Introduction to SaaS Management
SaaS management is a relatively new domain for CloudOps teams in various enterprises. You cannot do SaaS management unless you are thoroughly familiar with the understanding of your entire business software stack. You need to be familiar with tracking usage, spending, compliance, and quick and effective response in need of a change in software, users, or vendors.
A basic overview of SaaS management includes familiarization with:
- Role-Based Access Control
- Policy Management
- License Management
- IT Workflow Automation
Nowadays, it is quite common among employees in an enterprise to have several dozens of SaaS applications running. It is used across the enterprise in various departments such as Sales, Marketing, R&D, Human Resources, Project, and Product departments. Cloud Ops teams are facing increased challenges with the increased adoption of SaaS tools. Gaining visibility and management of all these SaaS tools is a significant challenge for IT departments nowadays.
What is SaaS Management?
SaaS Management is a relatively new product category that is a combination of many separate processes merged into one. A SaaS Management platform includes
- Administration – This is a central location to view and manage any data associated with SaaS products at an enterprise level
- Role-Based access control – It is the ability to keep software-based access rights on user credentials.
- Policy Management – It is a function for creating, communicating, and maintaining policy procedures concerning SaaS within an enterprise.
- License management – It can document, cancel, transfer, or upgrade software licenses for all the SaaS products of an enterprise in one place.
- IT Workflow Automation – It is the workflow engine used to power the changes made and is also the ability to leverage automation to keep workflows up and running.
- Reporting – It is a central system of a record that provides necessary information on the SaaS workflow of an enterprise to its management division.
Good SaaS Management means you need to have a complete System Of Record of all your SaaS applications, licenses, vendors, users, and compliance data. Also, the workflows and automation ensure that every change that an enterprise wants to make happens and is recorded for auditing purposes.
Nowadays, the use of SaaS has elevated logarithmically. Enterprises pay 20 times more on SaaS subscriptions than they did five years ago. They use three times more free SaaS products than paid applications. We can see that SaaS has spread its roots in all functions of most departments of all enterprises, and impressively non-engineering services spend more money on SaaS than any other services according to sources. The increments in non-engineering services have risen from about 10% in 2010 to around 80%.
In summary, SaaS management is nothing but a business practice that actively monitors and manages the purchasing, onboarding, licensing renewals, and offboarding of all the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications within an enterprise’s technology portfolio. SaaS was developed in response to unique attributes of applications in an enterprise-level environment. SaaS Management is quickly growing into specialized practices for IT, procurement, and business leaders. The aim of using SaaS Management is to reduce risk from unmanaged tools and technologies and improve the value of purchased software. In the meantime, it also increases the effectiveness of users using SaaS applications regularly.
How to manage SaaS
To manage SaaS, these are some of the best practices:
- All your Saas applications have a system of records
- Classification of the application lifecycle
- Mapping users and usage
- Record contracts, licenses, and renewal dates
- Governing security and compliance
- Controlling SaaS cost and optimizing spending
- Discover Applications
- Analyze usage
- Optimize costs
- Vendor Management
- Onboarding and Offboarding of employees
- Adding and removing SaaS applications
- SaaS Application Pre-Purchase Review
I will describe the advantage of these practices and apply them to your SaaS Management system in your enterprise.
System of records for all the SaaS applications
The foundation of SaaS Management depends on whether you have a single system of records or multiple records. You cannot manage what you don’t understand, so your system of records of your SaaS should be complete and updated regularly.
Your record should possess the following categories of data:
- SaaS application name
- Link to the website
- Owner of the system
- Legal information
- Compliance information
Classification of the application lifecycle
The SaaS application lifecycle process is a conceptual framework for documenting and managing all activities associated with its journey within an enterprise. SaaS Management processes for each lifecycle include pre-purchase, onboarding, managing, measuring, renewing, and offboarding. Developing best practices at each stage of the application’s journey helps safeguard the enterprise from undue risks.
Mapping users and usage
Once established the list of applications and their lifecycle, you should map the actual uses of each SaaS application, and its usage. This serves the goals such as:
- Access management
- Cost management
- Employee offboarding
Record contracts, licenses, and renewal dates
Recording all relevant documents of a SaaS application is good practice as it saves you both time and money. Storing documents of the SaaS vendor and the SaaS system of records is logical and ensures that all the relevant documents and information are stored where you can find them. This way, you do not lose track of them. Also, keeping your renewal dates as well as the system notifying you ahead of time when the renewal date is near and completes your system of records.
Governing security and compliance
European customers have a mandatory law to maintain GDPR. These regulations also make the governing and security compliance not only a good business practice but also helpful for the customers. The actions that must be taken to keep security and compliance under control are:
- deploy a Single Sign-On solution (SSO)
- Map your SaaS sub-processes and their compliance statements
- View the granted permission levels to the various SaaS tools
Controlling SaaS cost and optimizing spending
When spend spread among different business units, keeping the costs under control is a very challenging task for SaaS managers. The payment methods that reduce SaaS spend visibility for IT are credit cards, invoices, and wire transfers. The spend control is low when the visibility is low, which leads to wasted money, so it is vital to create a SaaS spend dashboard. Once the various business units have excellent visibility on costs, they can easily optimize and control it hence saving money and reducing waste.
Applications of SaaS are easy to adopt, and quickly, an enterprise finds itself with hundreds of SaaS applications to manage. Making sure there is an automated process mapping the sanctioned and unsanctioned applications is necessary.
Knowing the usage of the applications is an integral part of managing SaaS applications. Hence we need a simple way of collecting all data points regarding SaaS usage into one data warehouse.
Though SaaS brings innovation and speed to companies, it is common for enterprises to have less visibility over the cost. Hence, understanding and prediction of the real cost of applications should be automated and presented to forecast optimizations.
Some SaaS applications are purchased but have no usage, still there kept since the utilization of data is missing. Contract renewals should also be data-driven and based on previous data usage and cost. This leads to leveraging our analysis to save money and make better decisions. This is where managing vendors come into play.
Onboarding and Offboarding of employees
There is always a need for an up-to-date list of applications per role in the enterprise as new employees have dozens of applications they need to get access to. When your employees leave, make sure they no longer have access to your company’s data. Hence the management of onboarding and offboarding employees is essential.
Adding and removing SaaS applications
Nowadays, employees can just register an account with a SaaS provider and go under the radar. At the same time, there is still a need to streamline introducing new applications into the organization.
When a company decides to remove an application, there is a need to understand what data this provider holds and make sure it moves to other services or is backed up before it is deleted.
SaaS Application Pre-Purchase Review
A good strategy for a pre-purchase review of any SaaS application can preserve its value while preventing risk, and also it can help plan for an introduction to a new tool. Review processes vary from company to company based on the capacity, resources, and capability of that application. Other organizations may also employ review boards comprised of stakeholders from all fields such as legal, finance, procurement, and IT.
Nowadays, SaaS applications have become a crucial part of any enterprise. This complete guide to SaaS management for an enterprise CloudOps team will give you a brief overview of what is SaaS management and how to manage SaaS applications to have a systematic and cost-effective system.