The revolution of mass consumed and employee-driven SaaS buying is thriving. But this has brought several cost, security and data compliance concerns. Now, the case for better SaaS management is compelling. As a result, some pioneering companies are dedicating a SaaS specialist to help the IT asset management effort.
Companies are using more SaaS
Deloitte have confirmed that 93% of CIOs are either using or considering using SaaS. Given the reported volume of SaaS in most enterprises, these companies may actually be onto something.
Research from Okta reveals an average of 129 applications in use per company – and that only takes into account apps that utilize Okta’s single sign-on. For example, cloud security company Netskope has found the number to be 1,071 cloud services per company.
SaaS growth problems
Whether hundreds or thousands, the flow of new SaaS makes it near-impossible for IT asset management teams to accurately manage usage. Unused or abandoned licenses are a financial drain. Poor onboarding and off-boarding practices compromise sensitive data. And redundant tools across teams and departments hurt productivity.
Bloatware and cloud applications in general represent a real and present danger unless properly accounted for. And the larger the organization, the more complex the problems that emerge. This represents yet another reason why the role of IT asset manager is so critical to every enterprise.
ITAM visibility and control
As can be seen, the two key obstacles faced by even the very best IT asset management teams out there are A href="https://www.cleanshelf.com/resources/surprise-shelfware-is-absolutely-everywhere/">visibility and control. Without these two in place, no enterprise can be entirely safe. Right now, however, unbridled chaos is the norm.
One of the reasons for the SaaS model’s incredible success is that IT admins are kept out of the loop over software purchases. This makes them invisible, umeasurable and therefore unfixable. Despite these challenges, however, IT asset managers continue to fight the tide as well as they can. Using in-house software or static spreadsheets, they can get some semblance of order in place. But this is rarely enough.
With so much manual intervention and potential for human error or oversight, it is just not possible to track everything out there. It’s a wild goose chase – an exhausting and ultimately futile exercise.
Its therefore unsurprising to hear that IT asset management can feel like it's on a hiding to nothing. The truth is that the only way to do the job well is to be able to see everything you’re responsible for. But that’s far easier said than done, especially if you’re working on your own, using static spreadsheets and hoping for honesty from your employees.
An unworkable solution of managing SaaS
Until now, teams have adopted a scattered approach to organizing and managing software. Processes simply have not had the time to catch up to the cloud boom. Consider what’s common:
- Owned licenses get tracked in static spreadsheets by IT. This means IT staff have to schedule regular follow ups with budget owners to confirm any new SaaS purchases.
- Finance scours expense reports or collaborates with AP to stay on top of new deployments from IT or business line leaders.
- Legal department inventories new software contracts and relays new ones to finance or IT as means to discover new tools.
All of these practices have obvious holes. And each represent challenges in today’s SaaS-buying paradigm: no direct owner, limited visibility, and highly manual, error-prone process. Alarm bells should be ringing. And that’s why the best enterprises are dedicating extra staff to assist with the discovery process.
The SaaS specialist's functions
While many teams deploy Cleanshelf and achieve cost savings and grow visibility, the dedication of a single member of the IT asset management team to SaaS oversight may drive additional improvements. For some, the SaaS specialist role has already fast-tracked process development, helping processes keep pace with SaaS growth.
One of the keys to the role’s success is how it enables the success of other departmental functions. Within our client base, here are some of the ways we’re seeing the position develop:
The CFO’s cost saver
At the enterprise scale, CFOs may approve a major licensing agreement or renewal contract. They expect levels of utilization to warrant the spend. The SaaS specialist can deliver this insight quickly and accurately.
Moreover, partnering up with Cleanshelf’s customer success team can help them derive insights and market intelligence to ensure they’re getting the best available subscription rates in the industry. This specialist can also help finance make sure costs are allocated accurately to ease annual budgeting.
The department lead lifter
Department leads want their teams operating at max productivity. This means that employees stay engaged with mission critical software. However, CIOs have little way of assessing this.
Since the SaaS specialist has consistent visibility into usage, they can offer IT leadership a clear picture of tool use. Underutilized tools or licenses surface. As do issues with inconsistent use.
Moreover, since one individual has an organizational wide view of SaaS, they can share best practices from department to department to keep everyone using tools optimally.
The HR helper
Fast growing companies hire fast too. All too often, HR or hiring managers are forced to chase down IT to get tools bought and assigned. With a SaaS specialist, HR has a resource to systematically onboard new employees. New hires show up on day 1 with the right toolset to be immediately productive. Their tools match their teammates; no more adoption or onboarding lag.
A few short years ago, the role of a SaaS specialist would have been a questionable use of company resources. But digital advancements have made that idea old-fashioned. As we all know, Fortune 500 companies weren’t spending hundreds of millions on SaaS a few years ago. And the industry wasn’t an $85 billion a year market either (a figure that Gartner believes will rise to $113 by 2021).
Fortune Magazine reminds leaders that “the fastest way to achieve success is to first help others succeed. Yet, there seems to be a belief in the business world that the only way to get ahead is to only watch out for ‘number one’. That is simply not the case. [...] when you focus on helping others succeed your eventual payoff will always be far greater than your investment.”
