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The Secret to Smarter SaaS Management: What Employees Want

If you are anything like the thousands of companies analyzed by leading access management platform Okta, you likely have hundreds of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications in your company. The explosion of SaaS applications in the enterprise, often purchased by teams and business units without informing IT, is no longer news.

What is news is how acute this problem has become. While 97% of the IT executives surveyed by Pulse Q&A think that it is a business priority to better manage SaaS applications, only 45% even know how many such applications are in use at their company.

Do any of these situations sound familiar to you?

  • The CIO wants to know what apps we are using, but our app tracking spreadsheet is outdated – again!
  • We are behind on new user license provisioning requests – again!
  • How do we know we need 1,163 of the most expensive license? Are people even using all those high-end features?
  • Another auto-renew put us over budget — again!
  • We are paying for four cloud storage apps… how do we even start rationalizing these?

Pitfalls of SaaS Management today

56% of IT teams still rely on manual, error-prone and frequently outdated spreadsheets and internal tools for SaaS management. Some use internal surveys to glean what users are using and what they need to get their work done. These surveys surface less information than expected – users who are purchasing SaaS on their own don’t want IT to interfere with or “shut down” their favorite applications.

Even if a company has started adopting a SaaS management platform for application discovery, you may only discover applications that have had a financial transaction or have users who have logged in, in a certain time period. This is a very narrow lens for multiple reasons:

People often sign up for free SaaS applications which may go undetected
Managing SaaS based on inactive users spotlights inefficient or wasted use, but does not show you how users are getting value
Many redundant applications (such as multiple cloud-based file sharing apps, team chat apps and others) will have similar counts of logged in or provisioned users. Without understanding how or how frequently the application is used, incorrect rationalization and rightsizing decisions are made.

There’s another thing to consider. In today’s world where employee choice is a key driver of employee happiness and retention, heavy-handed SaaS management by IT and procurement is not only unpopular but can have negative consequences. So what is the solution?

Employee engagement with applications: The secret to smarter SaaS management

Forward-looking companies such as Fox have realized that they need to make SaaS management decisions based on smarter, deeper user engagement data. They want to drive adoption of SaaS that delivers real value to their teams and their business. So they focus on understanding:

  • What applications are actually being used day in, day out by users?
  • What features of these applications are users actually using?
  • Are there trends or patterns in how different teams use applications?
  • Is there a difference in application adoption by teams, locations, devices, business functions or any other criteria?

Let me make it real. Here are 3 examples of critical SaaS management decisions made smarter with user engagement data:

1. SaaS renewal planning

IT leaders and procurement teams are demanding more control over their renewal decisions, and want it to be data-driven. This goes beyond just tracking unused licenses to manage spend. They want to understand what applications and features are in use, what users really need, and how that maps to license types.

For example, understanding how users are using the expensive features of high-end licenses for products such as ServiceNow leads to better decisions about license mix to purchase at renewal. In the example here, there are many users who have the expensive Fulfiller license type for ServiceNow, and their engagement shows they would be equally served by lower-end licenses. Using this type of engagement data allows the IT team to renew the contract with a more customized license type mix and save real money in the process.

2. License allocation and management

User licenses, once allocated, are no longer available for other users even if they are underutilized. Once you can track actual usage of features, it’s possible to make decisions such as:

  • Proactively upgrade a user’s license if they are often using features that seem advanced – they will love IT for it!
  • Warn a user and proactively downgrade their license if you see they don’t use high-end features – they won’t notice the difference and you will optimize spend

Ideally your SaaS management platform automates workflows so you can set it up once and see ongoing value. In the example here, we have it set up so that anyone who is provisioned a ServiceNow Fulfiller license but has only used the lower-end Requester license features gets downgraded.

3. Managing redundant SaaS applications

Often when redundant applications, such as Box/Dropbox/Google Drive for cloud-based file-sharing, or Slack/Microsoft Teams for team chat are in the mix, it is difficult to make a call on leaving them alone or standardizing on one. Having data about what users are constantly using and how they are using these applications can save you a lot of money, as well as eliminate confusion about which applications to keep active.


One of our customers made a smart decision about choosing between Slack and Microsoft Teams. If they had just compared the number of provisioned users on each, they would have been left managing two expensive applications. Instead they focused on user engagement and were able to standardize on one application.

The secret to smarter SaaS management

Savvy SaaS management is critical to streamline daily IT tasks, optimize spend and run a stress-free procurement process, and drive adoption of your approved applications.
The next iteration of SaaS management brings employee choice into the mix. Bringing in data about user engagement with SaaS applications means that IT and procurement can achieve their goals, while also giving employees the tools they know and love – a win-win for all!

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