If you’re reading this guide, you probably know how difficult SaaS management is. We’ve been there—it’s why we built Blissfully.
In today’s ever-growing world of SaaS tools and platforms, a reliable SaaS management process is crucial to combat challenges like overspending and breaches in security or compliance.
In this guide, we’ll go over:
- What SaaS management is
- Why SaaS management is important
- The top six SaaS Management challenges that SaaS companies face
- Four processes you can improve with SaaS management right now
- How Blissfully can help
SaaS management is the process of knowing what apps and tools your team uses and who uses them. It’s also having a broad and deep understanding of your business’s entire software stack, including:
- Application usage and spend management
- Quick and effective response when you need to change software, end-users, or vendors.
With the right SaaS management solution in place, you’ll be able to have a better grasp of your whole operation. Through this solution, you can more efficiently run employee and vendor management, in-depth compliance audits, and better maximize your ROI. It’s never too early to implement a SaaS management plan.
In fact, starting early can help you establish processes and best practices across your organization—instead of waiting until your team is juggling dozens of tools.
The importance of SaaS management to you depends on your role in the company. For example, a CEO or business owner should care about SaaS management because it affects your bottom line. If you’re an IT leader, you’d want a SaaS management solution to manage your array of cloud applications and keep them secure. And if you’re in HR, you would care about SaaS management to automate your provisioning and deprovisioning activities.
In short, SaaS management reduces your business costs, helps keep your data and company secure, and increases business operation efficiency and productivity.
SaaS management is a new category of product that encompasses many disparate processes.
A SaaS management platform can include:
- Administration: A central location to view and manage any data associated with SaaS solutions at an organization
- Role-based access control: The ability to restrict access rights to software based on user’s credentials and needs
- Policy management: A function for creating, communicating, and maintaining policies and procedures concerning SaaS within an organization
- License management: The ability to document, cancel, transfer, or upgrade software licenses for your SaaS products’ lifecycle in one place
- IT workflow automation: A workflow engine to power the changes made and the ability to leverage automations to keep workflows running
- Reporting: A central system-of-record that surfaces necessary information to management
Good SaaS management means having a complete system of record of all your SaaS apps, SaaS licenses, vendors, users, and compliance data.
Plus you’ll want to keep track of all workflows and automations to ensure that every change you want happens and is recorded for auditing.
SaaS usage is accelerating rapidly across businesses of all sizes and types. In fact, the average company pays for 20 times more SaaS subscriptions today than they did five years ago and uses three times more free SaaS products than paid apps. SaaS has taken root across all functions and departments. Impressively, non-engineering SaaS spending rose from about 10% in 2010 to over 80% today.
Due to this SaaS adoption explosion, software environments are getting more and more complex, creating new challenges in SaaS management, such as:
The proliferation of SaaS naturally means businesses are investing in point solutions, which can be disconnected from each other, creating silos, and adding complexity to workflows. Often businesses have to deal with inconsistent APIs and no clear or central hub for managing their SaaS applications. At times, tools do not play nicely with each other, and opportunities for synergy and productivity are lost.
As you have probably experienced, SaaS can sprawl rapidly. Because teams can add and change apps quickly, new ones may be in play each week. It can be tricky for IT teams, procurement, or whoever manages tools to stay on top of who is using what, when, and how. This phenomenon is known as shadow IT. This is when business units or individuals purchase software without the IT department’s knowledge.
As software management becomes increasingly decentralized in an organization, it is common to find numerous SaaS tools with overlapping features. For example, many organizations use a combination of join.me, Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Google Hangouts, depending on the team or the use case.
It can feel like there isn’t a single solution that does it all, so it feels like you need to have everything available for whenever your team needs what a single solution offers. Maybe you get good analytics with one tool yet better publishing capabilities with another. This overlap can quickly spiral into chaos, and become quite expensive to manage.
Suppose you don’t know how many or what kind of apps your organization uses. In that case, it can also be challenging to forecast the costs of new hires since technology costs are different for each department and role.
There can be a wide margin of difference in costs between hiring a marketing manager who will need five to 10 very robust and specialized SaaS tools at her disposal versus a customer success manager who will spend the vast majority of his time on just two or three platforms.
