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Why SaaS could make your IT skills irrelevant

C.G. Lynch | Aug. 22, 2008
The IT industry is now preparing for a new round of upheaval as a result of SaaS adoption of offerings.

"Unfortunately, most developers have built enterprise applications to meet their current systems environment and the end-user was very secondary," Kaplan says. "Now, the end-user experience is the driving factor, because end-users determine whether or not the application is considered successful."

In addition, maintenance veterans - the guys who handle the plumbing of IT - will see their job options start to recede. That reality can be both a challenge and an opportunity for the IT industry, says Peter Coffee, Director of, the platform provided by for developers building SaaS-based apps.

"If you're in the ecosystem of working on staple, on-premise software, you can take care of feeding and watering those systems," Coffee says. "But those low value tasks no longer need to be done and you won't cover the IT equivalent of infantry. You want to be the IT equivalent of special forces."

Those special forces might include building new features on top of SaaS apps that fit a company's specific needs, or managing the relationships a company has between two or more SaaS vendors who both provide technology to the same company, making sure the systems talk well with one another, says Ken Venner, senior VP and CIO of corporate services at Broadcom.

"Working with vendors will really become ever more critical," Venner says. "One of the skills that will start to reduce is core infrastructure skills."

The Post-Modern IT Department

Today, most large companies use a mix of both traditional apps that they host with servers on premise and some that they let the Salesforce.coms of the world host offsite. But the idea of a plug and play IT department isn't a dream. Tim Davis, CIO of Popeyes Chicken, a national fast food chain based in Atlanta, Georgia, only has six IT people and not one server on premise.

Not all of his apps are SaaS-based. A SaaS vendor, by his definition, is a company that provides the software over the Web, hosts it, and charges a subscription fee (generally per user per month). Popeyes owns the licenses for some of its software, and worked out a contract with IBM to host and support the servers for those apps.

But that contract, which includes IBM's hosting of Popeyes' e-mail system (Microsoft Exchange), will expire in 2009. Microsoft recently released a SaaS version of Exchange for a mere $10 per user per year. When Popeyes' contract with IBM expires, Davis admits he could pursue more SaaS options as it would likely cost him less money that outsourcing to Big Blue.

So if there are no servers and the like, what does his IT department do?


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