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Lifecycle Management & SaaS
Will Software as a Service (SaaS) force lifecycle management? Lifecycle management within IT is the process of continuously upgrading the hardware, software, business functionality, and delivery of a service.
In most enterprises, there are three sources of IT funding. The first is for non-discretionary spending to keep the "lights on", which is what it takes to keep existing IT services running. The second is for Moves, Adds, and Changes (MACs) to the service. The third is discretionary spending for enhanced functionality that provide direct business value along with lifecycle management. The challenge is that most organizations are financially constrained. This results in delaying the standard upgrade processes, doing a bunch of small projects that have a quick ROI, and implementing MACs without going back and cleaning up.
After several years of financial neglect, an IT service will end up with an infrastructure that is End of Life (EoL) and the application will be "cobbled" together as a result of many small projects. The IT service becomes very difficult and expensive to support and lacks the ability to keep up with business demands.
Thus a business is forced every 4-7 years to make a significant investment in an IT service and fund it out of non-discretionary spending. Typically, the cost to evolve the current service is greater than the cost to go out and build a brand new one. This "Greenfield" opportunity is a chance for a company to switch platforms/vendors and to look at providing the solution externally through SaaS. With SaaS, a 3rd party is responsible for keeping the IT service up to date. Contact centers are a great example of an IT UC service. One service within contact centers is the routing service which provides the rules of how a customer should be directed to the right agent, at the right time, with the right information. If a company has neglected their routing service and suddenly finds their platform is approaching EoL, the cost to upgrade could be substantial. The cost of the upgrade will include:
* Updating all the interfacing services--WFM, IVR, ACD, CTI, Reporting, ...
* Cleanup of Toll free numbers, IVR menus, routing rules, business analytics, ...
* Agent training with a new user interface such as a softphone and how to transfer a call
Since a SaaS solution requires very little upfront capital, it looks financially compelling and it appears to break the cycle of having to do forklift upgrades every few years. While this may sound appealing, it requires a lot of ongoing resources from the enterprise to manage the continual technology and application updates. This is usually not accounted for in the original SaaS business plan. This is especially true in Unified Communication (UC) solutions where there is a tight integration between people, processes, information, and the underlying technology.
So when the SaaS vendor is ready to upgrade their service, the enterprise must be willing to upgrade all the interfacing services, invest in new user training, and update the associated business processes and reporting—a different kind of forklift upgrade. The alternative is not much more appealing: Enterprises continue to be resource- and budget-constrained and therefore take a reactive approach to upgrading infrastructure when they must due to EOL. The only way to mitigate against either of these challenges is to be proactive with a lifecycle management process.