Then there is the matter of getting each employee onboarded quickly to the appropriate tech, which can be time-consuming and very expensive for the organization.
So far, there is largely a lack of standardization regarding data security and compliance concerns for SaaS tools. For example, many apps use two-factor authentication. Still, not all of them enable it on an automated basis, so users may skip over it or only use it with some tools. It’s also hard to know who has access to which apps and where the data flows. Thus, there are times when adding new SaaS tools to the organization can also increase your risk and open you up to cyberattacks, lawsuits, and more.
Read next: “What Every SaaS Business Should Know About Compliance.”
Luckily, you don’t need a massive stack of additional software to properly manage your SaaS applications. Blissfully was created to solve the SaaS management challenge by building a thorough inventory of free and paid SaaS applications used across all teams in your organization.
By connecting app data with critical metadata on people and spending, Blissfully provides all the management tools you need to take control of SaaS chaos across your organization. We can help you surface the apps your teams love to use and typically find a few apps you aren’t using but still paying for.
Effectively onboarding employees is critical for any organization. It helps build culture and happy employees, which leads to a productive team and company. And doing it right is essential for security and compliance.
Onboarding processes should, as much as possible, be automated. Many of the tasks related to onboarding are repeatable and rote, so there is no reason that a human being should be directly in charge of them. When they’re an employee’s task, they may not always be at the top of the to-do list and can easily slip by for days or weeks—or never even get done.
If you implement automation, you can keep the process automatic and streamlined. We recommend that companies invest in a single tool that automates the onboarding process, particularly as it relates to SaaS technology.
Beyond streamlining technology onboarding, make sure that roles and responsibilities that can’t be automated are clearly defined and assigned to the appropriate team members, from the beginning. You can check in and ensure those action items are completed on time. This way, everyone understands what they’re responsible for and nothing slips through the cracks.
Effectively offboarding employees is also critical for any organization. It helps build a culture of security and compliance and protects you from liability. However, the process for offboarding an employee is often ad hoc or neglected altogether.
You can’t risk company or customer data leaks or security breaches. One of the best ways to avoid this is to develop tightly controlled offboarding processes. According to a recent SANS report, a whopping one-third of all companies have already experienced an insider threat incident.
A proper offboarding process dramatically decreases the odds that your company will be vulnerable to this type of attack. It’s easy for credential allocation and privileged access controls to slip through the cracks if there aren’t transparent processes in place, especially when offboarding. Protect your organization’s security by getting this right.
While SaaS tools can help your organization accomplish its goals more efficiently, they can also introduce security concerns if not properly locked down. Most organizations start with no policies or systems for security and tackle any issues on an ad-hoc basis. Since business teams are often selecting their own SaaS applications, security can fall to the wayside in favor of focusing on the user experience and ability for the app to address the need directly. Security typically comes last, if it even makes the priority list at all.
You can’t wait to think about security until after something terrible has happened. Both ad hoc and absent security policies can open you up to significant security risks. On the other end of the spectrum, some organizations employ arcane security practices around SaaS products that aren’t even remotely user-friendly and thus often skirted by employees. For example, some businesses force users to change their passwords regularly for no real reason.
You should rely more on sound systems and guardrails than user actions and training. Take human error out of the equation whenever possible. It’s best to have fewer vectors rather than more and harden these protections as much as possible. A genuine SaaS management approach includes taking a systematized strategy to security.
When you decide what SaaS tools to use and what controls to build around them, keep in mind any compliance mandates you’re beholden to now or might want to meet in the future. One popular framework to consider is SOC 2, which applies to many businesses today.
To meet many compliance mandates like SOC 2, you need to have robust SaaS management protocols in place. Hence, you know who is accessing which parts of your systems and why. That way, if something goes wrong, you can fall back on detailed audit trails to the exact point of when the problem started.
At a minimum, your organization should know which apps are in use, by whom, and what internal data sources these apps have access to. Check out our Ultimate Guide to SOC 2 Compliance to learn more.
Having comprehensive SaaS visibility isn’t the same as effectively managing your vendors. There is a difference between the apps you use and the vendors that sell them. This difference means subscription payments and managing SaaS renewals is not as simple as knowing when a single app renews. For example, many software companies offer more than one application: Microsoft offers Office 365, but also Dynamix CRM, Azure, and many more. On the other side of the equation, Slack is simply Slack. Here is where vendor management comes into play.
