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Remote work shift may boost SaaS management platforms

The rapid rise of remote work, thanks to the coronavirus, may spur interest in tools that can measure employee productivity, such as SaaS management platforms.

In Milan, Ivan Fioravanti, CTO at CoreView, is working from home, like so many others because of the coronavirus. In Italy, the outbreak has caused a rapid shift to remote work. His firm makes a SaaS management platform for cloud-based SaaS systems, including Office 365, something that may gain HR's interest, especially as remote work increases.

Features include workflow management and administration, but a SaaS management platform like the one from CoreView, which has dual headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., and Italy, can also help HR departments and business managers get a better understanding for the productivity of employees.

SaaS applications connect through APIs into the cloud-based management platform to provide application usage data. This can include anything from companywide usage to employee-specific data on applications such as Outlook, Skype or Teams, whether the employee is in the office or remote.

This monitoring capability may appeal to firms new to remote working, said David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, an HR consulting firm in Norwalk, Conn.

Firms are now adopting remote work that "were not interested in it before," Lewis said. "And that breeds a certain lack of sophistication about remote work."

Indeed, he said, the coronavirus will have a major impact on how work gets done. "The number of companies that will have people working remotely will outnumber the number of companies that don't," he said.

Employees may see this type of monitoring as big brotherish, Lewis said. But it may "calm the concerns and paranoia that tends to creep in to most managers" about remote workers, he said. Managers may be concerned that employees working from home are distracted and not giving the job the time it needs, he said.

Ivan FioravantiIvan Fioravanti

This shift to remote work is happening quickly in Milan, Fioravanti said. The coronavirus problem is "really becoming worse day after day," he said. Italy this week closed schools until March 15. Universities are closing as well, and the government is urging seniors to remain at home.

"Very few people are going to the office," Fioravanti said. "If you go outside in the city, you see very few people around."

SaaS management platform functions

Firms that are shifting to remote work and have invested in a SaaS management platform can decide on the level of monitoring they want, whether it's a department, team or individual usage, Fioravanti said. Individual level monitoring can tell whether an employee is responding to such things as emails and chats and is engaged with co-workers and thirds parties, he said.

Along with providing insights into how an application is used, usage data can tell whether a firm needs all the seat licenses it is paying for. Workflow features can be used to speed up onboarding, and SaaS management platforms often provide embedded learning tools, such as short videos for ongoing training, on specific applications. The platforms also include licensing management and IT security functions, such as role-based access controls.

If there is fear of an employee backlash, or legal restrictions in some countries about employee monitoring, the system can be configured to anonymize users, Fioravanti said.

It's the team's productivity that matters more than individual metrics.
Manjunath BhatAnalyst, Garnter

Gartner analyst Manjunath Bhat said SaaS management platforms "are increasingly becoming important to manage, govern and secure SaaS applications."

"It's less about measuring individual productivity, and more about ensuring that employees are making use of the productivity tools at their disposal -- and doing so in secure and compliant ways," he said.

Bhat advised against using SaaS management platforms to monitor individual employees.

"Organizations will see employee backlash if the tools are used to target and penalize individuals for not using productivity apps," Bhat said. What's important to measure is the application's "contribution toward business outcomes and not individual output," he said.

"It's the team's productivity that matters more than individual metrics," Bhat said.

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