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At a holiday party the other day an exec was marveling at all the unique applications (apps) his employees were bringing into the organization. People were doing things faster and better in all sorts of ways that were unheard of just a few years ago. These cloud apps are called SaaS (Software as a Service). I’ll bet you have not heard of most of them. Where are these apps coming from?

Let’s go shopping. Go to GetApp.com and check out the bewildering array of apps. Don’t worry you can navigate this. Think about how you get applications for your smart phone. This is just like a Google Play or Apple App Store, but for business apps. As this post is written there were 5,620 business applications available in 13 different business categories. Even more striking is that 12 to 18 months ago there were not even half that number.

You can shop for the right tool to fill any business need. Dive in to make the right trade off of functions, features and price to get the optimum fit. If you are in marketing, check out any of the current 577 apps. HR? – Browse the 354 available. Finance and Accounting – surely a few in the 428-sized pool with make your work better and life easier.

Oh, and when it comes to price – with many of these suppliers there is a price war going on. For example: Google, Amazon, Box, and Dropbox are all virtually “giving away” file-sharing services. This is rapidly becoming a buyer’s market for savvy purchasers.

Isn’t this great? Is it any wonder that users of all kinds from junior staff to senior executives are jumping at the agility, low or no upfront costs, and flexibility that SaaS has provided? See, you have found that perfect gift for someone special – including you!

Just a word of caution – this doesn’t mean there are no challenges with SaaS. Remember our exec? His IT folks didn’t seem to have the same holiday spirit and share his sense of marvel.

The volume of these apps seems overwhelming. Every time they turned around somebody was pulling corporate data into a new app or trying to make an app talk to an established enterprise application. They were worried something was going to break – a security breach, compliance violation or just loosing critical data.

Is this a legitimate complaint or just the usual from a budget squeezed, overstretched team? Netskope and Skyhigh Networks put out quarterly reports based on regular monitoring sweeps of their growing client base. The most recent numbers show Netskope’s count of these SaaS apps to be an average of 579 per enterprise while Skyhigh’s weighs in at 831. (The unique mix of clients between these vendors probably account for the difference.) Regardless of what the “right” number is, I think we can safely say: It is pretty BIG! The IT folks have a valid point.

The reports also reveal an average of 38 different collaboration tools and 15 different project management tools per organization. How do we talk to each other if everyone is using a different tool? Many of the apps are start-ups rushing to market with SaaS that is not enterprise ready in its security and compliance. You’ll need to be careful of all that corporate data travelling around.

But the apps are flying off the shelves and being made ready for under the tree. These tools foster an agile and cost effective organization, and they are the future. So unwrap your latest but don’t forget that it looks like we need to manage this – all of us. This is not just the IT folk’s challenge. You need to give them some holiday cheer; after all it’s your team that’s probably giving them the heartburn. But in the meantime, the Season is upon us. In the New Year we’ll explore the ways of management to get the best of cloud and avoid the potential pitfalls. Happy Holidays to all!

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