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Growing Pains: Latest Research Shows IT Struggling to Meet SaaS Application Demand


April 13, 2016

5 minute read

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Think about how you worked five years ago–not what you did, but how you did it.

Chances are you work entirely differently today. Five years ago, Google Drive didn’t exist, and Office 365 still hadn’t entered general availability. It was a different world that–for many–is unrecognizable from the one we work in today. CEOs used to complain about not getting email at home. Now if they can’t do their entire job 40,000 feet in the air on a tablet then what’s the point, right?

In part one of our March Trends in Cloud IT poll results, we are taking a closer look at SaaS application growth and use. We will release part two next week, covering how Google Apps and Office 365 end users interact with software as a service (SaaS) applications.

Poll Demographics

Trends in Cloud IT March Demographics

Key Takeaways

  • Lack of Cloud Applications Leaves Productivity Untapped: 45% of end users and 73% of IT professionals feel their organizations lack certain cloud applications that would increase productivity.
  • Employees Sidestepping IT: Nearly three out of four (74%) end users either don’t ask or only sometimes ask IT before they install a new cloud application, giving rise to shadow IT.
  • Storage and Collaboration Upgrades Wanted, but Difficult to Manage: Almost one-third (29%) of end users say their cloud storage and collaboration application needs an upgrade, while 42% of IT professionals claim cloud storage and collaboration applications are the most difficult to secure and manage.
  • Employee-IT Cloud Application Mastery Discrepancy: IT professionals estimate it takes end users six months to become proficient users of cloud applications, while end users believe it takes half the time — just three months.
  • Cloud Application Count on the Rise: The average number of cloud applications used in an organization increased from eight in 2015 to 12 in 2016 — a 50% increase in just one year.

SaaS applications deserve a good deal of credit for revolutionizing the modern workplace. As we’ve discovered through prior research, SaaS applications lead to higher levels of collaboration, efficiency, and productivity.

Like most good things, however, the benefits come with challenges, especially for IT. As technology advances, IT departments across the globe are expected to meet the increasing demands of end users and executives, despite almost stagnant budgets.

End-user Expectations

Trends in Cloud IT-march2016

Nearly half of all end users (45%) feel their productivity is limited because they lack certain cloud applications. We expect this number would be even higher if end users had a better understanding of the cloud applications available to them.

It’s hard to want something that you’re not sure even exists.

Still, many respondents — likely younger, savvier tech users — feel they could be more productive if only given access to certain cloud applications.


IT Awareness

Trends in Cloud IT-march2016

IT isn’t oblivious to the SaaS application needs of their end users. Unsurprisingly, most IT professionals (73%) know their organizations have not adopted certain SaaS applications that would be beneficial to their end users.

So why isn’t IT giving end users what they want?

We often read about IT-related issues around money, security, and complexity. Of course, these are significant factors that can hold back SaaS application adoption, but there is a pervasive problem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves: the lack of time.

IT departments are overworked and overwhelmed. This isn’t necessarily the fault of executives or end users, and it’s definitely not the fault of IT.

IT’s lack of time is the consequence of rapidly advancing technology and the explosive adoption of SaaS applications.

Shadow IT

Trends in Cloud IT-march2016

Without adequate time, IT will struggle to keep up with the demands of end users–a potentially huge security risk. As our research above shows, end users aren’t going to wait for approval before installing a SaaS application.

We found that 74% of end users either don’t ask or only sometimes ask IT before they install a new SaaS application. Expect only about a quarter of employees (26%) to ask for permission before installing a SaaS application.

With more security threats than ever, that’s a scary thought for any IT professional.

SaaS Application Category Frustration

Trends in Cloud IT-march2016

Though we don’t have data on which SaaS applications end users are installing without IT’s permission, we do know which SaaS application type frustrates them most. Almost one-third (29%) of end users say their cloud storage and collaboration application needs an upgrade.

Interestingly, this same category is giving IT the most challenges. More than 40% of IT professionals claim cloud storage and collaboration applications are the most difficult to secure and manage.

Due to security concerns, IT may be bottlenecking their employees by enforcing strict sharing policies, leading to end-user frustration.

Alternatively, end users may be frustrated with a lack of seamless integrations between cloud storage and collaboration vendors. If two colleagues from different companies use different storage and collaboration solutions (i.e. Google Drive and OneDrive), sharing files can be like mixing water with oil.

Time to End-user Proficiency

Trends in Cloud IT March Monthly Poll

IT and end users obviously disagree here, and the most likely cause is that their definitions of proficiency differ.

IT professionals know their technology inside out, meaning their standard of proficiency is likely much higher than that of end users. On top of that, IT primarily sees only those that struggle and ask for support as opposed to people who adapt and learn quickly. That’s likely why IT’s estimation for how long it takes end users to become proficient is three months longer than what end users themselves say.

Still, IT professionals should understand just how long it takes before end users consider themselves proficient.
It’s not a stretch to think that offering continuous training sessions or materials could cut an end user’s time-to-proficiency in half. If end users feel proficient faster, IT will get fewer support requests and organizations will see an ROI more quickly.

SaaS Application Growth

Trends in Cloud IT-march2016

In the span of a year, the average number of SaaS applications officially supported by IT has grown by four. That’s a 50% increase from 2015.

At this point, SaaS application growth is keeping pace with our surveyed audience’s 2017 estimation.

Final Thoughts

The explosion of SaaS applications isn’t a fad. It’s a trend that our research shows will continue. IT departments are rolling out more SaaS applications than ever, and many are expected to do so without additional help.

The growth of SaaS applications is having positive effects on end users, but at the same time, it’s cutting into ITs most valuable resource: time.

Next Week: Google Apps vs. Office 365

On April 20, we will release part two of our March Trends in Cloud IT results, covering Google Apps and Office 365 SaaS application use.

Sign up for our newsletter today and we’ll send you part two of our Trends in Cloud IT results as soon as it’s out.