If you’re reading this guide, then you probably know how difficult SaaS Management is.
SaaS management is more than just knowing what apps and tools are in use and who is using them, it’s having a broad and deep understanding of your business’s entire software stack, tracking usage and spending, compliance, and being able to respond quickly and effectively when you need to change software, users, or vendors.
With a good SaaS management system in place, employee and vendor management, compliance audits, and maximizing your ROI become much simpler.
In this guide, we’ll go over what SaaS management is, the top 6 SaaS Management challenges that SaaS companies face, and 4 processes that you improve with SaaS management right now, and how Blissfully can help.
What is SaaS Management?
SaaS Management is a new category of product that encompasses many disparate processes. A SaaS management platform includes:
- Administration: A central location to view and manage any data associated with SaaS products 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 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, licenses, vendors, users, and compliance data, plus the workflows and automations to be sure that every change you want to make happens and is recorded for auditing.
SaaS usage is accelerating at a rapid pace 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 spend rose from about 10% in 2010 to over 80% today.
SaaS Management Challenges
Due to this SaaS 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, 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.
Lack of Visibility
As you have probably experienced, SaaS can sprawl rapidly. Since teams are able to add and change apps rapidly, there may be new ones in play each week, and it can be really tricky for IT or whoever manages tools in the organization to stay on top of who is using what, when, and how.
As software management becomes increasingly decentralized in an organization, it is common to find numerous SaaS tools with overlapping features. As an example, many organizations use a combination of join.me, Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and/or Google Hangouts, depending on the team or the use case—or just arbitrarily. Other times it can feel like there isn’t a single solution that can do it all (maybe you get good analytics with one tool but better publishing capabilities with another), so it feels like you need to have everything available. This can quickly spiral into chaos.
Human Resource and Finance Challenges
If you don’t know how many or what kind of apps your organization uses, it can be also difficult 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, for example, hiring a marketing manager who will need five to 10 very robust and specialized SaaS tools at her disposal and 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 thus expensive for the organization.
There is a lack of standardization at this point when it comes to security and compliance concerns for SaaS tools. For example, many apps use two-factor authentication, but 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 is flowing. 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.
Best Practices for SaaS Management
Luckily, when it comes to SaaS management, you don’t need a huge stack of yet more software to get the job done. 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 spend, Blissfully provides all the 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’re paying for without using.
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 important 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 are 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 get done). If you implement automation, you can keep the process, well, automatic!
They should also be streamlined. We recommend 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. Check-in and ensure that action items are completed in a timely manner. This way, everyone understands what they are 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 it protects you from liability. However, often the process for offboarding an employee is ad hoc or neglected altogether.
You can’t risk company or customer data leaks or security breaches, and one of the best ways to avoid this is to develop tightly controlled offboarding processes. A whopping one-third of all companies have already experienced an insider threat incident, according to a recent SANS report.
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 clear processes in place, especially at the moment of offboarding. Protect your organization’s security by getting this right.
Facilitating Security and Compliance
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 off 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 directly address the need. If it makes the list, security is often the last priority.
You can’t wait to think about security until after something bad has happened. Both ad hoc and absent security policies can open you up to major risks. On the other end of the spectrum, some organizations employ arcane security practices around SaaS products (like forcing users to change their passwords at regular intervals for no real reason) that are not even remotely user-friendly and are thus often skirted by employees.
You should rely more on reasonable systems and guardrails than on user actions and training. Take human error out of the equation whenever possible. It’s best to have fewer vectors, rather than more, and to harden these protections as much as possible. A true SaaS management approach includes taking a systematized approach to security.
You want to ensure that when you make decisions about what SaaS tools to use and what controls to build around them, you keep in mind any compliance mandates you are beholden to now (or may want to meet in the future). One popular framework to look at is SOC 2, which applies to many businesses today.
To meet many compliance mandates like SOC 2, you need to have strong SaaS management protocols in place so you know who is accessing which parts of your systems and data, when, and why. That way, if something goes wrong you can fall back on detailed audit trails. At a minimum, your organization should know which apps are in use (and by whom) and what internal data sources these apps have access to. Check out our full Guide to SOC 2 Compliance.
Managing Vendors Effectively
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, which means subscription payments and managing 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. Whereas Slack is just Slack. ) This is where vendor management comes into play.
In many cases, the person who owns billing for an app or vendor is different than the person who owns the vendor relationship. Let’s take as an example a common tool many organizations use: Salesforce. You might have 20 or so salespeople using Salesforce, and your finance team owns the billing process. However, when it comes to setting up a new user or changing access levels for an existing user, it’s not likely to be finance that handles this, but operations, IT, or even the head of sales. Managing vendors effectively means knowing who is responsible for each aspect of the app’s usage and for any direct relationships or communication with the vendor.
Effective vendor management is renewal management. Many apps are billed on a month-to-month basis, so the cash flow is pretty predictable. However, vendors often offer a discount for annual subscriptions (or simply require them). If you have an annual contract in place, it’s important to have a reasonable amount of notice about an impending renewal in case 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 make a decision about 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. If you aren’t that far along yet, it could just be having a complete view of all your vendors, spend, renewal information and knowing who is ultimately responsible for the vendor relationship.
SaaS Management With Blissfully
Blissfully covers every SaaS management use case, SaaS Operations, Employee On and Offboarding, SaaS Spend Optimization, SaaS Security & Compliance through both its system of record and its workflows and automations.
Blissfully comes armed with a library of workflows and automations collaboratively manage, control, and track SaaS tools across the entire organization, and you can create and save your own 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 software being used.
As well as deep spend, usage, and security data about each one (more on that soon).
Blissfully helps automate and scale the on 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:
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.
System of Record
Blissfully’s System of Record is a single source of truth for an organization. Blissfully gathers data from across the organization, integrating with your email, SSO, HRIS, Finance systems, and other software tools to generate a complete report on all software being used, including spend data, compliance status, billing owner, vendor, and more.
Blissfully helps teams optimize SaaS spending by accurately tracking and reporting costs across all teams and apps, enabling 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.
Workflows and Automations
Managing SaaS isn’t just 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 out to individuals and teams based on how your organization defines them.
When it comes to managing SaaS chaos, Blissfully helps you go from ad-hoc, wasteful sprawl to a streamlined and cost-effective strategy that enables your organization to get the most out of its investment in SaaS. And isn’t that the goal?