The size of the average SaaS portfolio is over 250 apps, with large enterprises averaging more than 350 apps. License management for these large portfolios places a heavy demand on IT and its operations. Companies can spend 2,000-4,000 hours annually — or more — manually collecting data from each app and then removing or changing licenses assigned to employees. The number of license events can reach into the millions.
Read on to learn more about the challenges of manual license management and how Productiv went about solving these pain points for our customers.
What are the challenges of managing licenses manually?
IT must consider the compliance risk of manually performing each licensing change. If a spreadsheet is used to track the changes needed, it can be out-of-date as soon as it is saved. Errors happen easily when making provisioning changes, whether someone accidentally skips over a row in the spreadsheet or assigns the wrong license type. The IT team may not realize a mistake was made until the next update to the spreadsheet.
Manual processes can also be slow: it might take IT several weeks after an employee leaves the company to deprovision all of their licenses. This makes compliance with regulations and controls, such as SOC 2, much more difficult.
Companies can attempt to address the shortcomings of manual license management by creating complex scripts to provide some automation. However, as a company’s SaaS portfolio changes, new scripts need to be written and existing scripts must be maintained. For apps with multiple license tiers, scripts must be built or modified to account for tier-specific license features. IT may find the reduction in time spent on manual steps is replaced by time spent optimizing the scripts.
Introducing the Elastic License Management add-on
Productiv’s Elastic License Management (ELM) add-on enables IT teams to automate their manual processes with workflows for license deprovisioning and license tier downgrades. Our SaaS Intelligence™ Platform powers the ELM workflows with granular, up-to-date application usage data.
Let’s talk about 3 key ways IT can use ELM to simplify and automate license management:
- Create no-code workflows
- Automate deprovisioning and downgrading
- Establish an automation schedule
1. Create workflows without coding to reduce manual steps
Using a no-code automation builder, you can set up automated workflows in minutes to help you manage licenses for an app. Workflows identify employees based on their license tier, activity history, and the selected organizational structure or custom user segment.
To ensure you don’t deprovision or downgrade the licenses of those who need access, the workflow will ignore newly provisioned employees and employees on the exempt list for the app. You also have the ability to notify affected staff by email or Slack before changing their license status. Employees can opt out of deprovisions or downgrades directly from the notification.
If someone has not used an application or its premium features in the timeframe you’ve set, you can automatically deprovision their account or downgrade their license. Alternatively, you can configure the workflow to provide a list of suggested employees to downgrade or deprovision if you aren’t ready to automate the action.
2. Automate deprovisioning and downgrading to reduce compliance risk
Deprovisioning is performed in two ways. When a Productiv provisioning connector is available, the workflow can remove assigned licenses directly in the app. If employees are accessing the app through Okta SSO and SCIM is configured for the app, the workflow can use Okta to deprovision the licenses in the app. They also will be removed from the app group in Okta — and not get re-provisioned the next time they log in to the Okta portal.
For applications with multiple license tiers, you can automate downgrade workflows to select employees who have only used features from a lower license tier. Those employees can be moved to the lower tier by taking action through a Productiv provisioning connector or via Okta SSO.
3. Establish an automation schedule and reduce IT overhead
After you set up a workflow, you can schedule it to run on a recurring basis in addition to running it on-demand. Scheduling combined with automated provisioning allows you to rightsize licenses in your app environment on your cadence for proactive and continuous optimization.
Benefits of automated SaaS licensing for Finance and Procurement
In addition to freeing up IT resources and reducing compliance risks, automating license management can help in your engagements with vendors.
Some application vendors allow companies to provision more licenses than they’ve contracted. Yet if licenses are right-sized regularly, unplanned true-ups from the vendor are less likely. Productiv’s SaaS Intelligence data reveals how many licenses are really being used, so finance and procurement leaders can proactively contract for additional licenses if needed.
With insights into how many of your employees are using an application — and what features are being used — you will be better prepared for renewal discussions. Rather than trusting what the vendor says you need, you’ll know what you need and avoid over-procuring licenses.
Elastic License Management in action at Databricks
Before the Covid pandemic, Databricks managed their portfolio of more than 300 SaaS apps in a spreadsheet. “It was straight spreadsheets and exporting logs from, for instance, Office 365 and Okta. It was very cumbersome and time-consuming,” said Ian Kennedy, Director of Corporate Engineering Helpdesk at Databricks. “We would find that we were still being charged for people who hadn’t been here for a while.”
Today, Databricks uses Productiv’s platform and Elastic License Management to optimize application spend. They avoided purchasing additional Zoom licenses for a year by moving employees who weren’t using paid features to the free version. Without this action, Zoom costs would have increased by 35%.
Formerly, deprovisioning was done as time permitted, in batches by app through manual license reclamation and custom coding. With Productiv, deprovisioning of all apps automatically occurs on an employee’s departure day, reducing compliance risks.
“Overprovisioning, cost savings, and time savings are major issues for us. And Productiv gives us a better position for bargaining with SaaS providers. It’s just invaluable to have the additional data; without that, we’d just be blind coming into meetings with SaaS vendors.”Ian Kennedy, Director of Corporate Engineering Helpdesk, Databricks
Want to learn more about how your company can benefit from the Elastic License Management add-on? Attend our upcoming webinar on March 16 @ 10am PST / 1pm EST on how ELM can give IT hours of their time back thanks to automated processes.
You can also schedule a demo to see ELM in action.