Why the cloud doesn’t matter
The business user – whether in sales, operations, or HR – doesn’t really care about the cloud. What users do care about is accessing the information and the software functionality they need to get their jobs done. The deployment method – on-premise, cloud, or a hybrid of both – doesn’t really matter.
That being said, cloud solutions – particularly SaaS – are often chosen by business users because they meet immediate needs. Users don’t typically worry about what happens behind the scenes. That’s IT’s problem – at least until productivity is affected.
IT departments are keenly aware of the need to accommodate end user’s demands. In fact, according to recent survey of IT executives by Forrester Research, IT landscapes will dramatically shift in favor of the cloud over the next few years. Unfortunately, this shift is not necessarily a straightforward one, once integration issues such as data synchronization and user authentication are considered. Cloud services by themselves are not a panacea – and having a plethora of SaaS solutions that are not well integrated can actually hurt business efficiency.
So how can enterprises take advantage of SaaS innovation while getting the most from their IT landscape?
Focus on simple rather than simplistic
Single-purpose apps may appear to provide the simplicity that users crave – but SaaS silos can fracture a business. When relying on a loosely connected collection of single-purpose apps, users may need to toggle between multiple SaaS apps to complete one task.
In addition, many cloud implementations are far too simplistic and fail to give users the seamless experience they want. What is needed instead is coherence – everything working together from a systems perspective to simplify the user experience.
Use application extensions and APIs to support cloud deployments
The Forrester Research survey also found that 88% of respondents complained of SaaS inefficiencies and functional gaps.  It’s these gaps and inefficiencies that greatly reduce business effectiveness. Off-the-shelf SaaS solutions clearly fail to meet all business needs, but with application extensions, companies can fill in functionality gaps and customize their apps to meet their unique business requirements.
Application extensions are rapidly growing in popularity. Survey results suggest that the number of firms using them will nearly quadruple from 20% to over 75% in the near future. 
Rely on the right tools for integration
Integration tools are essential to aggregate data and tie cloud apps with back-end systems, but many companies are still relying on custom coding to get the job done. And it’s not an easy task. IT executives typically need to integrate applications from multiple vendors while ensuring master data synchronization and reliable real-time performance.
A truly mature cloud landscape precludes having to cobble together development tools from a variety of sources without knowing that the integration between back-end systems and SaaS applications will be seamless.
Think platform or PaaS
According to the Forrester study, “enterprises need multifaceted, secure, easy-to-use and scalable cloud platforms to achieve a cohesive, comprehensive set of solutions.” The key is to look for a cloud platform or Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is secure, scalable, and designed to make integration and app extensions easy.
SAP HANA Cloud Platform takes the PaaS advantage one step farther. Unlike other PaaS offerings, it includes SAP HANA, a powerful in-memory database that provides customers with a state-of-the-art platform on which they can build, run, and integrate their existing applications. With a built-in in-memory database, end users can quickly churn through and analyze large volumes of complex data.
Case study: Achieving fast B2G integration and compliance
Owens Illinois is a world-leading glass packaging manufacturer with a presence in 21 countries – including Latin American countries where governments must approve every invoice before goods can be shipped to the customer. When the Peruvian government launched an initiative to only approve electronic invoices, the company had four months to create an e-document system or risk losing the brand.
Fortunately, the company was able to deploy a framework based on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform – achieving seamless business to government integration in just 10 weeks, from contract signing to live operations. Now the company’s overall invoice approval process is much faster and can better meet complex security requirements for multiple countries. O-I can also use prepackaged content to speed up e-filings.
Case study: Bridging the gap between on-premise and cloud environments
Communications software company GENBAND shows the power of SAP HANA Cloud Platform to create an integrated, unified user experience. The company extended an existing call center application to allow a ticket to be opened from any application — whether SAP, Oracle, Workday, or Salesforce.com — and filter it through a single portal. When a ticket is filed, the call center knows what systems and products the user is on and can respond accordingly. Even if a user has applications from all four vendors, the call center experience will be consistent. The company also built chat and video functionality into the existing application and had everything up and running in two weeks.
Cloud vs. on-premise deployment is a debate that belongs to the past; most enterprises rely on both. End user efficiency is often hinged on the functionality of their company’s hybrid cloud environment and how well their on-premise software and cloud applications are integrated. The ability to extend, build, and integrate applications quickly to gain competitive advantage – and eliminate data and business process silos – is critical.
So while the cloud alone is not the magic bullet, pre-integrated platforms that help companies handle their cloud integration and extension applications provide the fastest route to success.