SaaS optimization: What IT leaders need to know

SaaS Optimization: What IT Leaders Need to Know

What is SaaS optimization?

SaaS optimization is the continuous process of enhancing the performance, efficiency, and user experience of software as a service (SaaS) applications. This helps to ensure that your SaaS investments deliver maximum value to your employees and the business.

SaaS has changed how people consume software, who consumes it, and dramatically increased the amount of software used in day-to-day work. But, as with anything that grows so fast, there is room for SaaS optimization to drive a better, more holistic experience. A recent survey of senior IT executives drives the point home: as SaaS becomes accepted and as anyone within the organization can buy tools for their specific needs, organizations are seeing viral growth of SaaS spend and SaaS licenses. Giving employees across the organization the freedom to purchase the tools they need — when they need them — can help businesses fuel productivity, but it comes at a cost if not managed properly.

What prevents SaaS optimization?

SaaS sprawl is one of the biggest preventers of SaaS optimization. Rapidly expanding SaaS portfolios leads to:

  1. Limited visibility into what employees are actually using
  2. Hard to identify duplicative license costs
  3. Difficulty planning for productive renewal conversations with vendors
  4. Potential security and compliance issues

Trying to rightsize your SaaS footprint, licenses, and spend without proper visibility and insight can lead to a number of issues. Not doing enough can lead to duplicate apps, wasted license spend, security risks, and more. And, on the other hand, if you “cut with your gut,” you can inadvertently remove apps and licenses that employees rely on, leading to a productivity loss that outweighs any money saved.

So, how should IT and procurement leaders think about SaaS optimization? Here are the key things to consider when thinking about how your SaaS portfolio should be optimized across your organization.

Two approaches to optimize SaaS

As you embark on the journey of improving the SaaS experience for your team members, it is important to note that the term SaaS Optimization is often used in two distinct ways.

  1. SaaS Optimization often refers to improving application performance as your employee tries to access the application. Just like accessing an e-commerce site, slow performance can disrupt the experience and frustrate the user. Various networking tools aggregate performance information about SaaS providers, including the physical locations where the providers’ data is served. These tools use this data to measure the loss, latency and other common SaaS performance metrics from your locations to different services in the cloud. 
  2. The more common meaning of SaaS Optimization today refers to optimizing your SaaS spend and SaaS usage by employees. Are you getting everything you can out of each license you’ve provisioned? Are you provisioned at the right feature tier for each individual user? And are you spending the right amount of money on each SaaS license or application?

Naturally, these two different approaches to SaaS Optimization require different tools, though in the end they are both designed to ensure that your users have the best possible experience with their applications. 

Since case two is the more common approach to SaaS optimization, let’s drill deep on how you can achieve both license optimization and spend management around your SaaS applications.

SaaS optimization best practices

What should you focus on and what can you achieve with SaaS optimization? Keep these best practices in mind as you build out a strategy around SaaS optimization:

Gain visibility into your SaaS stack

Without a clear understanding of what tools employees are using, it’s impossible to address shadow IT and the security and compliance risks that come along with it. SaaS Management Platforms provide complete visibility into what’s actually being used in your organization and who has licenses and access to what apps. SaaS visibility is the first and most fundamental step to complete SaaS optimization.

Manage your SaaS costs

Without SaaS license optimization, spend can quickly get out of control. You might be over-provisioning licenses to users who don’t need them at all, or provisioning expensive licenses to users who don’t use the premium features. 

Eliminate duplicative SaaS apps

Chances are you might even have users with access to duplicative apps, like Zoom and Hangouts, or Box and Google Drive. Now you can quickly discover how many apps you have in each category and determine which ones are underutilized and may be able to be eliminated.

Budget for future growth

After optimizing your SaaS spend, take things a step further with footprint analysis and budgeting for each departments’ growth. Gaining visibility into which team is using what licenses allows for both rightsizing your SaaS costs as well as forecasting future SaaS spend by cost center. 

Automate SaaS workflows

To truly optimize SaaS licenses, you need dynamic and automated workflows that enable you to manage your licenses, so you can provision, deprovision, downgrade and upgrade by license tier for individual users. Save time and effort by automating license management so that everyone has exactly the right license type they need to get their jobs done.

