SaaS does not require just as much IT support

Posted by: on Mar 17, 2010 | 10 Comments

On episode 45 of the Bill Kutik Radio show, Bill Kutik interviewed Jason Averbook and Jason Corsello regarding the HR year past and coming up.  During the show the topic turned technical and Bill Kutik brought up the topic of whether SaaS will become the dominant delivery method for HR applications.  In answering the question, Jason Averbook discussed the myth that you do not need IT help when implementing SaaS application. Spot on commentary by Jason until he says:

Software as a Service requires just as much IT support as any of these other solutions. It’s a different kind of IT support, a different skill set.

Sorry Jason but I am going to have to disagree with you on this point. SaaS applications do not require as much IT support as on-premise solutions.  Let take a look at the typical IT tasks for supporting on premise vendor application and note the tasks that are also needed for SaaS applications:

IT Task (performed by customer) On Premise SaaS
Perform capacity planning for new servers in company datacenter to host on premise software X
Purchase and install servers in Datacenter (install operating system, power, networking, monitoring, fail over, disaster recovery, security) X
Install application on servers X
Install database software, load database and manage ongoing database needs (space, performance) X
Customize application per business processes X
Create inbound and outbound interfaces X X
Apply application Tax updates, New features and patches X
Apply technology upgrade and patches X
Test tax update, new features and patches X X
Work with IT Change Management organization to implement changes into Production X

My experience with SaaS applications show that you no longer need IT Datacenter support, Database Administration support, Application Infrastructure support and Application Development support (with the exception of interfaces).  Poof.  Gone. No longer needed.  Depending on the number of resources either partially or fully engaged to support your on-premise application, this could be a sizable reduction in the resources needed as you shift to SaaS.

Agree? Disagree?  Leave a comment and let me know.


  1. Naomi Bloom
    March 18, 2010

    Not only do I agree with you, but I think we could go a lot farther. No IT support is needed on these items initially — or EVER. Also, no IT support is needed to evaluate the implications of new releases on all of the items that are just in the on-premise column, and that’s a really big deal when you consider that you get 3-4 or more significant new releases a year with true SaaS HCM products versus, as an example, one significant release in 3 years with PeopleSoft. There’s also no IT support needed on a whole range of backup/recovery/security/ruggedization tasks beyond ensuring that the vendor meets the necessary standards during the initial evaluation and then checking on their compliance to those standards on a routine, perhaps annual, basis. Shall I go on? Now there can be crummy SaaS software just as there can be crummy on-premise software, but if we assume that the true SaaS software in question is newer than most of the on-premise software in terms of its architecture and object model, than we can hope that the technology of interfaces and even integrations is improved substantially — and that’s something that IT should check thoroughly during the initial due diligence. There’s a lot to love here, assuming we’re talking about true SaaS and not one of the hastily reworked/retread alternatives, assuming that the needed functionality is there and/or coming quickly in those 3-4 new releases a year, and assuming that the initial IT due diligence lives up to expectations on the items noted, particularly the underlying architecture and object model. There’s not much point in subscribing crummy new software, even if it is SaaS.

    • Michael Krupa
      March 19, 2010

      Naomi – Great points. Thanks. I’m not sure I’m ready for no IT support EVER. I think there is still a role for IT when it comes to SaaS applications in the initial evaluation to ensure the SaaS application architecture is secure, scalable, and has appropriate backup and (disaster) recovery. Ongoing there is a role in interfaces, security and ensuring availability and performance of the SaaS application. There is a lot to love here so long as you don’t pick a crummy SaaS application.

  2. Jason Averbook
    March 18, 2010

    Great post Mike and completely agree with all of your points. There are a myriad of other issues that you did not address in your report above such as:

    * Moving data from cloud to cloud
    * Moving data from cloud to on-premise warehouse
    * Web service calls between applications
    * Integration of web service (SaaS) into portal
    * Moving data and roles from on-premise into SaaS environment

    I would love to do a discussion on this topic in more detail. As we watch the SaaS vendors continue to mature, they get better and better at this.

    • Michael Krupa
      March 19, 2010

      Jason – I consider all of these as interfaces and would be part of the IT resources that are still needed with SaaS. These also seem to be pretty sophisticated interfaces and not something you are likely to see at a high percentage of companies especially if you talking about HR SaaS applications. However, as SaaS gains more momentum these types of interfaces will become more commonplace. Would love to continue the discussion on the topic with you.

  3. Beth N. Carvin, Nobscot Corporation
    March 19, 2010

    Fantastic post, Mike.

    With no offense at all to the IT Crowd, it’s wonderful for HR departments to be able to work directly with their vendors on 99% of the implementation, ongoing support issues and continuous upgrades. I always love the sigh of relief from HR when hearing that a product can be handled without having to call in the IT department (except for routine items related to firewalls/mail filtering and data feeds).

    By the nature of the relationship, a vendor has a lot more incentive to be extra responsive to HR’s needs, requests, ideas, suggestions, et cetera. An IT department is just not often equipped to cater to HRs every desire.

    My company’s technology was built in 2000, the year of online technologies. As part of our early strategic plans we wondered how long we would have before the excitement of web based systems dissipated. We thought it likely that we would need to create a packaged version within 3 years. That need never materialized. In 10 years I’d say we’ve had no more than a half a dozen requests for an onsite version.

    As much as I love the online approach, I do still predict a turnaround back to onsite programs at some point. This is one of those things that I expect will go in cycles. The earliest business computing programs were done on a “time-sharing” basis which is, in a way, similar to web based delivery of today. Folks back then were very excited when things changed and they had the opportunity to have their own computers and handle it all in-house. I think that will happen again though I’m not sure what will precipitate it. Maybe security issues. Maybe change in the nature of networks. Maybe something to make in-house more cost effective.

    • Michael Krupa
      March 19, 2010

      Beth – I think the best approach is for HR and IT to work as a team even when it comes to SaaS. In discussions with other customers who have moved a significant percentage of their HR applications to the SaaS model, their internal model has evolved to having HR and IT work as a seamless team to maintain the system.

      My crystal ball is cloudy on the next big thing for HR applications. SaaS, PaaS, Cloud computing and HTML5 give the current SaaS/Web application model some legs for number of years.

      • Beth N. Carvin, Nobscot Corporation
        March 19, 2010

        Hi Mike, I agree. The ratio of IT to HR involvement surely depends upon the particular hosted/SaaS application. I and my clients are fortunate in that our niche applications require minimal IT assistance. Good for HR, good for IT, good for me. I like win, win, wins. 🙂

  4. Beth N. Carvin, Nobscot Corporation
    March 19, 2010

    Oh my — my comment was longer than Naomi’s. 😉
    Must be past my bedtime.

  5. Don Quixote
    March 25, 2010

    I can assure you that internal IT departments will not take this lying down.

    Great dynasties die with a roar, not a whimper.