Software as a Service (SaaS), a cloud computing model in which companies provide applications on demand via the internet, has been a popular technology for more than 10 years now. This platform eliminates the need for on-site or “thick clients” to be installed on local systems, facilitating business operations and freeing up technology professionals for more elaborate endeavors.
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The Operations (Ops) operational model, which facilities operational endeavors by automating processes for better reliability and efficiency, has also established a firm foundation among enterprises to help achieve deliverables more effectively.
What if the two were combined for greater efficiency and interoperational coordination? It’s a process that’s underway, and it is yielding new opportunities.
Scott Matteson: There is a buzz in the IT community around a new movement called SaaSOps. Can you tell me a bit about what that means, and how it came about?
David Politis: SaaSOps is a practice referring to how Software as a Service (SaaS) applications are managed and secured through centralized and automated operations (Ops), resulting in reduced friction, improved collaboration, and better employee experience.
SaaSOps is a result of the explosion of SaaS in the enterprise. The term is new, but the concept has been gaining momentum for quite some time. You may have heard it being referred to as everything from digital workplace ops, to IT operations, to SaaS administration, to cloud office management and end-user computing, just to name a few.
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But, ultimately, the gist is the same. SaaSOps is a set of disciplines—all the new responsibilities, processes, technologies, and people you need to successfully enable your organization through SaaS.
Scott Matteson: Neither SaaS nor Ops is necessarily a new phenomenon. Why this movement happening now?
David Politis: Well, for one, we’ve reached a tipping point with SaaS, which is now a common system of record for many organizations. But let’s face it, the increasing popularity of SaaS also means that its management challenges are growing swiftly, too. It’s done wonders for employee productivity, but IT workloads—a growing mountain of repetitive, manual work—have become unmanageable.
I believe emerging SaaSOps roles are illustrative of the industry’s increasing need for effective SaaS management. Businesses are responding to that demand by hiring IT employees who can be solely dedicated to managing SaaSOps, which is now a bigger part of IT operations overall.
What that means is IT must scale its team to manage multiple SaaS apps (or find another way to manage them), and IT’s day-to-day responsibilities, skill sets, and job titles are expanding.
Scott Matteson: I heard you had your first SaaSOps event last month? How would you describe BetterCloud’s role in the SaaSOps movement?
David Politis: I’d say our role has been significant. We defined SaaSOps for the first time ever on stage at the first-ever event dedicated for SaaSOps professionals, Altitude 2019.
I also announced the second edition of my book, The IT Leader’s Guide to SaaSOps — Vol. 2: How to Secure Your SaaS Applications. It appears to have been well received as we even had people during and after the conference add SaaSOps to their titles!
We also had our inaugural SaaSOps Stars Awards to recognize outstanding IT and SaaSOps practitioners. Winners included 10 people and teams who, through their SaaSOps practice, helped their companies empower their businesses securely through SaaS.
At the same event, we introduced our new Integration Center, a centralized exchange to discover, install, and configure BetterCloud integrations. We also unveiled a whopping 32 new integrations to support SaaS apps like Zoom, Atlassian, DocuSign, GitHub, OneLogin, PagerDuty, AWS, Tableau, Duo, Splunk, Datadog, and more. In total, we are now supporting over 450 actions across 41 integrations.
Scott Matteson: What career opportunities is SaaSOps creating for budding IT professionals?
David Politis: If you do a quick Google search for “SaaS Operations job,” it will return 6.86 million hits—not an insignificant number. We’re starting to see new IT roles being carved out every day. More and more of our customers are telling us that they’re creating SaaSOps positions and looking for SaaSOps engineers, SaaS operations managers, SaaS systems administrators, and SaaS administrators, among others.
Our customer Spotify’s job posting for SaaSOps engineer is a great example. The demand for those positions is a major part of what’s creating the buzz you mentioned earlier, and it’s opening up exciting opportunities for budding IT professionals.
An interesting thread that pulled through at Altitude was the fact that the new IT admin is becoming a corporate engineer. It’s the evolution of IT from being merely tech support to enabling a seamless user experience. It’s a new way of thinking about IT’s role and caring for our customers through technology.
Scott Matteson: How does SaaSOps affect businesses?
David Politis: SaaSOps ultimately unlocks the potential SaaS can have on any given organization: increased productivity, better collaboration, and a happier workforce. In a world where SaaSOps is widely adopted—which I predict will be in the next 3 to 5 years—users can achieve optimum levels of productivity through SaaS, and IT can effectively manage the proliferation of these best-in-breed applications.
When companies first start their SaaS journey, adoption is low. It could be that employees have gone rogue and are using the applications on their own (shadow IT), or perhaps you’ve only deployed your first app across a limited number of users. Over time, however, the number of apps, users, and data in your environment grows exponentially. That’s when it’s critical for companies to embrace that SaaS is the better way to work. This is where SaaS adoption really takes off, and employees as well as IT start to reap the benefits. It’s SaaS nirvana.
Scott Matteson: What advice would you have for an IT professional entering the SaaSOps profession today?
David Politis: Share knowledge and collaborate across departments as much as possible. A common theme we heard at Altitude is knowing how to work with other departments and forming alliances. If you understand other people’s workflows, you can get a budget for tools more easily, demonstrate credibility, and break out of your IT silo. IT knows all the compliance requirements, so they can see how new tools can help with that.
For example, to build a robust offboarding policy in BetterCloud, you’ll need input from legal, HR, etc. The more complex your SaaSOps environment gets, the more you’ll need to work with other departments.
Scott Matteson: What parallels do you see between SaaSOps and DevOps?
David Politis: The need to respond faster, to build better consumer-facing applications, to transform the customer experience spawned the DevOps movement, a cultural shift that allowed traditionally siloed teams—developers and IT ops—to partner in the rapid delivery of new applications and features and achieve unprecedented levels of innovation.
We’ve seen many spin-offs since then—SecOps, DevSecOps, RevOps—aimed at bridging the gap between different teams within an organization to create greater efficiencies.
We’ve now reached a new juncture focused on the internal consumer (i.e., employees). These individuals have achieved new levels of freedom, productivity and collaboration via mobile and apps like G Suite, Slack, Salesforce, and they are willing to protect that employee experience all costs. And without a real understanding of the security implications of deploying company data or assets in the cloud, they often go rogue, opening themselves up for leaks or breaches.
This has given rise to SaaSOps, a movement led by IT to align the agility and productivity of SaaS adoption with the business, while minimizing headaches and risks assumed by their security counterparts.
Scott Matteson: What do you think the SaaSOps movement will look like 5-10 years from now?
David Politis: DevOps first came on the scene in 2009. Fast forward 10 years, and it’s become an established practice across every enterprise. We believe the same will happen with SaaSOps. In fact, it has the potential to be even bigger because SaaS touches every employee across every company in the world. Over time, mainstream practices will make their way into all IT departments. IT leaders and CIOs will have entire SaaSOps divisions, and a lot of the friction companies are experiencing today will have all but disappeared. It’s exciting to think about.