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Enterprise Marketplaces Bring Order to IT Chaos

Consumerization of IT and cloud adoption are profoundly reshaping the Enterprise IT landscape, leaving traditional IT departments with tremendous challenges. On one hand, the tidal wave of consumer tech moving into the enterprise makes employees expect to be able to choose the hardware and software they want. Employees increasingly want their IT departments to provide them with options, rather than mandates. 

On the other hand, the emergence of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions is forcing IT departments to handle more requests for both public and private SaaS solutions. Gartner confirms this trend and predicts that by 2014, 30 percent of mid-to-large enterprises will act as internal SaaS brokers that connect employees to the SaaS apps they want.1 The bottom line? IT administrators often end up with a chaotic, unmanageable environment where almost every employee has his or her own mishmash of software, hardware, on-premise, and cloud-based IT solutions. 

Despite these challenges, IT administrators are often left without any good options for managing an ever-growing set of internal and external cloud-based applications while allowing employees to choose the software they want to use from a set of approved solutions.

New Challenges for Management and Usage

Today, enterprise software is primarily internal, either deployed on the desktop software or in a private cloud, and access is managed through Active Directory or other on-premise directory services. While this works for internal services, once an enterprise transitions to a hybrid of internal and external software, central management becomes much more challenging, as shown in the diagram below.

 

For most enterprises the infrastructure for managing an internal-external hybrid software offering is cobbled together as new applications are added. This creates a system that is both challenging for employees to use and for IT administrators to manage.

Employees access cloud services through multiple portals and intranets that are often confusing, hard to find, and redundant. Staff need to remember different passwords, often one for each portal and application, and waste significant amounts of time trying to track down passwords or links to the right portal.

For the IT team, the situation is even more challenging. IT administrators need to handle provisioning for each external application separately, which creates major workloads when employees need to be provisioned or deprovisioned from multiple applications. Monitoring usage and billing is also individual to each app, meaning that aggregated analytics are often difficult to generate.

All of these challenges slow down IT departments, both in basic management functions for existing apps, as well as evaluating and approving new apps for the enterprise. In addition to frustrating end users and reducing their productivity, these delays create a significant risk that employees will circumvent the IT department entirely and purchase apps on their own for business purposes (e.g., using a personal Google docs account to collaborate on a work document). This creates enormous security risks for IT departments because they have no visibility into the security, privacy, or SLA standards of these free or individually purchased apps.

The Limitations of Existing Solutions

Single Sign-On (SSO) providers offer a partial solution to the challenge of managing a hybrid enterprise software offering. They allow enterprises to centrally manage and monitor pre-provisioned accounts and sync roles with an on-premise active directory. However, the inability to provision seats on demand can create a significant risk for the enterprise; because seats must be purchased upfront, without offering end users a choice or soliciting their feedback, enterprises can end up purchasing too many seats, or purchasing seats for a solution that no one wants to use. In situations like these, IT administrators are forced into to a time-consuming, costly, and imperfect evaluation process, which depends as much on the quality of a service’s salespeople as the quality of the product itself. The high cost of these evaluations leads many enterprises to select a one-size-fits-all application.

Centralized Management and On-Demand Provisioning

The ideal solution to administer a hybrid enterprise software deployments would include consolidated management and monitoring tools for IT teams, much like SSO providers do today, but it would add several crucial features, including on-demand provisioning and a shopping-like experience for employees. Rather than mandating apps and services, IT departments should be able to curate a suite of applications and allow users to select those that they want to use. Because payment is on-demand (i.e., the enterprise only pays for what is actually used), IT admininistrators can approve several options and allow users to try and select the ones they prefer. In addition, the model allows applications to be evaluated and approved long before employees actually purchase them, making the entire process much lower risk and giving IT teams time to explore whether additional  applications might be appropriate for their particular environements.

With an ideal solution like this, IT administrators should be able to curate a broad offering of internal and external apps, as well as assign user roles to entitle and provision applications to employees. The provisioning should be synced with the enterprise’s on-premise active directory system, and IT administrators should be able to track entitlement, provisioning, billing, usage, and performance data both in aggregate and at a granular level across applications. Employees should be able to search for, trial, request access to, and use applications from a single portal. 

What features do you think a next-generation software management platform should have? Are there other challenges that the consumerization of IT is creating for enterprise IT teams? Let us know in the comments below.

1.Gartner “Predicts 2012: Cloud Services Brokerage Will Bring New Benefits and Planning Challenges,” 22 Nov 2011.

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Posted by Eric Lew on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

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