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Transforming Teams to Lead with SaaS: Insights from Gartner

Megan Bozman

February 28, 2020

5 minute read

transformingteamsleadwithsaas og

Many of the existing ways of managing IT are no longer applicable to environments dominated by SaaS. Gartner analysts Manjunath Bhat and Roger Williams recently released a new report describing how Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) leaders must transform the roles and skills of IT teams as they shift to SaaS.

We found that Gartner’s insights validate many of the components of BetterCloud’s SaaSOps framework. And we fully confess to reveling in the feeling of validation! In this blog post, we’ll recap the report highlights.

To read the full Gartner report, click here.

You can’t manage new tech with old tactics

As the structure of applications and infrastructure changes, the teams managing it all must change in collaboration.

The Gartner analysts write, “The competing pressures of IT operations and user enablement will demand new skills, tools, and roles to lead the transition to SaaS.”

Elaborating on the need for tools to evolve, Gartner states, “I&O leaders equipped with legacy tools to manage on-premises environments will be unable to take advantage of SaaS applications to lead digital disruption.”

Yet most organizations are failing to make these crucial shifts. The gap is so severe that “[b]y 2024, 70% of IT organizations will lack the relevant roles, skills, and tools to support SaaS-enabled digital transformation.”

The need to adapt to the changing needs of SaaS (aka “SaaSOps”)

The Gartner analysts write, “The adoption of SaaS applications changes the role of IT as a whole… from a service provider to a service orchestrator.”

While the Gartner report doesn’t use the term “SaaSOps,” their description of the need for this emerging discipline is similar to what we at BetterCloud have written. The similarity is uncanny.

SaaSOps is the idea of managing SaaS apps to drive reduced friction, better collaboration, and a better employee experience. SaaSOps is a changing mindset that views IT as an empowering force in an organization. It is the answer to move from common difficulties to the idyllic promise of SaaS.

Changing the structure and focus of your IT team

BetterCloud’s SaaSOps framework consists of three main practice areas: people & process, SaaS management, and SaaS security. The Gartner analysts also begin with people. In the first Key Challenge listed, Gartner clarifies that traditional team structures, processes, and roles “do not extend to increasingly SaaS-dominant environments…. Thus, far from being irrelevant in a SaaS-first environment, I&O leaders will need to invest in both technology and people-oriented roles and skills within their teams.”

The report continues, “Forty-one percent of organizations have reorganized IT support personnel into a combined team.” This is exactly what BetterCloud customer Rose Layton, strategic technology partner at Strada Education Network, described. “We completely reimagined the way that our department works. We used to have a traditional help desk and then systems administrators. As we got into SaaSOps and handling users and data, we found that those divisions weren’t helping us, so we undid them.” Apparently, this is a new concept to many IT pros. Layton added, “When we hire people, most of the time in the first week, we have to take everything they know and start over.”

3-pronged strategy: reorganize, reskill, retool

Based on their research, Gartner recommends a three-pronged strategy to adapt to the changing needs of SaaS, starting with reorganizing teams, followed by reskilling those teams to shift focus from operational tasks to change management, and equipping them with the proper tools to enforce security policies and enhance user experience.

“I&O leaders must drive digital business transformation by proactively adopting SaaS applications rather than retrospectively adapting to the change.” Specifically, Gartner advocates reorganizing I&O teams to become orchestrators, rather than providers, of services by appointing new roles for release coordination and SaaS governance.

As part of their changing role, IT teams can also create business-centric workflows, which is further enabled by the APIs SaaS apps expose. Those APIs also fuel the growth of SaaS Management Platforms (SMPs), empowering solutions like BetterCloud to create automations.

Stay in front of SaaS releases with change management & end user training

SaaS apps evolve quickly, delivering substantial new functionality on a regular basis. The onus falls on IT to stay in front of those changes. Reiterating the need to replace human multitasking with SaaSOps automation, the Gartner report states, “Manual testing and verification of application releases will not scale to cope with the pace of change.”

Additionally, IT must help train end users, which can include end user face time, writing, and making videos, all of which are among the disciplines in the “People & Process” area of BetterCloud’s SaaSOps framework. Of course, the SaaS provider will be the ideal source of training resources, considering they built the functionality. However, framing the training in the context of your organization’s specific use case is highly valuable. Gartner describes such “narrative-based training” as essential.

The importance of connecting with humans

BetterCloud customer Shawn Carney, director of engineering, IT & compliance at Etsy, noted the importance of interacting with users. You can build lots of telemetry to gain insights and set up alerting for people, but you should also have face-to-face conversations, she says. Carney stated that communication and the ability to collaborate with other human beings, along with critical thinking and pattern recognition, are important skills that are often undervalued and under-marketed.

Dynamic spend management

The Gartner analysts continue, “I&O leaders must build SaaS-specific expertise within their teams to meet three new requirements: cloud infrastructure and perimeterless access, continuous application release cadence, and subscription-based licensing.”

While the topic groupings differ, Gartner’s recommendations for adapting IT ops for SaaS are remarkably consistent with BetterCloud’s. The analysts write, “Since SaaS application capabilities change frequently, the funding model must be dynamic to reallocate investments as business priorities change.”

With SaaS, you pay whether you use the licenses or not. Another onus that falls on IT is to monitor use and ensure coordination between licenses paid for and those needed. The ease of procurement with SaaS apps makes it difficult for IT to understand where funds are allocated, if licenses are being used, and where you may have redundancies in apps. But with BetterCloud, customers like Fullscreen can gain visibility into unused licenses, resulting in an estimated savings of over $100,000 in less than a year.

SaaS raises new hurdles to security, requiring new tools

SaaS has enabled the best-of-breed world we now live in. For every industry, department, function, and person in an organization, there’s some SaaS app that has been built to help them do their jobs better. Unfortunately, this new paradigm of disparate SaaS apps also raises significant challenges such as:

  • Insider threats from malice or negligence
  • Limited visibility into user interactions
  • Trouble understanding where you have sensitive information in order to map to regulatory requirements

The Gartner analysts write, “The perceived ease of procuring and deploying SaaS belies the underlying complexity of ensuring governance and security without compromising user experience (UX) and user productivity… The SaaS delivery model changes the way users access applications, fundamentally redefining the access boundary.”

With the third prong in Gartner’s recommended approach, retooling, you can use SMPs like BetterCloud to automate processes and policies across your SaaS application portfolio. Gartner lists SMPs first among the specific tools needed to enable perimeterless work environments.

The role of IT is moving toward enabling user productivity with the best technology, rather than merely keeping the lights on. With Gartner’s recommended 3-pronged strategy, you can achieve the idyllic promise of SaaS.

To read the full Gartner report, click here.