When SaaS took center stage, one of the main concerns that was raised in many forums was - Is it the end of IT?. Some even argued that businesses would source line-of-business applications directly from SaaS vendors, thus making IT irrelevant. In practice, I agree this happens in pockets. In few companies, some of the complex business applications, not necessarily SaaS solutions, are directly sourced, impelemented and managed by business. But, In majority of other companies, IT still has a significant role to play.
I came across couple of interesting developments happening in Marketing Technologies space, which made me to believe that IT is nowhere near extinction.Let me elaborate what I read on Marketing Technologies space. One of the biggest trends happening in B2C companies these days is to understand their end customers like never before, listen to them for their needs and concerns, act on those feedbacks to improve the customer satisfaction. Why is it happening now?. For the simple reason being that Customers are empowered with more information. With access to relevant, timely and sometimes authentic information, Customers are empowered and they demand high-quality services from the companies. If companies need to service such demanding customers, they need to get empowered as well, in terms of access to market and customer intelligence and customer service technologies.
From customers perpsective, they have access to all public content, blogs, wikis, social networking sites/forums where they voice their opinions or read about product reviews, discuss and debate before making a purchasing decision. From companies' perspective, there are multiple dimensions in which market and customer intelligence need to be performed. There are a variety of solutions such as web analytics, click stream analysis, social media/collective intelligence based analysis, sentiment analysis/opinion mining, multi-channel analysis, Surveys, etc. Some of these solutions are available as SaaS offerings. Some of them are on-premise packages bundled with a company's existing ecommerce suites. Now, How does one apply a suitable technology solution based on the business problem at hand?. There are tons of vendors chasing this marketing technology space. How do we demistify the complexities and make some sense out of it?. Marketing is no more a calendarized activity that works on offline/past data. With customers having access to 24X7 channels like Twitter, marketing is becoming Real-Time and Companies need to deal with those emerging paradigms.
Traditionally, Marketing department has been spending their money on episodic deployments throughout the year based on the budget availability/business priorities. However, deployment of multiple/independent marketing technology solutions will not help in producing a cohesive view of customer/customer group needs. It would take good amount of integration to knit the pieces together to produce an actionable information on the company's unified brand experience. This requires IT skills such as technology planning and enterprise architecture, technology/solution architecture to knit the different silos together.
Similarly, in the SaaS space, there is a need to customize the out-of-the-box offering to suit the company's business requirements. Majority of the business requirements fall into this category and companies like SalesForce.com also promote configurability/flexibility over standardization of business processes/business data. This trend will also re-inforce the requirement of IT skills such as System Integration, Configuration and Project Management.
While the availability of SaaS solutions certainly accelerates the adoption of business solutions, traditional IT skills are still required to deliver a complete solution!.