The Three Key SaaS Management Challenges

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We find very few people today that would dispute the notion that SaaS and cloud applications have become mainstream technologies in SMB and the midmarket.  The challenges for the SaaS industry are also changing as a result.   With the battle over the viability of the on-demand model largely won,  the questions are now turning to the operational and IT management  implications of a SaaS-centric environment.

Our customers and prospects here at Conformity are forward-thinking organizations that are aggressively leveraging the cloud delivery model for multiple, if not a majority of their business applications.  Given our strong  belief in the SaaS and cloud model, we believe that they are a good indicator of trends we’ll shortly be seeing more broadly in the market.    All of these organizations are struggling with what their management processes and approaches look like in a purely ‘on-demand’ model.   Among these multi-SaaS organizations we’re consistently seeing three general problem domains:

  1. User provisioning and administration – as they’re optimized for different problem sets, all major SaaS applications have fundamentally different ways of thinking about users, roles, profiles and permissions.  Organizations have tended to have separate business administrators for say Salesforce.com, NetSuite and SuccessFactors.  Each of these admins as a result has had to develop a separate model of their organization, deparments and role structures, with the result being that various siloed identity stores have been created across the organization.  These stores are are all independent from each other and from on-premise directory services (Microsoft AD) and identity management solutions.  Normalizing these identity stores in support of centralized, streamlined administration and reporting is a common theme we’re hearing, and what what our solution here at Conformity is addressing.
  2. Single sign-on (SSO) / authentication – another common challenge we’re hearing is the desire to provide end-users the ability to access multiple SaaS applications (and often on-prem apps as well) using a single set of credentials, both for end-user convenience and security purposes.  This is the problem set being  addressed by vendors such as Ping Identity, Tricipher and Symplified.
  3. Data integration – the final theme we’re hearing is around cross-application data integration, and the desire to integrate multiple ‘best of breed’ applications across a common business processes or workflow.  This issue set consists of integration of cloud apps to both cloud and on-premise applications.   This is the domain being addressed by vendors such as Cast Iron Systems, Pervasive and Boomi.

While the data integation challenge is fairly distinct from the first two challenges, significant market confusion exists around provisioning and SSO, and whether a solution in one addresses both areas.  The short answer is no – the very simple analogy we use is that SSO tells you if you should let the visitor knocking on the front door into the house – provisioning and permissions management provides guardrails around what they can and cannot do once they’re in the front door.  Both are needed, but complementary capabilities – more to come on this….

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