Thinking about SaaS only in terms of dollars and time is short-sighted.

Yes, cloud apps reduce maintenance and management. But realizing these savings after SaaS deployment requires more than just a buy-and-unleash approach. Plans for configuration, customization, centralization, and ongoing service review and management must be present for long-term value.

Together, they help companies achieve what they set out to with SaaS: improved security, productivity and cost savings.

To ensure we’re all on the same point, we’ll first cover the basics of SaaS deployment by going through its definition, common models and goals, and conclude with the steps for a successful deployment.

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What is a SaaS Deployment?

Deployment refers to the installation and delivery of cloud software. This is usually initiated by a SaaS provider via an automated user provisioning process.

Deploying SaaS requires minimal IT dependency for application maintenance; in most cases, vendors take care of infrastructure risks to maintain availability and protect against disaster or recovery issues. One downside is that control is handed to a third party – companies must be comfortable with vendors’ handling of their sensitive data.

Conversely, enforcement, and compliance is often handled at the vendor level. For companies governed by regulatory bodies with regularly changing requirements, this is useful.

Top reasons for SaaS wasted spend in 2019 found by Cleanshelf

Any deployment conversation must reference a common issue: over-licensing. In these situations, companies buy in anticipation of future-growth – often, because of cost incentives. However, utilization is rarely rationalized. Renewals are on auto-pilot, and cash is burned regardless of usage levels.

In a previous article discussing SaaS over-licensing, Cleanshelf found that:

“...SaaS deployments are rarely offset by corresponding audits or maintenance of spend. This creates financial strain through pervasive under-utilization of software.”

What are common SaaS Deployment Models?

Today’s most common deployment models are multi-tenant and single-tenant. Each of these are summarized below.

  • Multi-tenant

    DigitalGuardian offers a simple definition: “Multi-tenancy means that a single instance of software and its supporting infrastructure serves multiple customers. Each customer shares the software application and also shares a single database.”

    It should be noted that in a multi-tenant environment, each tenant’s data is invisible to other tenants. Nearly all public cloud offerings are multi-tenant.

    Multi-tenant SaaS deployment model by Cleanshelf
    In multi-tenant SaaS deployment model single SaaS serves multiple customers with shared database that are invisible to other tenants.

    Benefits of multi-tenant SaaS Deployment

    The benefits of multi-tenancy are many. First, customers share the environment costs, and application integrations through API are common. Configuration can also be done without touching the underlying code base.

    Drawbacks include limited management and reduced access and control for security purposes. As well, because this model is on-demand, it gives rise to “bottom up” adoption of software, or shadow IT.

  • Single-tenant

    Single tenancy means that each customer has their own independent database and software instance. Dev sandbox and staging environments often run under this model. Another example: a company rolls enterprise workloads over to cloud providers, but wants private network service access. This is a single-tenant, private cloud, deployment.

    Single-tenant SaaS deployment model by Cleanshelf
    In single-tenant SaaS deployment model each customer gets their own SaaS instance and database.

    Benefits of Single-tenant SaaS deployment

    Benefits are security, customization, and dependability. However, setup, cost, and maintenance issues are more pronounced. Companies pay a premium to have a dedicated infrastructure. These deployments are common among organizations needing tight controls like government agencies, financial institutions, and telecoms.

What ARE the goals of a SaaS deployment?

Two outcomes mark every successful deployment plan: data security and user engagement. To ensure these, establish support steps during the planning and execution phases.

Data Security

First, ensure that any vendors can provide relevant security credentials and communication, and on-boarding plan for end-users. Verify data hosting controls, application security features, and assurance of secure, mobile working. Ensuring SOC 2 compliance is an example of this. Validating a service organizations’ security, availability, and processing integrity controls is also a must-do.

As we wrote earlier this year, the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. Combined with reputational damage, this is potentially devastating. As do your security due diligence, we advise asking these four questions of any cloud vendor.

Relevant security credentials, communication and on-boarding plans are the first steps to ask a SaaS vendor.
SaaS vendor need to provide relevant security credentials and communication, and on-boarding plan, plus verifying hosting controls and security features for end-users.

User Engagement

Next, make sure that the software you deploy is user friendly. The productivity gains you want from app usage depend on this. As Huddle notes:

“The minute workflows become broken, users will abandon the tool and default back to what (historically) worked for them. The result will be poor user adoption and even increased security risks as users try to circumvent the new process.”

