Published on 2 September 2013
SaaS applications are a double-edged sword. On one hand, they offer benefits like low cost and anywhere computing. However, their siloed nature can be a problem for management and productivity. This week we will take a look at a solution that lets companies and employees manage all of their corporate SaaS applications in one place to provide a seamless work environment and enhanced user functionality.
According to its website, Bitium functions like a SaaS operating system. Much like an operating system, Bitium is a place to manage and control different SaaS apps from a single application. Thus, you do not need multiple logins or credentials; by using Bitium's Single-Sign-On functionality, you can check your social media accounts, send important emails, administer your website, or respond to customer service requests through SaaS customer relationship apps, without having to remember any of the underlying passwords. More importantly, from a management standpoint, administrators can easily assign and revoke employee access to SaaS apps from one place and save substantial time onboarding and offboarding employees. They can also view reports on app usage, integrate with authentication systems like Active Directory or Google Apps, and organize apps into groups for convenient management.
The scope of Bitium's operations is pretty broad. According to Scott Kriz, chief executive officer, Bitium supports more than 600 apps, with more added constantly based on customer requests. These apps include publicly available consumer applications such as Facebook, business applications such as Salesforce and Dropbox, and even private apps that have been developed in-house and are only visible to the company that installed them.
Kriz says Bitium is a simple way to manage which users in a company can access corporate applications. In addition, it can be used for business processes. For example, the delegation feature within Bitium makes it fast and seamless to give new employees access to all of the tools they need to do their job. For apps where multiple people in a company share the same login for an app (like a corporate Twitter account) access can be given through Bitium without sharing usernames and passwords. Bitium also focuses heavily on user experience and features that enhance the applications that are being used.
You can add an app as an administrator as well as a user. Addition of an app is an extremely simple process. Once you are logged into Bitium, select an app and enter login credentials. The simple configuration process belies a sophisticated and innovative feature list. In turn these features enhance productivity and reduce bureaucracy. For example, Kriz says the consolidated message center decreases email volume by consolidating App messaging in Bitium. Similarly, an integrated chat engine enables you to connect with stakeholders and your co-workers directly from inside your applications.
Another useful feature relates to creating organizations within the system. All users within Bitium are grouped into organizations. In turn, each organization has a custom set of applications and security permissions. Using the application, you can create a hierarchy of multiple organizations within the application. This can be an especially useful when you are working with contractors or freelance entities. Using this feature, you can establish a community of freelancers with custom permissions. This feature can also be helpful for organizations with multiple locations.
Each application can be categorized and labeled as Groups. Users can also subscribe to particular applications. As an admin, you can also view reports on which users are accessing apps, when, and from which IP address.
The solution uses browser extensions to make the app experience seamless. Thus, you can bookmark your most-used apps or navigate to specific pages in your apps without explicitly logging into them. This is, of course, in addition to the solution's single-sign-on features. According to Kriz, about half of their apps require a browser plugin to log in. I was interested in knowing more about this feature. Kriz explains that plugins enable them to authenticate simply and easily from server to the plugin to the server.
Kriz's description of his solution as a SaaS operating system is apt. Much like an operating system, the application enables you to perform multiple tasks and activities seamlessly. You do not need to switch between multiple applications and windows. What's more the security access and permission management features make it simpler and easier to manage access control for multiple users and organizations.
The reporting feature, which details user activity is also useful to optimize your reporting activity. It might be interesting for the application to add more reports and features to the mix. For example, a report that details user issues with applications as well as amount of time spent per application might provide valuable insight to administrators.
The solution is available in two flavors: paid and free. The free product can be used for unlimited apps and unlimited users and includes all basic features, including single sign on. The Premium product, which offers more features than the free version, is not charged per user, but rather a base monthly fee with extra cost associated with a number of administrator accounts required by a company. They also have a "Premium Plus" version that includes integration with a company's authentication system (like Active Directory, LDAP, or Google Apps).
I think the application is extremely useful. It is a productivity enhancement app as well as an operating system that connects multiple elements of your SaaS ecosystem into a single cohesive whole.