By Mike Vilimek
Oracle recently announced the availability of a new type of Cloud offering called PaaS. It stands for Platform-as-a-Service, and allows customers to develop, run and manage web applications without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an app.
Sounds very “techy”. Why should HR care about PaaS?
The Days of On-Premise Software
Before the rise of SaaS (Software-as-Service) solutions, enterprise software was delivered via on-premise installation. Customers would buy the software license, the hardware (servers) to run it on, find office space to store the servers, and hire staff to manage it all. All this was designed long before the rise of the Internet.
While expensive, on-premise solutions did provide the flexibility to tailor the application to specific customer needs, creating the ever-popular term, “customizations”. Customers enjoyed the flexibility to customize the application any way they wanted, but an unintended consequence soon arose. When it came time to upgrade to a newer version, all those customizations made upgrading extremely complex, time-consuming, and expensive. So much so that many chose to stay on older versions rather than go through an upgrade. Basically their customizations made it nearly impossible to upgrade to a newer version.
The Rise of SaaS
Then came along SaaS. Rather than each customer buying a license, SaaS allowed customers to pay a subscription to use the software via the Internet. This proved to be far more cost effective, eliminating the need to purchase and maintain servers and reduced the amount of staff needed to manage the application. It also enabled rapid adoption of innovation, because the customer was no longer burdened with having to manage upgrades on their own every few years. The SaaS vendor manages all upgrades and customers automatically get the latest features and functionalities at a far more frequent pace, often with multiple releases per year. But because all customers are on the same application, many cried, “hey, what about my customizations!” The benefits of early SaaS solutions came at the cost of limited to no customizations.
Configurations were the only way customers could tailor their SaaS applications to their business. This was not necessarily a bad thing, because it forced businesses to adopt the process best practices that SaaS providers had built into their applications. Regardless, many still want the ability to build additional functionality onto their 'out-of-the-box' SaaS application.
Typically if a SaaS customer wanted to add a business-specific feature, they would have to request this feature from the vendor and hope enough other customers request it too convincing the vendor to build it. With PaaS, they can now build it themselves.
If a customer wants functionality not available in their HCM core product, for example, a solution to support an ‘employee of the month’ program, PaaS functionality would allow that customer to build that new capability and clip it onto the app. Best of all, IT doesn’t have to tinker with the core HCM code to make that happen. So the custom functionality doesn’t inhibit the ability to take future upgrades. Customers can now replace the customizations they use to build into their on-premise systems, and the upgrade nightmares they would often cause, with a combination of configuration through SaaS and extensibility through PaaS.
So why should HR care about PaaS?
It means HR departments can now have the best of both worlds when it comes to their software systems. They can get the financial advantages of subscription-based pricing, reduced IT overhead, built-in process best practices, and faster access to new features and functions associated with SaaS software, while still being able build-out applications to suit their unique requirements using PaaS.
Mike Vilimek is an experienced technology professional and an active blogger and presenter on topics including recruiting and HR technology. At Oracle he is responsible for global positioning, messaging, and go-to-market strategies for Oracle HCM Cloud solutions. Prior to joining Oracle, Mike led the product marketing teams at Talemetry, a recruiting technology provider, and data analytics provider ACL Services.
Mike graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Marketing and International Business and was a member of the SFU Football team. Following graduation, Mike had a 7-year professional football career in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Follow him on Twitter: @MikeVilimek