Software as a Service 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 — is the right thing to do for the business, right?
Well, not always. SaaS sprawl can quickly become a CIO or procurement’s worst nightmare:
- There is limited visibility into what employees are actually using
- It is hard to find duplicative license costs
- There is an inability to plan for productive renewal conversations with vendors
- There are possible security and compliance issues
This prevents SaaS optimization, as CIOs try to rightsize their SaaS footprint, licenses, and spend to what their organization needs. Worse, it leads to poor collaboration and productivity as you inadvertently create information and communication silos, and ultimately results in a less-than-desirable employee software experience.
So, how should IT 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.
Wait, what do you mean by SaaS Optimization?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
So what can you expect to achieve once you put these new SaaS best practices in place? Let’s start from the most basic and build up from there:
- 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. 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 those apps and determine whether you can eliminate them.
- 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.
Things to Consider in a SaaS Management Platform
You might be thinking “that all sounds great — but how do I optimize my SaaS today?” That’s where SaaS Management Platforms come into play. 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.
At Productiv, we are more than a SaaS spend management platform, We help with 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.
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 below for a demo!