Technology has provided companies with a host of new ways to do business – from machine learning patterns that can make startlingly accurate business predictions to the growth of IoT delivering on the promise of a more connected environment. These and other advancements have been enabled by new services provided through the cloud. As businesses evolve and grow, we’re seeing more and more cloud-based applications and services brought on board to manage critical information and automate core business processes, with the ultimate goal to improve business productivity, alleviate the strain on staff, and generate faster and better outcomes for the business.
However, every advancement brings new challenges, and the move to the cloud has left many businesses with siloed data and disconnected applications as ‘SaaS sprawl’ accelerates and takes over. To get the most out of their enterprise data assets, IT teams need to equip themselves with the right tools and best practices to quickly and easily connect every application and data store across the organisation, regardless of whether it’s in the cloud or not.
Increasingly, cloud applications deployed in enterprises are brought in by individual business functions — from Marketing to Finance, to HR, and more — and can often end up operating in isolation from one another. If a cloud application or database, or its underlying data, is needed by another business division, moving the information from one place to another can be a costly, time-consuming, and error-prone exercise. In some cases, IT teams manually code integrations for different applications and data sources, but as the business grows this requires too much time and resource, is difficult to maintain and doesn’t scale to support growth.
With a divided data and application landscape, it then unsurprisingly becomes more difficult to have a 360-degree view of a business’s data in real-time. This causes problems far beyond just the IT team, leaving any business department that needs access to timely enterprise data with a stunted, incomplete view – for example, the finance team may need employee information located in a HR data store or the marketing team might require customer details from the sales division.
Data siloes slow down critical business processes and inhibit fast and accurate decision making. If businesses are harbouring redundant, incomplete, or poor quality data, cloud applications will not be able to deliver accurate or beneficial insights. As a result, IT teams find themselves spending hours keeping tabs on the labyrinth of disconnected apps and data across the enterprise, plugging gaps and connecting what they can, to ensure business teams can obtain the promised benefits.
There are steps businesses can take to tame disconnected cloud applications and SaaS sprawl.
Firstly, it’s key to ensure that there is a holistic IT strategy for cloud that all departments buy into, one that is not a cloud application free-for-all across an enterprise, or that encourages ‘shadow IT’. It should instead position and empower the IT department as enablers which any other team can go to for advice, guidance, or counsel when choosing a cloud application. In turn, this will ensure procured applications fit with the company’s overall IT strategy, governance, and security mandates, and that IT is able to properly oversee any needed cloud migration, integration, or development requirements. This also means IT will be able to see which other business departments might benefit from a new application, making their own recommendations to help streamline business activity, not to mention negotiate greater discounts and economies of scale if the particular app gains widespread usage across the company. As part of this, many organisations find success identifying a person within each department to serve as the liaison with IT — typically someone with some level of data and tech proficiency — so that each department has their dedicated ‘go to’ when wanting to suggest new ideas to streamline business processes or leverage data where IT could add value.
Another big step in rationalising cloud infrastructure in a business is equipping IT and LOB teams with the right tools. As the capabilities of the cloud continue to grow, and enterprises migrate more of their data and business applications to cloud platforms, and users from all parts of the business demand direct access to data, having the means to be able to properly manage and move data is essential.
Integration is an obvious choice to help with this, but the traditional manual, time- and resource-intensive options just aren’t feasible for modern enterprises. Modern, low-code, self-service integration tools which harness the power of AI are the answer, helping to not only improve the flow of data within an organisation but transform how business users can leverage data as part of their day-to-day work. By automating manual repetitive integrations and automating common workflows and processes, productivity surges and teams across the enterprise are freed up to focus on higher-value strategic projects that drive the business forward.
Enabling a new wave of business opportunity
Cloud applications can significantly change the way companies do business, from streamlining the onboarding of new employees, ensuring a consistent customer experience, and bringing about data democracy within an organisation. However, unless teams take serious steps to break down the barriers and open up data sharing across those disparate applications, and across departments, the promise of a truly data-driven organisation will remain a pipedream. IT and LOB teams must work together to unlock this transformational change.