What the SaaS Trend Means for Tech Careers
Software as a Service (SaaS) has become the dominant model for delivering business software. With SaaS, applications are hosted by a vendor and made accessible to end customers over the Internet on a subscription basis. The popularity of SaaS is making a substantial impact on the daily activities of IT workers. When software is hosted on internally managed PCs or servers, the IT department is responsible for maintaining the infrastructure that supports these systems. IT professionals need to procure, configure, test, and physically set up the hardware. Additionally, it is necessary to provide on-going support for the infrastructure in areas like security management, capacity planning, service continuity, and incident response. After shifting to the SaaS model, many of these activities are outsourced to the provider. IT workers spend far less time on tasks like managing data storage, upgrades, maintenance, and purchasing.
This threatens certain conventional roles in the IT Department. An engineer whose primary skillset is the physical installation of hardware cannot offer much value when the infrastructure has been outsourced to SaaS. However, the SaaS shift often frees up these IT professionals to focus on tasks that create more value for the business. IT workers become less technically focused and more connected to the business. The transition to cloud applications provides many benefits to IT admins including spending less time on daily maintenance, the increased ability to work remotely, increased participation in business strategy, improved relationships with business colleagues, and reduced boredom and frustration at work . Therefore, although certain conventional IT roles are being eliminated, SaaS often enables these workers to move into more rewarding careers. System administrators that previously specialized in configuring on-site hardware are now responsible for designing and supporting cloud-based infrastructure. Database administrators that were previously focused on keeping a business’s databases healthy and running, are often being transitioned into data architects who understand how to cultivate and leverage data to achieve business objectives.
Software engineers are highly affected as well. As the SaaS market matures, every conceivable niche of the business problem is now addressed by one or more SaaS products. This is reducing the number of new custom software projects enterprises need to initiate. However, many organizations still invest in developing software that supports the broader business strategy. For example, an internally developed customer-facing web portal may provide competitive differentiation in the market. Even though the back-office processes may be running on a standard SaaS product, there are often bolt-on custom software applications that could be developed to improve the customer experience or help the operation run more efficiently.
As organizations become more focused on leveraging data to create business value, software engineering roles are often shifting to a data engineering focus. When an organization’s portfolio of SaaS products exposes data through open APIs, many opportunities arise for engineering teams to use data. Often data from multiple applications can be combined and correlated to provide valuable business insights. For example, customer communications from the CRM could be run through a sentiment analysis tool to analyze the current level of customer satisfaction, and then overlaid with the customer’s payment patterns in the accounts receivable system. The finance team could be alerted to an increased likelihood of past due payment or bad debt. When SaaS is the predominant software model, engineers will spend more time on data and process automation projects as opposed to building new business applications from scratch.
These trends will require software engineers to develop different skill sets. Although it is popular for those in software engineering careers to view programming as a craft or a calling, the real need for these workers in a corporate setting is to create automation that increases revenue or decreases costs. Organizations hire software engineers to create a competitive advantage in the market, satisfy customer requirements, and optimize processes to reduce labor costs. Software engineers that are well aligned with business strategy are better positioned for career success than those overly focused on the technical minutiae of their chosen programming language. Software engineering jobs now typically require writing skills, problem-solving skills, research skills, and competencies in teamwork and collaboration.
What’s Your SaaS Career Strategy?
Whether you work in IT or not, the proliferation of SaaS will impact your career significantly. Your ability to adapt and learn will help you turn cloud technology into a competitive advantage in the job market. In future posts I will be offering some ideas on how you can leverage these trends to supercharge your career and thrive in the cloud economy. Check back soon!