Will SaaS Become The Next Endangered Species?
With the recent placement of lions in Africa under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, it got me thinking. Will apps be the the next endangered species? We live in a world where there’s an app for everything. There are apps for managing every conceivable business function, from finances to HR to inventory, apps for collaborating, and apps for social media. It seems like whenever a business organization has a new need, everybody’s first instinct is: Get an app for that.
My question is: Do businesses really need that many apps – and all the IT integration, performance, and scaling headaches that go along with them? Could businesses actually achieve the same purpose – and get the same or even more business value – by just harnessing data they already have on hand? Can application sprawl be stopped?
I now think that’s a real possibility.
As a technologist, I have been testing a bold hypothesis over the past few years: “If Data is at the heart of intelligence, then there will come a time when you won’t need an application.”. It’s an admittedly “debatable” idea that I’ve been sharing with a number of my advisory board colleagues.
I’m confident there is a tipping point and it lies in our future for good reason: Increasingly we have the ability to separate data from the transaction it’s tied to. Using flexible data engines to manage key business decisions will create a catalyst where applications will not need to be the transporter, we will just subscribe to the data we need.
SaaS has been selling the belief of ease and speed and often tries to tout cost savings as compared to the traditional on-prem application architectures. However, if your application landscape is anything like what I’ve been managing over the past four years…it’s now 90% SaaS. Guess what? Those inevitably all need data….to be integrated, moved, accessed, analyzed, and that requires time and resources.
More and more, we are able to transform data into knowledge without relying on a transactional engine – an app or an ERP system – to drive decision-making. Instead, we now have the ability to use flexible data engines to help manage key business needs or decisions, and in the process put an end to application sprawl. My belief is that this will first happen with the traditional ERP systems.
In a small way, a tipping point came for our Informatica IT team with the arrival of our own branded Intelligent Data Platform. Data is at the heart of intelligence. This is effectively the data management platform that we have employed to run complex licensing audits without the help of a dedicated app. Instead we took the data already in our environment (relying also on the investment in our data architecture) and created a powerful new decision dashboard, tracking mechanism, and alerting option.
Inherently versatile, this solution dashboard not only allowed us to manage assets in real time for audit efficiency, but also helped us answer cross-functional or dimensional questions, or “hypotheses”. We didn’t need to deploy another application or SaaS, or yet another new module/capability within the “writhing beast” of our ERP system. In fact, deploying such apps and modules would have actually limited our possibilities. That’s because applications tend to be an answer to many questions but still typically to a single dimension – and ERPs even more so.
Of course, you can argue that we still need applications to organize the data feeds. Perhaps the day that applications go the way of dinosaurs might not be here quite yet, however the trend continues to build steam.
Its my belief that the rise of “IoT persistence” will be the trigger. Is that the day that applications will become truly threatened? That is what we are starting to realize inside Informatica. Our proof point came when we took our “asset solution dashboard” and integrated our network logs along with sensor data from mobile devices. We began to see more clearly the real time network activity and more quickly detected “rogue” or non-standard systems, servers, mobile devices in real-time, not after the fact audits or analysis. It’s a powerful driver for predicting the stability of the services and environment, a capability that no app could match. For us this brought about a multi-dimensional solution, all from our data architecture.
We continue to “pivot” the dashboard to find answers to new hypotheses, some of which we could never have imagined. This is why it’s important to allow time for technologists and solution specialists to think about new dimensions. You never know what questions they might come up with that could help transform the business.
Remember, it’s not always about buying a shiny new SaaS service or application. It’s about leveraging the data you already own. The tipping point is closer than you think.
Thanks for reading.