Market Trends

5 ways enterprise SaaS management is evolving before our eyes

Written by
Amrith Nambiar
VP of IT at Udemy
December 14, 2022
min read

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In just three years so much has changed, I think it’s fair to say we’ve entered an entirely new era in enterprise SaaS management—a shift similar in scale and scope to the transformations from mainframe to client server. 

It’s significant, and like all recent periods of technological change, IT is there to help enterprises remain productive through it. Only this time, it’s IT that’s doing the transforming. Leading it, really.

During the pandemic, remote work morphed into a base expectation and IT supported it. Supply disruptions turned every IT worker into a purchasing and supply chain wizard. New and more sophisticated threats continued to emerge and prod at security teams while an unexpected war raged in Europe. Now, the most uncertain economy in a generation is driving managers to pause spending and dabble in new business models, which the company’s tech must support. 

All this disruption invariably sweeps through businesses and their systems. As a result, we are living through the transition to a much more complex, hybrid, Frankenstein-esque IT landscape that will require IT teams to adapt fast to remain relevant.

In this article, I share what I think are the five biggest trends all IT teams are now reacting to and being shaped by. And in particular, what they mean for the management of your SaaS applications.


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Trend 1: Best-of-breed software won

“Shadow IT” has left the shadows. It is now part of the fabric of how we operate. For many years, IT openly battled it and devised ways to control, manage, and stymie its spread. But we’re now in a decentralized world where business units have won their independence. If IT doesn’t provide what the business unit wants, the business team will circumvent IT. They’ll purchase something regardless of the total cost of ownership, the necessity of integrations, or the support burden. 

If you want evidence of just how strong this compulsion to buy “best of breed” is, consider that videoconferencing is bundled into Microsoft 365 via Teams, yet 42% of Microsoft 365 customers still prefer and pay incrementally more for Zoom because they prefer the experience. This is happening everywhere, with all sorts of systems.

Businesses are using more apps.

Now, only 27% is managed by IT, down 35% from just a few years ago. And the definition of “ownership” itself has changed. Who is the owner of an application when the business pays but IT manages it? Who is the owner of all those integrated AppExchange apps that IT doesn’t have time to support?  

Which is all to say, you can no longer standardize exclusively on one core enterprise resource planning (ERP) system like you used to do on Oracle or SAP. And that creates a huge challenge of managing more complex core systems with an ever-complexifying patchwork of integrations. 

The takeaway: Business systems will continue to develop greater overlaps and dependencies.

Trend 2: Business systems are being managed both through configurations and code

The present generation of business systems originally advertised themselves as “clicks not code”—tools one could implement with little customization or coding know-how. But they have evolved and become platforms. Big platforms. Platforms with many modules and sprawling partner ecosystems. 

They’ve become so complex, business systems teams have run up against the limits of managing them through the user interface layer alone, and nearly all platforms now provide low-code and pro-code developer modes and features to help admins regain that lost efficiency.

As just a few examples:

  • CRM—Salesforce’s Developer Experience (SFDX)
  • ERP—NetSuite’s SuiteCloud Development Framework (SDF)
  • Support—Zendesk’s developer tools and API
  • Development—Atlassian/Jira’s developer mode

The result of all of this is there’s a greater burden on business systems teams to build like software architects and software engineers. They are essentially building products. They’ll need to learn to think like product owners.

The takeaway: Business systems management will come to closely resemble product management.

Trend 3: Rising governance burden

As business systems become more vital to business processes, it increases their attack surface. It also makes the processes and data more vulnerable to traditional malicious actors and actions.

This is an inevitable function of size and sprawl. In a clicks and code world, more things are configurable, and you now need to manage access, releases, QA testing, and your own bugs. More can change within these applications, and so more does. There’s more risk of human error and more risk of designing immature processes without appropriate approvals or change management, and it has greater consequences.

In addition, you’re also managing the risk between systems. In a hyper-integrated environment, the vast interdependencies between applications mean that you can’t just secure the tokens of one application—you also have to secure the tokens of adjacent applications. 

On top of it all, pressure from the business to increase the velocity of configuration changes makes governance an afterthought. 

The takeaway: Business systems multiply a company’s governance, risk, and compliance burdens.

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Download the guide ≥Download the guide ≥

Trend 4: Companies need ever better tooling to manage their business applications

Yesterday’s tools no longer cut it. (See: spreadsheets.) And with so many applications, it is not scalable to use application-specific tools. A company with dozens of top systems would need dozens of tools to manage those systems. And this is actually how many companies operate today which has created an immense amount of inefficiency and overhead.

For this reason, an entire “DevOps for business systems” market has sprung into existence in just the last few years. These tools are aimed at helping small teams do more. In 2020, companies building tools for Salesforce DevOps attracted $39 million in investment. In 2021, that category attracted $276 million. And that’s just Salesforce, which, large though it is, accounts for just one-fifth of just the CRM market.

Elsewhere, we’re seeing the rise of “low-code” tools to manage existing tools that, according to The Economist, are used by millions. For example:

  • Integration tools (Workato, Boomi, etc)
  • Agile development & bug tracking (Jira)
  • Project management (Asana)
  • Knowledge bases (Confluence)
  • Change management (ServiceNow)
  • Automation (Microsoft Power Apps)

Business systems administrators and engineers are also borrowing tool-agnostic methodologies like Agile and DevOps from the software development world, and building their own workarounds.

For business systems teams to adequately manage the hundreds of applications that fall under their scope, they’re going to need ever better platform-agnostic tooling.

The Takeaway: Business systems teams will need universal tooling that isn’t application-specific.

Trend 5: Business systems infrastructure is a bottleneck to growth

The business applications world is now being constrained by issues similar to those software developers faced 10 years ago: Administrators and developers aren’t able to change as quickly as the business or market needs them to. This takes us back to the idea in our introduction, that companies don’t need IT and business systems to respond to change—they need them to lead through it. Otherwise, they get stuck.

Case in point, 62% of high-performing CEOs now say the top thing restraining their growth is their technology infrastructure. If you want to move fast, your business systems also need to. And you need to make those upgrades before the business needs you to.

The takeaway: Business systems management will become the number one issue constraining growth.

Where it’s headed

As a result of all the above trends, I’m seeing lots of IT teams transitioning from growth at all cost to optimization and productivity in 2023. And CFOs are thinking the same thing. They’re asking, “Okay, you’ve had all these implications, how are you going to make them more performant?”

And the answer has to be that IT gets a whole lot more efficient and leads through the change. 

Want to discuss these ideas further? Shoot me a note on LinkedIn. I’d love to chat.

Written by
Amrith Nambiar

Experienced IT/technology leader with a passion for driving digital transformation initiatives and a track record of scaling IT at multiple high-growth companies from startups to public companies.

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