In many cases, the person who owns billing for an app or vendor is different from the person who owns the vendor relationship. Let’s take Salesforce as an example of a common tool many organizations use. You might have 20 or so salespeople using Salesforce, and your finance team owns the billing process. However, finance isn’t likely to handle this task when you need to set up a new user or change access levels for an existing user. Instead, IT operations or even the head of sales would. Managing vendors effectively means knowing who is responsible for each aspect of an app’s usage and any direct relationships or communication with the vendor.
Effective vendor management is renewal management. Many apps bill monthly, so the cash flow is predictable. However, vendors often offer a discount for annual subscriptions, with some even requiring you to pay that way.
Suppose you have a yearly contract in place. In that case, it’s crucial to have a reasonable amount of notice about an impending renewal if you want to make a change. And different apps need different lead times to make those types of changes. Sixty days is plenty of time to decide whether to renew GotoMeeting, for example, but not nearly enough time to make a wholesale switch from Hubspot to Marketo.
Every company’s vendor management process is different. In some organizations, it may be more formal, requiring requests to include a business reason and for each stage of the process to be captured for compliance. Suppose you aren’t that far along yet. In that case, it could just be having a complete view of all your vendors, spending, renewal information, and knowing who is ultimately responsible for the vendor relationship.
Read Next: “SaaS Service Level Agreement Fundamentals.”
Blissfully covers every SaaS management use case, including:
- business operations
- employee onboarding and offboarding
- SaaS spend optimization
- SaaS security and compliance
Blissfully comes furnished with a library of workflows and automations that collaboratively manage, control, and track SaaS tools across the entire organization. You can also create and save custom workflows to run again and again. Build and maintain processes that work, and streamline your SaaS ops.
Blissfully gives you a centralized dashboard to manage everything, starting with our dashboard and a complete list of used software. See here:
As well as deep spending, usage, and security data about each one—more on that soon.
Blissfully helps automate and scale the onboarding and offboarding process in a few ways.
Our workflow engine provides you with workflows and automations to ensure that your process is structured and scalable, with clear tasks for everyone involved.
All you have to do is sign up for a demo and create your workflow through the “Workflow Gallery.”
Click “Start new” on the workflow you want to begin and input employee details.
Then choose the individual tasks for this workflow. These can be assigned to anyone in the company.
From now on, all you have to do is retrigger the workflow, and it will automatically generate the necessary list of tasks for any new employee. Or customize by role and team.
Blissfully rigorously tracks software spending and usage data to make sure you’re maximizing your ROI.
From your list of apps, you can click into any one to see more details like in the image below:
Down to individual invoices that are saved for later review:
Blissfully logs all permissions and authentications, as well as key compliance data. All of this is surfaced in our database:
and in greater detail on each app page:
All of the above is united by our ’system of record’ and our Workflows and Automations.
Blissfully’s ’system of record’ is a real-time, single source of truth for an organization. Its software asset management (SAM) feature—like IT asset management (ITAM) but for software—gathers data from across the organization, integrating with your G Suite, SSO, HRIS, finance systems, and other software tools. The integration generates a complete report on all software used, including spend data, compliance status, billing owner, vendor, and more, giving you full visibility.
Blissfully helps teams optimize SaaS spending by accurately tracking and reporting SaaS costs across all teams and apps. It enables organizations to eliminate overlap and waste while ensuring better forecasting. With Blissfully, you will be alerted to upcoming renewals, so you are never surprised by a bill.
Managing SaaS isn’t merely being able to see the data; it’s also being able to make changes to the system in a sane, structured way. Blissfully’s workflow engine gives your organization that capability by allowing you to use our premade workflow gallery…
…and customize processes by team or individual.
Automations assign those tasks to individuals and teams based on how your organization defines them.
Blissfully empowers you to go from ad-hoc, wasteful SaaS sprawl to a streamlined and cost-effective strategy that enables your organization to get the most out of its investment in SaaS.
If SaaS management is your goal, request a Blissfully demo today.