Not all SaaS management solutions are the same. What’s right for your business?
Nov 09 | 6 mins read
Topics: Information Security, IT Operations, SaaS Discovery, SaaS Optimization, User Engagement
SaaS management solutions are many and varied, offering a range of spend management and SaaS operations capabilities - and, in some cases, a mix of the two. For this reason, you need to be clear on your objectives from the get-go, and choose a solution that gives you the features and capabilities you need right out of the box.
Why does SaaS management even matter?
According to a recent Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey, most organizations that allow their lines of business to procure SaaS apps are ‘significantly better than competitors in a whole host of factors, including customer experience and time to market for new products’.
While the SaaS delivery model is great news for end users, proliferating SaaS apps procured by the lines of business are notoriously difficult to track and manage. This can lead to some significant negative impacts, such as:
- multiple teams investing in the same software tools – but without the economies of scale of a single purchase order
- different teams using different project management software or other tools – making it hard to share information and collaborate across the business
- divisions or departments paying for more licenses than they need or use, leading to poor ROI from software apps
- lack of insights into which software tools work best for end users, and which are holding them back.
To make things better, many IT teams are now looking for tools that help them take a more proactive and strategic role in SaaS procurement and management. This can potentially deliver a wide range of cost savings, operational efficiencies, and SaaS planning improvements, as outlined in our last blog: 5 key benefits of SaaS management.
But with so many different SaaS management solutions available, how can you decide which one is right for your business?
The common denominator for SaaS management: application ‘discovery’
Every SaaS management solution will give you ‘discovery’ capabilities, helping you see which apps are running in your environment and who is using them. There are various complementary methods to support this, from scanning expense data to more ‘belt and braces’ approaches such as log analysis or a browser extension to monitor user activity. This makes SaaS management solutions fundamentally different from traditional Software Asset Management (SAM) tools, which tend to focus on software that’s ‘known’ and was formally procured.
SaaS discovery options and becoming Big Brother
There’s a critical choice to be made here around how intrusive you want to be when monitoring user activity to discover SaaS apps. Understandably, many IT teams don’t want to risk being perceived as ‘Big Brother’ by their users and colleagues. If your long term objective is to cultivate IT / business collaboration, deploying a browser extension to monitor user activity might not be worth the negative perception. Alternatively, if you’re very focused on data security and want a truly comprehensive picture of apps in use, there will need to be a trade-off… but even those IT teams keen on a browser extension will likely shy away from scanning users’ emails to identify SaaS invoices and sign-up confirmations.
Different SaaS management options will support different discovery methods. It’s important to understand your priorities and the trade-offs you’re prepared to make so you can identify the right tool for your situation.
Beyond discovery: SaaS spend management vs. operations management
When you look beyond the basic discovery capabilities, the differences between SaaS Management vendors and solutions quickly start to emerge.
For example, some SaaS management tools focus almost exclusively on spend management. This means they look at opportunities for cost reduction across your SaaS estate based on an in-depth analysis of your apps and licenses – ensuring you’re only paying for what you actually use.
In other cases, SaaS management tools focus more on IT operations management, with tools for automatically deprovisioning unused licenses, automating employee onboarding, and otherwise streamlining SaaS operations to deliver major cost savings. Another key driver here is compliance i.e. ensuring that user access is being granted and revoked in a consistent, repeatable and auditable fashion to support SOC 2 or ISO27001 requirements.
So, which kind of solution is right for your business?
There are several key questions you can answer to determine which kind of SaaS management tool is right for you. These include:
- Exactly what are you trying to achieve?
If your only goal is to identify and remove unused apps and licenses from your estate to optimize spend, a pure play spend management solution may well do the job. On the other hand, if your major headache is automating management of Google Workspace, you will need more than a spend management focused vendor can provide. Equally, you may be looking to automate some common SaaS operations tasks, such as license deprovisioning or employee onboarding, to increase efficiency – which also requires more than just spend management features.
- How well do your existing tools cover some of your SaaS management needs?
IT teams using Okta or Azure AD may have configured groups and workflows to manage user access to key enterprise apps. As we all know, this can be expensive to get right in Okta and painfully time-consuming in Azure AD… but if you’ve made those investments and are happy with the results, further automation of user onboarding and offboarding might not be your top priority.However, it’s worth remembering that Okta and Azure AD will rarely cover your full SaaS portfolio. Many popular apps either don’t have support for SSO (or indeed SCIM for user management), or they reserve these features for the more expensive plans. It’s important to get a true sense of exactly what level of coverage you have so you can augment the bits that are working, and implement new tools to cover any IT operations gaps.Alternatively, you may not have any solutions in place yet; either for SaaS spend or operations management. If that’s your situation, you could benefit from deploying a feature-rich SaaS management solution that covers both spend management and IT operations requirements, and minimizes the need to purchase additional tools in the future.
- Is information security a priority for you?
Unchecked SaaS proliferation raises the specter of ‘shadow IT’ and the attendant security risks. Focusing purely on SaaS spend tracking misses a whole raft of potentially risky user activity in relation to apps that might be totally free to use. By contrast, broader SaaS management solutions will monitor and flag users granting third-party access to company data or resources such as Google / One Drive folders or even their email accounts, helping you to take fast and appropriate action to maximize data security.
- Are you looking to actively engage with end-users on SaaS strategy?
While simple spend management tools focus on detecting and deprovisioning unused or underused licenses, they do little to determine if SaaS apps are really meeting end users’ needs. To achieve this, you might consider a solution that helps you collaborate with lines of business, both by providing distributed access to centralized SaaS management features, and by sending surveys to end users to get their feedback on the apps they’re using. Both of these engagement methods help you to get a clear view of user satisfaction, and to ensure that future SaaS procurement decisions are aligned with user needs and preferences.
Why Trelica for SaaS management?
In our view, SaaS has fundamentally changed the way businesses use software and while it’s attractive to focus on the cost implications of this shift, there are downsides to limiting your response to simply tracking and controlling SaaS spend:
- Spend control is a game of diminishing returns – if you’re building a business case based on the huge initial savings you’ve identified, it’s worth remembering that once you’ve optimized and are running lean, those savings will start to look less impressive over the longer term.
- SaaS is decentralizing your technology stack and that comes with certain IT operations headaches. Failing to address these issues will inevitably result in long term inefficiencies and compliance risks.
- By democratizing access to enterprise software, SaaS has changed the IT team’s relationship with the lines of business. Irrespective of which budget the SaaS spend is coming from, simply focusing on optimizing that spend misses the bigger strategic decisions around which technology is being adopted in the first place.
Trelica can help you take a holistic approach to SaaS management. From tactical, spend optimization quick wins through to ongoing efficiencies by automating and standardizing common SaaS operations tasks.
In addition to these benefits, Trelica allows you to engage with users across the business to ensure that your SaaS strategy is aligned to their needs and delivering the greatest possible value for the business.
To discover more about Trelica’s broad range of SaaS Management capabilities and the benefits for your business, take a closer look at our features. If you’re interested in learning more you can request a free trial directly below 👇, or use the ‘book demo’ button above to get in touch.