When I started my career in IT, businesses were largely on-premises. I vividly remember Patch Tuesdays where my IT admin colleagues and I would spend an entire day (yes, the full 8+ hours!) simply downloading and installing patches on servers. But without dating myself too much, I will admit that was a long time ago. The implementation of SaaS (software as a service) and cloud migration is now table stakes.

For end-users, it just makes sense: they pay a recurring fee to use the software — whether a CRM tool, an accounting platform or digital collaboration suite like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Slack — and without much required from IT, are on their merry way. For technology vendors, SaaS allows for quicker enhancements and responses to customer feedback. Plus, predictable revenue is attractive, as well as the potential upselling that comes when additional users join, and software proliferates throughout an organization.

I’m not the only one thankful that Patch Tuesdays have been replaced by more frequent, agile cloud releases. In fact, Gartner predicts that of the $480 billion companies will spend on public cloud services in 2022, SaaS solutions specifically will total nearly $172 billion, or over a third of the full amount. And while industry data clearly demonstrates the preference for, and value of, SaaS applications, I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible — and why the future of work depends on evolving SaaS.

Transform Data Into Useful Information

The average enterprise in 2017 had over 210 cloud collaboration tools in use. Combine that with the 44% increase in collaboration tool use Gartner found between 2019 and 2021, and you can only imagine the number of tools in use today. Within each of these applications think of the sheer volume of data being amassed — from content marketing materials to customer feedback, product line revenue and even churn indicators. At the very least, today’s SaaS applications have allowed organizations to quickly share data back and forth and collaborate in real-time. But most of that happens within platforms like Microsoft 365 and its respective, in-ecosystem applications.

To truly maximize data to turn it into usable information, building connections between apps, clouds, and ensuring data is portable enough to move from one place to another is critical. Business intelligence, therefore, is created by building interconnectivity and maintaining fidelity when necessary. Better yet, when both structured and unstructured data can be transformed into digestible insights from multi-SaaS platforms, that is when businesses will take a big jump forward.

Related Article: Governing Your Digital Workplace With Some Big Questions

Unlock Productivity By Making it Easy to Do the Right Thing

The introduction of SaaS applications has inherently increased productivity. Take Microsoft Teams as an example. From file collaboration to project management through apps like Planner, the self-service capabilities makes employees more productive so that time is better spent on projects that move the needle.

But at the same time, the uptick in SaaS applications that employees have in their hybrid work arsenal has impeded productivity. We’re experiencing a collective problem where, of the hundreds of apps employees can theoretically use, they do not know how to properly use each — and, how to use them in complementary ways.

Learning Opportunities

The key for organizations is to enable sustainable adoption, a concept I'll explain with this analogy. When my kids were younger, I took them bowling. Ahead of time, I showed them YouTube videos, demonstrated proper techniques, and explained the overall concept of the sport. And when we arrived, I ensured the bumpers were up. Why? I wanted to set them up for success. I wanted to make it easy for them to do the right thing. The same is true when it comes to using SaaS apps to enhance productivity. Make it easy for employees to use your SaaS platform in a way that meets your organization's goals. For example, at AvePoint, the Microsoft 365 guardrails we’ve put in place are: Yammer for companywide engagement, Teams to get collaborative work done and SharePoint as your content service.

Related Article: The Recent Spike in Collaboration Tool Adoption Doesn't Mean Productivity Spikes Too

Protect Your Crown Jewels

Of course, with increasing SaaS application use — there was a 30% surge in cloud-based app usage from 2020 to 2021 — comes a healthy amount of risk. The data being amassed across multiple SaaS applications is not immune to malicious threats, ransomware or accidental loss. Especially when internal and external business users are collaborating, data protection and security are paramount.

In addition, businesses that rely on SaaS applications inherently trust third party vendors to protect their data. However, most vendors have limitations, so it is important to ensure data integrity is not compromised, especially when multi-cloud SaaS apps are involved.

Considering the global average cost of a data breach is nearly $4 million, data protection is key. And I challenge the idea that security solutions are just insurance policies. Let’s take the invention of car brakes, for example. Many people believe brakes were designed to slow cars down, but in reality, they were created to help them go faster. Without brakes, cars could only travel safely at low speeds. With them, they could accelerate faster than ever before. In the same way, protecting your SaaS applications with proper security policies enables you to collaborate with confidence.

And that’s the future — now that SaaS is in style, we should learn how to best collaborate with confidence and do new with less to truly maximize the investment we’ve made.

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