Drive adoption and productivity

SaaS optimization allows you to drive productivity across the organization. By avoiding duplicative applications, you’re no longer creating information silos within the organization, and by managing licenses more dynamically, you’re ensuring your employees always have the right tools at the right times. It also allows you to understand adoption as new solutions are rolled out across teams or the organization. Understanding which teams are engaging with which applications enables leaders to work across silos and understand where employees are spending their time. It also allows you to double down on enablement when you identify gaps in adoptions, so that you can be more proactive with driving actual usage.

In order to truly optimize your SaaS, you need granular data and automated workflows to understand who is using which apps, when, and for what purpose. 

Benefits of a SaaS optimization platform

You might be thinking “Yeah, that all sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot of work!” The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone and it doesn’t have to all be manual. There are a variety of platforms that can help you with SaaS optimization.

One such tool is a SaaS Management Platform. These platforms provide a variety of capabilities that enable you to optimize SaaS usage and spend. But be sure to do your research, as functionality can vary greatly between vendors. Here are a few different functionalities to consider in these platforms:

Full visibility

Many SaaS Management Platforms claim to provide full visibility into applications and integrate with financial data systems to do so. They categorize this spend to develop a view of what SaaS exists across the organization. However, this may not capture everything and will not provide real-time data as employees may not expense items for months. Look for a system that integrates with your financial system, expense system, HR system (to understand who is using what, by team), your SSO and CASB for the most complete visibility into SaaS usage across the organization.

Engagement data

Many SaaS Management providers will label someone as “active” with a SaaS application if they have logged in within a certain amount of time. However, this doesn’t tell you if users are actually using the application and how users are exactly engaging with the tool Look for a solution that offers precise data on actual usage, based on what exact features someone is using and what actions they’re performing within the application

Automated workflows

Additionally, being able to set up automatic provisioning and de-provisioning based on actual usage is critical. To optimize your SaaS licenses, look for a SaaS Management Platform that will allow you to set up automated workflows that look at empirical usage patterns to determine what license types each individual user actually needs and action those licenses accordingly Being able to configure these automated rules to your needs is integral to saving your team time while ensuring your SaaS licenses are distributed appropriately across employees.

Renewal intelligence

Ultimately, the goal of a SaaS Management Platform is to better inform you and your team so that you can optimize your SaaS licenses, saving you time and money. Look for a SaaS Management Platform that enables you to be proactive and own the renewal conversation for all of your SaaS applications — know when your renewal conversations are coming up through a renewal calendar and get actionable insights on what exactly to renew. Your SaaS management platform should help you come to these vendor conversations with all the data you need to effectively negotiate the renewal that makes the most sense for your organization.

Why you should implement Productiv to optimize SaaS

The Productiv SaaS Intelligence platform is more than a SaaS Management Platform. We help organizations govern SaaS portfolios, rationalize SaaS spend, and streamline SaaS procurement for the most comprehensive approach to SaaS optimization across the organization.

By connecting into your SSO, finance, expense, HR, and CASB systems, we provide visibility across the organization into who has access to which applications.

In addition, our proprietary API connectors give you deep engagement data: not only who is logging into which SaaS apps, but how exactly they are engaging with it, which features are most used, and when. For example, by looking at Zoom usage patterns by feature, we know whether each user needs a Pro or Basic license, and can automatically provision, deprovision, upgrade or downgrade license tiers directly from our platform. At the team-level, it allows us to see things like whether one team is using Dropbox while the rest of the org is using Google Drive. We want to help you ensure that each user within your organization is using the exactly right tool with the exactly right license for them — and to allow you to have a view of usage across the entire org.

App insights dashboard tracking employee app engagement by number of engaged and provisioned users to help with SaaS optimization.

Our engagement data allows you to:

  • Optimize for the most efficient tech stack by eliminating redundancies and enabling users with the tools they need — down to the individual license level
  • Optimize for your SaaS security and compliance by shining a light on rogue applications that you may not be aware of 
  • Optimize for spend by preparing you for renewal conversations with granular usage data that is not available via other SaaS spend management platforms, so you can see who is using which features of each application
  • Optimize SaaS adoption by setting adoption goals and identifying gaps in adoption of new and existing applications

In order to truly optimize your SaaS applications, you need a granular understanding of what is going on in terms of SaaS usage across your org.Interested in learning more about Productiv’s engagement data? Sign up for a demo.

About Productiv:

Productiv is the only SaaS Management Platform built for bringing teams together. From new purchase requests to renewals, and everything in between, Procurement, Finance, and IT work in Productiv to align around trusted data, get AI powered insights, collaborate, make smarter decisions, and have confidence in every investment, at scale.

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