Each year, we analyze an anonymized data set of our customers to identify trends in SaaS spend and usage. This report takes a look back at 2018 data from nearly a thousand companies, and offers guidance on how to think about SaaS trends in 2019.
It’s no surprise to report that SaaS spending and adoption have continued to rise. In addition to further evidence of the SaaS explosion, the 2018 data revealed two major trends. One is that app turnover is very common. In fact, the typical mid-sized company saw 39% of their SaaS stack change last year. The other notable trend is that IT decentralization is increasingly leading to budgeting and security issues. A whopping 71% of companies have at least one SaaS subscription with no billing owner. This can lead to all sorts of challenges, which we’ll discuss in depth below.
SaaS Spending and Adoption Continue to Rise
In 2018, SaaS spend and adoption continued to grow quickly across all company sizes. In 2018, the average company spent $343,000 on SaaS, a 78% increase from the previous year.
Over the last 5 years, SaaS spending has increased across all company size segments.
Companies spend more on SaaS than laptops
The software toolset is more expensive than the hardware it runs on. In 2018, the average cost per employee of SaaS subscriptions ($2,884) was higher than the cost of a new laptop ($1,299 for an Apple Macbook Pro). And as more companies move to run entirely on SaaS, the software vs. hardware spending gap is likely to widen.
The average employee uses at least 8 apps
The average number of apps used per employee was fairly consistent across all company segments. Though as companies grow, the average number of apps per company tends to increase on a linear basis.
This indicates that, rather than simply adding seats to apps that are already being used, companies are adding new apps as they grow in size. This is typically a result of specialization, but can be a signal of redundancy or inefficiency creeping in (such as multiple subscriptions for a single app or multiple apps that serve the same purpose).
SaaS is Decentralized Across the Organization
No single stakeholder “owns” IT management anymore. A decade ago, IT drove all major technology purchasing decisions. Today, with thousands of SaaS apps available, it is impossible for IT to evaluate the right technology for every department’s needs. Additionally, the nature of SaaS is such that it is not necessary for IT to set up and maintain new apps. Anyone—even those with little to no technical background—can choose, purchase, and implement apps.
These two trends — the sheer volume of available apps and the ease of their implementation — have led companies to distribute responsibility for SaaS across the organization. Departmental leaders are now empowered to play a much larger role in evaluating the best technology toolkit for their teams.
However, in many organizations, management processes have not caught up. There are many more owners of SaaS, but no birds-eye view of usage or spend, leading to duplicate and orphaned subscriptions.
Every department uses SaaS
Every department in the modern organization is reaping the benefits of SaaS apps. Over the past four years, as overall SaaS spending has increased, the share of app spend by department has held relatively steady. However, there have been a few interesting shifts. HR software spend has increased year-over-year. Sales, engineering, and business operations continue to hold the lion’s share of subscription dollars, though these numbers (especially for sales) have fluctuated quite a bit over the last decade.
SaaS has many owners
SaaS vendors have made it easy for anyone to set up and start using apps. As a result, the amount of owners of SaaS within an organization has exploded.
The average midsized company has 32 different billing owners for its SaaS applications, effectively distributing the task of IT budgeting across the entire organization.
With so many decision makers, and so many apps, organizations are setting themselves up for chaos. An astonishing 71% of companies have at least one SaaS subscription without a billing owner. This typically means that the person who originally purchased the app on behalf of the company has left the organization, leaving the app “orphaned.”
No one is monitoring how much is being spent on the app, when it renews, or if anyone is even using it. Orphaned apps can cost organizations quite a bit, with the average organization spending $710 a month ($8,520 annually) per subscription that may or may not be in use. However, costs are only one concern. The security and data privacy risks of these apps can be much greater.
Larger organizations also often have duplicate subscriptions, where multiple teams are using the same app but have not combined it under one contract. Typically, this means organizations are paying more than necessary, and complicating internal data management. Duplicate subscriptions can be easily avoided with clear communication and an up-to-date organization-wide system of record.
