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The cloud shift: connecting data silos and taming SaaS sprawl
Thu, 4th Nov 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Technology has transformed how companies do business. Today machine learning patterns make startlingly accurate business predictions, whilst IoT delivers on the promise of a more connected environment.

New services provided through the cloud have enabled many of these new developments, with more cloud-based applications adopted to manage critical information and automate core business processes.

For business leaders, the ultimate goals from this cloud migration are to improve business productivity, alleviate the strain on staff, and generate better outcomes for the business. However, every advancement brings new challenges.

The shift to the cloud we've seen over the last decade has left many businesses with siloed data and disconnected applications – as a result, ‘SaaS sprawl' has accelerated and taken over.

To get the most out of their enterprise data assets, IT teams need to equip themselves with the right tools to connect every application across the organisation, regardless of whether it's in the cloud or not.

Understanding the problem

Instead of IT, cloud applications deployed in enterprises are increasingly brought in by individual business functions — from marketing to finance, to HR, and more. But this can often mean these systems 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 many resources and becomes difficult to maintain.

With a split data and application landscape, it 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 an HR data store or the marketing team might require customer details from the sales division.

Data silos slow down critical business processes and inhibit 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 often spend hours keeping tabs on disconnected apps and data across the enterprise, plugging gaps and connecting what they can to ensure business teams can obtain the promised benefits.

Finding a solution

There are steps businesses can take to tame disconnected cloud applications and SaaS sprawl.

First — putting a holistic IT strategy for cloud in place across all departments — one that is not a cloud application free-for-all across an enterprise or that encourages ‘shadow IT'. It needs to 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 can properly oversee any needed cloud migration, integration, or development requirements. This also means IT can see which other business departments might benefit from a new application and negotiate greater economies of scale if the particular app gains widespread usage across the company.
Another big step in rationalising cloud infrastructure is equipping IT and LOB teams with the right tools. As the capabilities of the cloud continue to grow, having the means 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 aren't feasible for modern enterprises. Modern low-code, self-service integration tools which harness the power of AI are the answer.

These help improve the flow of data within an organisation and transform how business users can leverage data as part of their day-to-day work. By automating repetitive integrations and automating common workflows, productivity surges and teams are freed up to focus on higher-value strategic projects.

Creating opportunities

Cloud applications can transform the way companies do business, helping streamline the onboarding of new employees, ensuring a consistent customer experience, and bringing about data democracy within an organisation.

However, without taking serious steps to open up data sharing across disparate applications, the true benefits of a data-driven organisation will remain a dream.