What Is SaaS Sprawl, and How Can You Get It Under Control?

What Is SaaS Sprawl, and How Can You Get It Under Control?

Here’s a question: How many applications does your business use? Not just the apps IT manages, but all the apps being used by your systems groups in other departments as well?

If your answer is that you’re not sure, you may be experiencing SaaS sprawl — the result of a growing number of business SaaS apps being adopted by your organization (at the company, team, and individual levels). Yet another indicator is that apps are being adopted without contract through expense systems.

The good news is you’re not alone. As more and more SaaS apps have arrived on the scene, teams are increasingly selecting and adopting tools on their own. New Productiv data shows 56% of the average company’s SaaS portfolio is now Shadow IT. 

The same data shows individual departments are now using 40 to 60 apps on average, no doubt driven in part by the rapid shift to remote and hybrid work. The move to a decentralized workforce has led many companies and departments to increase their reliance on cloud-based tools, ensuring employees remain connected and productive.

The business impact of SaaS sprawl

As beneficial as SaaS apps are, there can also be real costs to allowing them to run wild throughout your organization, including:

Many SaaS apps are built around a freemium model
  • Fragmentation due to teams working in silos without a clear view of interdependencies
  • Paying for multiple apps that provide the same functionality
  • Overpaying for app licenses compared to actual usage by employees
  • IT time and resources spent on app provisioning and management that could be put to use on other projects

There’s also the security aspect. 

Many SaaS offerings are built around a freemium model. While that encourages people to try out apps, the ease of doing so can impact your organization’s ability to keep data secure and maintain security and governance standards.

Why SaaS sprawl isn’t a net negative

SaaS market to reach $122B by 2022

It’s not as if the SaaS market is going to stagnate or shrink any time soon. Gartner predicts that spending on SaaS applications and services will reach $122 billion by next year, which means demand is still heating up.

Plus, there are benefits to sanctioning ad hoc SaaS adoption within your organization. Often when an employee or department head goes searching for a new tool, it’s because they’re trying to improve productivity. By keeping an eye on these app trends, IT can identify tools that may prove beneficial for other teams or the entire company to access.

So how can you deal with SaaS sprawl in an effective way that doesn’t hinder team productivity? We’ve compiled 4 tips to help you get started.

4 tips for getting SaaS sprawl under control

Is your organization currently facing the challenge of how to rein in SaaS sprawl?  Try these tips:

1. Improve SaaS visibility

It’s difficult to take control of SaaS sprawl without visibility into all of the apps currently in your portfolio, including tools not owned by IT. You need a complete picture of not just how many apps there are, but how much you’re spending on each and how they’re being used. This level of visibility takes your IT out of the shadows and turns it into systems intelligence.

One way to improve visibility is by auditing all SaaS apps currently in use across your organization. Get a better understanding of tools by monitoring your network for unknown apps, surveying employees, and partnering with Finance to identify expensed app purchases. A platform like Productiv also provides these benefits without the hassle of a manual audit.

2. Establish IT as a supportive partner

Nothing creates a better environment for rogue SaaS purchases than a difficult-to-work-with IT department. Instead, encourage your IT team to be accessible and to collaborate with individual units. Put a process in place that allows team members to freely approach IT with new apps they wish to use.

How to control SaaS sprawl image

3. Create a vetting process

How can you stay on top of SaaS when so many business units are buying apps on their own? Proactively vet inbound app requests. 

When a department asks for new tools, IT should have a consistent method to audit them for security, compliance, and other details. A vetting process ensures a timely response to app requests and gives IT a uniform framework for evaluating potential app purchases. It also makes it easier to compare requests against the tools you already have, limiting the likelihood of a duplicate app purchase.

4. Try a SaaS management platform

Consider a SaaS management tool like Productiv. By using one of these platforms, you get a one-stop shop for visibility into all the apps in your portfolio, including:

  • Which apps are being used by which teams
  • Licensing costs and dates of renewals
  • Compatibility between applications
  • Usage of various apps, either via logins or, even better, how features are specifically being used

At the end of the day, you don’t need to be afraid of widespread SaaS use. The key is having the ability to successfully manage the apps used by your organization.

The more you can empower your employees to be productive, the better off you are. Being aware of SaaS sprawl and knowing how to manage it is the recipe to help you do just that without hurting your business.

Learn more about how Productiv can alleviate your SaaS sprawl pains. Schedule a demo today.

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