So, ask yourself – can the chain reaction benefits of support and success brought on by a dedicated SaaS specialist help your company?
Ready to start controlling your enterprise SaaS?
SaaS management best practices
As well as reallocating staff, there are other things you can do to help things move along. At Cleanshelf, we have years of experience helping IT asset management teams get their internal processes right to manage the transition to visibility and control.
Here are our five key points to consider when dealing with SaaS in your IT asset management approach.
1. Spearhead your ITAM policy
You would probably nod your head in agreement if you heard that most staff are not acquainted with your enterprise’s current IT procurement policies. Are you being clear about what they can and cannot do?
Do your company’s staff understand that there are now automated ways to check what they are doing? Perhaps they are relying on this being absent.
Being straightforward and providing all employees with easily accessible guidelines will do a lot to help ensure that they are not buying SaaS that puts your organization at risk. Even if a free trial is purchased, that SaaS can still leave your enterprise exposed. Few if any employees would be aware of that. But you can help them understand.
As is usually the case, explaining the background behind your reasoning is more likely to get committed support. Even superusers may start heeding your rallying cry, giving you the boots on the ground you need to help implement your policies. Finance will support you too – they need to know how much the enterprise is spending.
Backing will also come from LOB heads, whose heads will roll if they don’t know what SaaS their department is using or how much they’re spending. Your allies will emerge.
2. Corporate governance
Now the tricky part. Enforcing your rules through corporate governance policies – and getting everyone to follow them. Of course, this is a great first step but beware: this will not complete the job for you.
From an operational perspective, policies might seem like they’re enough. But nothing could be further from the truth if there isn’t a foolproof way of enforcing them. There is still going to be a lot of data that you will not be able to access.
What is owned? Who owns it? Is it under-used or is the subscription otherwise unsuitable? What risks, if any, does the SaaS expose the business to? Which features are being used? When are the renewals coming up? Are you overpaying? What about duplication between enterprise and individual licenses?
You probably need no reminding what a nightmare it is to keep track of all this on a day-to-day basis. Something else is needed.
3. Risk discovery and management
You know you cannot control your IT assets if you cannot even see them. Without that visibility, the risk of hacks and data breaches will remain high. An automated solution is the only way to overcome SaaS security gaps.
It is worth bearing in mind the external threats you face, but what about the internal? What impacts could these have on your business. A few months back, the IT asset manager for one of our clients came to us with the following request:
“We knew this day would come – and it has. On Monday I have a meeting with our CIO, and I need to know everything that is out there. That means all details on department usage, spend and waste. I’ve had an analyst on this for two weeks, but we’re still no nearer getting these questions answered. Can we get this done now?”
Having already discussed the implementation and scope, we were able to jump in and help straight away. But not all IT asset managers have this luxury – the majority still use Excel spreadsheets and rely on lots of leg work.
Apart from wasting time and man hours, this isn’t going to put anyone’s mind at ease.
4. Fix problems
Once you see what is out there, you can finally understand the risks to which you are exposed. Once you know a problem exists, you can fix it. This might sound simple, but you would be surprised how often this is neglected.
The ticking time bombs in your IT asset stack are going to go off at some point, and it makes sense to be ready for any eventuality. Decrease your exposure through automated and real-time reporting. Don’t let problems fester and worsen. Nip things in the bud.
IT asset management is often a fire fighting position – find your asset issues while they’re embers and long before they become raging infernos. We know this is no fun, and can be incredibly stressful, which is why Cleanshelf is the go-to solution for enterprises who need an automated solution with actionable reports.
Now comes another critical factor. How can you prove that you do indeed have control? Here at Cleanshelf, we are all about reports, which we produce for you to show you exactly where your issues lie.
These will prove that you have a strong understanding of the IT assets your company manages. Here is just some of the data we provide to put your mind at ease:
- Number of services
- Anticipated monthly/annual spend
- Utilization by department
- Top services by spend
- License usage
- Monthly active members
- Renewal timelines
..and much more.
If you discovered Shadow IT we already wrote about best unmanaged SaaS practices that can help you tackle it in the right way since the leadership must have a central view of what is being used, where, and by whom.
Our customer success team works with you to ensure that you are not presented with just a raft of data. We provide actionable insights to help you fix all the issues we find.
These reports will become your best friend as they are a great way to get business partners onside with your efforts. Once they see the importance of tracking all IT assets, and how easy it is for everyone to see them, you’ll be more successful in achieving your goals.
It’s this ease of access to information that appeals to our customers. Getting everything you need to know in one place, with everyone able to view everything in real time, is the holy grail of SaaS. Instant answers should be the norm, not weeks-long and ultimately inconclusive inquiries.
Standardized reporting is the future – and let’s face it. It’s the only way to ensure everyone in your enterprise is singing from the same hymn sheet.
Houston, you have an IT asset management problem
Remember, it’s the app you don’t know about that will cause the damage. Murphy’s law always strikes when you least need it to. The only way around this is to set up the SaaS equivalent of “mission control” to keep your enterprise’s skyrocketing SaaS safe, compliant and optimized.
Focusing on this issue, and nothing else besides, is what is needed to capture all SaaS use and spend in real time.