challenge as it hinders their deliverables. In this case, as an employer, you need to invest in modems that will provide your employees with access to the internet while working remotely or having a reimbursing system in place for data purchased for work connectivity.

Riaan Bekker, Force Solutions manager, thryve: The biggest challenge faced by organisations is the migration process, particularly data mapping and take-on. Function-specific applications such as client-facing CRM tend to be easier to migrate and adapt. It's worth understanding that there are fundamental differences in philosophy and design between traditional software and 'born in the cloud' applications.

Ryan Barlow, chief technology officer, e4: I would say there's an inherent trust and change management challenge when it comes to moving to this model. An organisation needs to get its head around the fact that sensitive corporate and client data is going to be stored outside of the organisation. It's not so easy for organisations and their staff members to relinquish some control over applications and data where they have been accustomed to having complete control over everything.

Brainstorm: How can the organisation prepare for, or address, these challenges to ensure an effective SaaS transition?

Ryan Barlow, chief technology officer, e4: All affected staff need to be trained well in advance and effective communication throughout the organisation and throughout the change is key. I would also advocate a small pilot with a few users initially, before launching for the entire enterprise.

Edward Carbutt, executive director, Marval South Africa: Start where you are - the organisation doesn't need to scrap all the work it has previously done and start from scratch. Rather, use existing platforms and approaches. Also progress iteratively with feedback - if the organisation implements a new SaaS solution, the impact of that change can be detrimental if all done at once. Implement in a step-by-step manner, obtain feedback at every point, and ask the question, 'how can this be improved?'.

Rick Parry, chairman and CEO, AIGS: Indepth communication between supplier and customer to ensure that expectations are correctly communicated and delivered on is key. Ensure that you know what you want to achieve and your supplier is able to meet your expectations. Don't assume anything and do your research with other companies that have gone before you.

Derek Bose, senior director for South Africa & SADC, Oracle: The best way to mitigate the impact of challenges for an effective SaaS transition is by understanding the organisation's current business challenges, IT environment, and business pains or models. This will allow the organisation to assess the customisations of the past and adopt standard best practices that are built for the modern way of working.

A Sasfin lining in every cloud

Taking an established financial institution with legacy platform and installation towards a completely cloud-driven infrastructure.

Sasfin is a bank-controlling organisation that provides a comprehensive range of specialist financial products and services for a selection of business and wealth clients. The organisation was established in 1951 as a textile trading business and moved into the financial sector in the 1960s. Since then, it has continued its growth with its South African Securitisaion Programme (SASP) in 1991, numerous acquisitions, and, today, it comprises Sasfin Bank, Sasfin Wealth and Sasfin Capital. Over the past few years, the company has been shifting its business to an entirely cloud-based model, utilising cloud solutions to enhance offerings and streamline processes.

"When I joined the company in 2016, it was transitioning from the face-to-face model of engagement to a more robust digitalisation strategy," says Josh Souchon, Sasfin CIO. "The goal was to get back to basics and correct legacy issues while clearly defining where technology would be a differentiator or the base of a commoditised service. This strategy meant that we don't build apps or systems when there are already appropriate platforms to be bought on the market."

For Sasfin, it meant investment into digitalisation was focused on the use of core skills and expertise as delivered by the market while embedding an internal philosophy of 're-use, buy and build'. If the company already has an appropriate platform in place, it's reused. However, as the organisation has undertaken several acquisitions, it has numerous solutions in use by different departments and silos.

"We had six treasury systems in the group due to acquisitions over time and went through a process of designing a five-year roadmap that looked at where we wanted to be by 2023 and how we were to set out on refining these systems," says Souchon. "We had to convince the board that we needed an aggressive cloud adoption rate, one that went beyond just Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and into fully managed services."

It wasn't an easy process to convince the board to make the move so the company embarked on an initiative they entitled 'unitised costing'. This examined the true cost within the group versus what the industry could provide. The company didn't want to invest into the cloud and discover it had only added weight to its problems and its costs. The process took 12 months and drilled down into every cost driver within each business unit, down to the cost to log a call with the help desk. The process did more than just establish the value of an all-in cloud strategy, it saw the business switch off some systems immediately as they were just not viable and change some legacy behaviours.

"Unitised costing showed us that in the commoditised space there was an opportunity to look at where the market was mature and leverage cloud service as opposed to running it ourselves," says Souchon. "With more than 800 employees, if we were to move to a new platform internally, the IT capabilities, infrastructure, skills, database and applications would have added tremendously to internal costs. We did a cost comparison between us hosting internally versus a vendor providing us with a fully managed service and they came in at 30% cheaper than we could do it ourselves. So we went with that approach."

Sasfin took its shift towards becoming a cloud-first company as an opportunity to use industry best practice in choosing its platforms and solutions. This has allowed it to achieve significant cost savings while increasing operational efficiency and boosting organisational growth, without having to ramp up on people and infrastructure.

"We should be fully in the cloud by the end of this year," concludes Souchon.

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