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Why SaaS Management Is a Must-Have for Digital Transformation

With the explosion of SaaS, IT leaders can either get apps under control or get lost in the chaos. Here's what IT leaders need to know about SaaS management.

In the journey to our “new normal,” following the pandemic, Software as a Service adoption has exploded. Cloud applications enable nearly anyone to easily acquire a solution for any given problem, regardless of where they are or what role they hold. Great for keeping the business running, not so great for managing spiraling SaaS stacks, complexities, and costs.

When I was hired as the first full-time IT expert in my company during a period of rapid growth, we had no idea what was really going on in our SaaS ecosystem. Critical data was scattered, incomplete, and often inaccurate. We only had an inkling about shadow IT’s existence and impact, and no sense of license usage. On top of that, we were relying on manual processes that only exacerbated the pains in our quest to manage SaaS. I was certain we were wasting time and money.

It quickly became clear we had two options -- build a SaaS management strategy to fuel the next chapter of our growth and digital transformation or get lost in the chaos. We chose the former.

Ways to get SaaS apps under control

As we considered our SaaS management approach, we identified three main goals.

1. Complete visibility into SaaS sprawl and spend

First and foremost, we needed a complete picture of the SaaS apps being used across the organization, who was using them, and how often.

At the time, the only way for us to gather that insight was to ask the right people the right questions, and manually keep track in a spreadsheet. When you have hundreds of apps, and thousands of employees, that’s not sustainable. Plus, it’s out of date as soon as it’s developed.

We knew we couldn’t fix this alone. We needed a tool with automated discovery capabilities to surface every SaaS app in our network including shadow IT, plus their usage and spend data.

I had used a SaaS management platform (SMP) in a previous company and knew that’s what we needed. Still, when we implemented the tool of our choosing, we were blown away by what we found -- more than 180 cloud apps when we thought there would be no more than 100, plus hundreds of licenses that were assigned but unused. We no longer need that spreadsheet. Instead, we have a single source of truth (SSOT): a repository for real-time, completely accurate, and actionable SaaS data.

2. Automated workflows and no bottlenecks

Before we embraced SaaS management, we were drowning in help desk tickets and repetitive, error-prone, time-consuming manual tasks, especially those related to onboarding, offboarding, and license management. Back then, our human resources team was responsible for creating new accounts for key SaaS applications, but we were growing so fast that they didn’t have the bandwidth to keep up. We needed automations to eliminate bottlenecks and improve operational efficiencies.

With the SMP, we created workflows integrated directly with our HR management system. The results were immediate. The moment someone is hired, an onboarding workflow instantly provisions all the app licenses they need for their role. This is just one of the many active workflows we use. Collectively, automations have saved us thousands of hours that would have otherwise been consumed slogging through manual tasks.

3. Support for a range of business needs

IT and HR were immediate beneficiaries of SaaS management, but it didn’t stop there.

Our business was growing quickly, and SaaS management became necessary for an array of business needs. For example, from a legal point of view it was important to share insight for the legal team into apps’ data processing agreements to ensure they were all GDPR compliant. IT security team required visibility into app risk levels and assurances that former employees were offboarded properly from apps to enhance data security. Finance and procurement needed real-time spending and usage data to assess the true cost of apps, to assess the road and execution of planned efficiency, and better renegotiate vendor contracts.

SaaS management helps us surface all the data and insights our teams need to optimize compliance, security, productivity, and SaaS spending. In fact, we reduced costs by hundreds of thousands of euros in our first fiscal year of using the SMP.

Seize the SaaS Moment

Securing buy-in for a new solution may be difficult in today’s economic climate, but the insights, cost savings and productivity you gain can provide great returns. We got buy-in by focusing on our most pressing needs at the time -- onboarding and automation.

Build your case in a way that prioritizes the most urgent problem your stakeholders want to address. If inflation and cost reduction are concerns, focus on spend management capabilities. If it's security and compliance, perhaps visibility and a SSOT are your priorities. If procurement is constantly chasing or missing contract renewals, a solution with a dynamic renewals calendar and unified data about every app, usage, and costs should be top of mind. If onboarding and offboarding are a major time-suck, build your case around automation.

SaaS stacks will continue to increase in complexity and given the global economy, businesses urgently need greater control over their apps and spend now. SaaS management is an easy way to accomplish this. It has made a world of difference to our organization.

Editor's Choice
Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer