There is a growing trend among organizations to implement software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications as a way to update or improve their business software. Aberdeen have reported that SaaS is the most common form of cloud usage. When businesses initially evaluate SaaS software it seems cheaper, easier to maintain, and generally doesn’t involve the headaches of running on-premise software in-house. There’s a catch, though. Integrating SaaS software with existing legacy systems, as well as other SaaS applications, can be a struggle.
ERP moves to a postmodern period
There was a time not long ago when companies that wanted new software had to go through the process of paying for the software upfront, then installing and testing it, not to mention supporting, maintaining and later upgrading it. A common preferred route was adding a new module or sub-system to the company’s existing enterprise software (e.g., ERP, CRM); it was preferred because the new add-on would be already integrated with the rest of the business. However, it could often be a compromise solution, with the new add-on being “not quite right, but good enough”, and it was quite possible for implementations to take months. This practice of relying on a vertically integrated stack of applications is being challenged by SaaS applications which offer the promise of greater functionality, decreased implementation time, and cost-effectiveness of cloud computing. It’s what Gartner calls the move to a postmodern ERP strategy.
The challenges of SaaS
The downside that businesses are learning about SaaS is that it can create silos of information. Getting that information shared between systems becomes an integration issue. For the first one or two SaaS applications the point-to-point integration work is relatively straightforward. But when demands for integrating with more legacy systems arises, or as SaaS software is more widely adopted, the problem of ‘spaghetti integration’ emerges. Some businesses try to solve this problem with technology like enterprise service bus (ESB) or services oriented architecture (SOA), except that often results in ‘spaghetti in a box.’