The SaaS Graph: Mapping App-Person Connections
There is a complex relationship between people and apps. Within an organization, each person is connected to multiple apps, and each app is connected to multiple people. The nature of these connections varies, and comprise access, usage, data sharing, role, and spend. As a whole, these relationships have implications for an organization’s security, compliance, budget, operations, and privacy.
The typical 200-to-501-person company uses 123 apps, which may not sound completely unmanageable. However, a simple app count doesn’t capture the full picture. That same company would have an average of 2,700 app-to-person connections.
The SaaS Graph is a visual representation of these app-to-person connections. Each line on the SaaS Graph represents a relationship between an employee and a SaaS application.
Every one of those relationships needs to be tracked, managed, and kept secure. Whenever an employee creates a new login or gains access to a new app, there is the potential for weak passwords, incorrect security settings, credential theft, account sharing, and other security risks to creep in. And every time an employee leaves, the organization must be diligent in securely offboarding the person from all the apps they were provisioned.
With compliance regulations like SOC 2 and GDPR increasingly at the forefront, and potential upcoming state-by-state data privacy laws coming into play, organizations need to understand and manage the risk they are taking on via all the connections in their SaaS applications (and the data they contain).
App Turnover is Higher Than Employee Turnover
You could say the only real constant when it comes to SaaS is change. The app turnover rate shows just how fast this change is happening. The typical mid-sized company changed 39% of their SaaS apps between 2017-18. This turnover rate is higher than the industry average for tech employee churn (one of the industries with the highest turnover rates according to LinkedIn).
App turnover can happen for a number of reasons. First off, companies are always adopting new categories of software to be more efficient. Second, within a category there might be changes as you move from one vendor to another. Third, companies might drop a vendor either as they exit the category or consolidate functionality with existing vendors. And fourth, companies are always trying new products that they might not fully adopt (either a trial that expired or a free tier in a freemium SaaS offering). This app and vendor turnover can have massive implications for the smooth operation of a company, as well as security and compliance challenges.
Assume half of your SaaS stack will be different in 2 years
Looking forward, these rates provide a useful rule of thumb for managing SaaS. You should assume that in 2 years, roughly half of your SaaS stack will be different than it is today. How can you prepare by making your app approval, implementation, and removal processes more efficient?
SaaS Strategy Takeaways and Recommendations
Successful IT strategies in 2019 embrace the decentralized nature and rapid pace of change of SaaS. The most effective IT teams are adopting a collaborative approach to SaaS and building guardrails for their teams to ensure security and accountability. This allows IT to focus on organization-wide initiatives, infrastructure, and processes, while team leaders are empowered to pick, and quickly adopt, the best individual apps to achieve their goals.
🔍 Visibility is critical
The SaaS Graph shows just how complex it is to manage SaaS in 2019. When you factor in the rate of app turnover, trying to track these relationships by hand becomes nearly impossible. To maintain security and compliance, IT teams need an automated, real-time view of all the people, apps, and connections in their organization.
🤝 Collaboration is necessary
Since SaaS usage, adoption, and spend is decentralized across the entire organization, no single department or role can manage it all alone. IT, security, compliance, finance, HR, legal, and department leaders must all embrace a collaborative approach to SaaS. This entails adopting culture changes (typically a shift from either an informal or a command-and-control system), creating clear guidelines, rethinking business processes, and investing in tools to improve data visibility across teams.
✨ Flexibility gives you leverage
The ease with which your organization can adopt new apps, and switch out old ones, is critical to maintaining a strong technology stack. The rapid pace of changes in SaaS feature sets makes it nearly impossible to predict which apps you will keep for the long term, and which ones you’ll want to replace for a better, more innovative option. Rather than guessing, focus on flexibility and process. This will empower your team leaders to experiment and give your organization leverage to adopt the best tools.
A SaaS Profile for Every Company Size
These profiles take a look at the current state of SaaS based on the size of the company, from solo endeavors to enterprise companies.