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Blur the Lines.

It's time to reorganize your IT department. Actually, it's time to blur the lines.

Software as a service, or SaaS, has significantly changed the technology landscape in the last few years. I'm talking about hosted applications such as Zoom, Salesforce, Shopify, ServiceNow, Workday, Slack, and others. No longer hosted by IT, these applications still have to share data, manage access controls, and must run on endpoints with certain browsers and software.

There are hundreds of these SaaS applications, some of which are flying under the radar of many organizations' management, not to mention IT. This is largely due to the centralized nature of IT in many companies, and many of these SaaS applications can simply be purchased on a credit card requiring little integration into IT. Until they're successful or the department needs to integrate data.

Centralized IT departments are incredibly useful for things like managing desktops and phones, requisitions, telecommunications, and software licensing. Most importantly, standards, integration, identity management, data governance, security, and certification (ISO, etc.) are far more efficiently managed in a centralized IT organization. Those areas also require IT-specific knowledge independent of many functional organizational areas.

However, optimizing the use, licensing, training, and value of SaaS platforms really requires far more knowledge on the consumer side -- consumer, in this case, being the part of the organization that is consuming (using) the SaaS application. It's knowledge that, by design, is centralized in another department. For example, IT is not HR, and to get the most out of the usage and integration of the Workday SaaS requires an HR technology specialist.

Of course, you're probably thinking, well, it's always been IT's job. My point is, not anymore.

Essentially, the skill set I'm describing in the example is a Workday Subject Matter Expert (SME), or sometimes called an HRIS manager. That person needs to be a key part of the organization's HR team, immersed in the regulations, requirements, and challenges that HR is struggling with every day. They act as the Great Translator, translating Workday nomenclature and data descriptions to their organization's terminology and descriptions. He or she should be an HR professional, with certifications, to really know what goes on behind the scenes and what the organization needs from the product. They should understand the recruiting, retention, payroll, and benefits solutions most desired and critical to operations. They should be responsible for choosing which modules to implement and how to license the product. Finally, they should understand HR data and it's context, as well as the on boarding and off boarding processes, legal and HIPAA requirements, so that when integrations are built by IT and used elsewhere in the organization, appropriate data audits and contextualization can occur to insure reporting is accurate.

HRIS managers have been around for some time, and you're basically thinking, well, this is a no-brainer. But this concept of SME, or platform manager, or whatever you want to call it, really should apply to each and every major SaaS tool you are using, inside of each and every organizational department that's using it.

Your organization won't get the most out of its SaaS tools unless the consumers have a voice and are actually driving innovation and adoption of the platform and take full ownership. Without SMEs, your favorite SaaS application is just another one on the list in an already overtaxed IT department. Essentially, cloud applications transfer the requirements of managing, installing, updating and operating an application away from IT and to the vendor. What does not transfer to the cloud is the custom organizational process knowledge, data knowledge, and access control knowledge.

Each major department, such as Sales, Finance, Legal, and Payroll should have a cloud SaaS SME on their team to help their department take the most advantage of their specific SaaS tool. They may have more than one if they're using multiple tools. Marketing usually has these already, in the realm of social media managers, website managers, etc.

Bottom line -- this is the direction organizations and IT need to move. Consolidate centralized IT functions, then push out SMEs to each department to manage the software licensing, implementation, user training and data integrations for your SaaS applications. To basically... own the SaaS application in the department. Only then will organizations get the most value out of their SaaS cloud implementations.

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