Establish training, guidance, and other change management steps in your deployment schedule. These should increase users’ understanding of SaaS tools and incentivize their use. Easy-to-use tools that make employees’ lives demonstrably easier will get used. Others won’t.

Ensuring SaaS user engagement is one of the goals during SaaS deployment as found by Cleanshelf
Each engaged user is an important goal to achieve when adopting SaaS.

Bonus outcome...Business Risk Mitigation!

Once SaaS is up and running, don’t neglect basic business continuity – especially as you build critical sales or operational functions around someone else’s software. Have ‘plan Bs’ for issues like:

  • What happens when a vendor goes out of business or stops supporting your solution?
  • What are the data ownership and migration policies?
  • What does data retrieval look like?
  • Is there financial or other compensation for outages or lost data?

How to successfully deploy SaaS?

CIO Magazine reports that 90% of organizations feel confident in using cloud technologies, but only 44% have achieved large-scale adoption. Better effectiveness – including reduced costs and more adoption – depends on three keys.

Thorough vendor review

Just because a tool is popular, does not mean it is right for you. Organizations have different needs; app functionality, pricing tiers, integrations, and included support vary, even for competing tools. IT should understand how users will use an application, then have vendor conversations with these findings as a backdrop.

It’s easy to adopt a one-size-fits-all mindset, especially with workplace apps like Microsoft 365 and Google Suite. Compare vendors and review license types closely. You may find our SaaS vendor evaluation tool very useful.

Complete a thorough SaaS vendor review by checking SaaS' functionality, pricing tiers, integrations, and included support when deploying SaaS.
Review SaaS' functionality, pricing tiers, integrations, and included support to ensure it fits your needs.

Central management and visibility

Deploying SaaS haphazardly – whether sanctioned, IT-led purchases, or from employees trialing and buying license one-off – means redundancies, security issues, and lost productivity. IT and business leaders need to take charge.

These teams must systematically identify users’ needs, vet vendors, negotiate rates, maintain visibility, and ensure usage. These disciplines should be routine – and performed for every software purchase.

If not, you’ll find out the hard way. Like one Cleanshelf client who, after adopting the platform, found nine different project management apps inside their org.

SaaS management discipline can help you gain central management and visibility of your SaaS vendors.
SaaS management discipline can help you gain central management and visibility of your SaaS vendors.

Training, engagement and feedback

One Cisco VP shares that, “The primary cause for attrition from SaaS is that a cloud implementation was not what users were expecting it to be, so they only use the product at 20% of its capability. If you solve implementation, adoption becomes more meaningful.”

Finding business value requires that end users (e.g., your ‘customers’) understand how to use applications. For example, perhaps there are integration steps and workflows between legacy systems and new apps. These must be described and trained.

Simplilearn reminds that the half-life of a training course is two weeks. Two weeks after a student is trained, he or she will forget half of the content. In two more weeks, they’ll forget another 50%.

It is desirable to gather feedback from employees once the product is deployed. Not everyone will be willing to cooperate but those who will can help you answer questions and concerns that others might have but are afraid or too shy to ask.

Education is cemented by doing. Usage and skills must be reinforced and monitored early on to maximize cloud investment.

Recognizing integration steps and workflows, educating employees by doing, and gathering feedback will ensure to better train employees.
Recognizing existing integration steps and workflows will ensure to better train employees and guarantee a successful SaaS deployment.

This is where usage visibility is important. Companies should maintain visibility into every license and its accompanying usage during implementation. With a SaaS management tool, it’s easy: if someone isn’t logging in, managers can step in and help or reinforce usage expectations.

Consider: SaaS management platform

Trying and buying SaaS is so simple that companies are lulled into lazy deployments. This is a sure way to shrink return and frustrate users.

If you have a sizable deployment, don’t try it alone. Expand your strategy to include a SaaS management solution that aligns with the priorities described above. It will give you the control of SaaS spend, insights, visibility, and access to pricing and vendor data you need to make better decisions, faster.

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About Cleanshelf

Cleanshelf is the leading enterprise SaaS management platform focused on tracking, controlling, and benchmarking SaaS applications. Their SOC 2-compliant and AI-powered technology helps companies save up to 30% on their SaaS spending by automatically identifying unmanaged contracts, duplicate licenses, and wasted cloud software subscriptions. Based in San Francisco, Cleanshelf provides an enterprise-grade solution to over a hundred clients, including Qumulo, Wodify, and CoStar Group.

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