Why SaaS Management Isn’t Only For IT Teams

July 12, 2019 in SaaS Management

It’s easy to assume that SaaS management is just another task for your IT team to handle. but, unlike on-premise software and hardware, anyone can purchase and install SaaS with just a few clicks and introduce a new variable into your business. That’s why effective SaaS management must go beyond your IT team and involve key stakeholders across your organization.

How SaaS Has Changed Software Management

Today SaaS tools are becoming more and more common within organizations regardless of industry, size, or type, and SaaS spend shows no sign of abating. With every department and employee capable of finding and purchasing a new cloud-based tool, IT teams can naturally become overwhelmed by the management required. It might require vetting every app and vendor before purchase, introducing all sorts of permissive red tape into people’s workflows, or allowing quick tool acquisition and then managing data and security after purchase. Either way, the chaos is building.

Chart of billing owners per company Average # of SaaS billing owners

SaaS is distributed, and managing distributed software is difficult. Luckily SaaS management software such as Blissfully can take a lot of the burden off of your IT team by providing visibility, security, and easy control of your entire app ecosystem in one place.

Collaborative SaaS Management

Part of the argument for SaaS in the first place is the convenience of allowing teams to easily buy and use the tools they want. We believe that the ideal SaaS management system is what can be described as “Collaborative IT.”

What does this mean? It means that team leaders and all budget stakeholders share responsibility for SaaS IT decisions.

Collaborative IT is when business leaders and individual team members have license to choose the tools that work best for them while:

  • Staying within budget
  • Meeting security and compliance goals
  • Maintaining business-level visibility into usage and spend
  • Offering oversight to leaders and stakeholders who need it


The ultimate goal is to have a single source of record all team members share to ease SaaS management across the board. Teams should have the freedom to make decisions in most cases, but there should be oversight, visibility, and transparency.

The Benefits of Collaborative SaaS Management

Increased Visibility

The entire team of stakeholders gets visibility into all activity in the SaaS technology stack, allowing them to strategically make crucial decisions around technology adoption in the organization.


Financial Wins

Budget stakeholders can gain much needed visibility into SaaS usage and spending, identifying any points of waste or opportunity in the system. Budgets are respected and resources used wisely.


Increased Security

Appropriate security best-practices are implemented and followed across the board, with every team member in the organization bought in to the value of security.

Compliance by Default

Compliance becomes default. Collaborative IT gives a single system of record for SaaS documentation. It helps the organization manage risk by establishing processes and offering visibility into how SaaS apps are being used across the organization.


Efficient and Effective Employees

Employees are happy and productive, because they’re allowed to have input into which apps will help them best do their jobs. 


Tight Feedback Loop

Finance, HR, and IT have more awareness around which technologies work best for teams across the organization, so budgets and spend align.

How does it work?

That’s the tricky part, isn’t it? Luckily we have you covered. Read our full Collaborative IT Guide.

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.

Five Important Questions To Ask About Your Business’s SaaS Tools

July 9, 2019 in SaaS Management, SaaS Spend, SaaS Trends, Security

SaaS Today: More Popular Than Ever.

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. Currently, 38% of companies work almost entirely on SaaS. Experts predict that in the next two years that number will go up to 73%, and the SaaS market will reach $76 billion.
Chart of SaaS Spend by Department

More Software = More Chaos.

There is a downside, however: Often, as SaaS tools begin to take hold within an organization, added complexity, lack of visibility across apps and teams, redundant tools and subscriptions, and concerns about data security become more common.

What Now? SaaS Management.

While the challenges described above may feel like a reason to tighten the reins, the reality is that you probably can’t. A new plethora of restrictions will likely chafe employees, and may even prevent key tasks from getting done.

Organizations need a new and better approach to SaaS management. Your goal should be to understand what apps your organization is using, who is using them, how much they are spending in each department, and then use that information to make good decisions that benefit all of your users. IT should serve your business goals, rather than having your business serve IT’s needs.

Here’s a checklist that you can use to cover your SaaS management bases:

If you aren’t already, you should be aware of:

1. Who owns IT functions? (renewals, licenses, budget, etc.) for each department and each SaaS tool at your organization.

Establishing responsibility for SaaS tools is the first step towards accounting for their numbers and usage. Once departments are overseeing their own SaaS usage, you can start diving into the silos and getting real data.

2. What tools are being used, by whom, how, and why?

Effective SaaS management includes a high-level overview of your organization. A business needs a single source of truth regarding what tools they are using, how they are used, and what use cases are common.

3. How much is being spent on tools?

A key piece of data is how much your business is spending on its SaaS tools both in total, and broken down. Understanding where your SaaS spend is going, along with what tools are being used and how, lets you develop an understanding of the ROI on your SaaS and start to make actionable changes.

4. Are there any tool overlaps?

One of the first discoveries most businesses make is that they are using multiple tools that can accomplish the same thing. Pare down your subscriptions and start saving.

5. How are security concerns being managed across SaaS apps?

Each SaaS app introduces a new potential security issue. It’s important for your business to stay aware of how each app handles data, what data is handled, and what security concerns exist across the entire app ecosystem.

Start with these 5 key questions and you’ll see where you’re managing your SaaS well, and what needs work.

Blissfully: Worry-free SaaS Management.

While the above checklist is a good start, it just scratches the surface of SaaS management. Luckily, when it comes to SaaS management, you don’t need another huge stack of software. Blissfully was created to solve the SaaS management challenge, by building a thorough inventory of free and paid SaaS applications and their usage 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).

When it comes to managing SaaS chaos, Blissfully can help 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?

Try Blissfully free today.

Or, for more information, download our full SaaS Management Guide.

The Right Way to Set Up G Suite

July 3, 2019 in G Suite, SaaS Management, Security

Getting Started

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is growing everywhere, and Google’s G Suite is quickly becoming the service of choice for SMB’s and enterprises.

Our G Suite Quick Setup Guide is designed to get your G Suite console set up and running fast to ensure that your data and users are secure and productive.

1. Set Admin Roles

The first step to setting up G Suite is deciding who should be an administrator (admin) as well as what type of administrative privileges to assign to each person.

2. Set up G Suite Directory

G Suite Directory View
The G Suite Directory includes each user’s name and email address (you can also add additional information.) For a quick setup, you only need your users, since it will be essential to manage on and offboarding employees when they start and leave the organization. Later, you can build out the rest of your directory.

As much as possible, we recommend automating and streamlining on and offboarding processes when it comes to IT, to ensure security and compliance at your organization. This can be a tedious process, so we built an easy and automated way to onboard new employees through Blissfully, giving them access to all the SaaS tools and apps they need (including G Suite).

3. Select Your G Suite Apps

G Suite features a range of built-in apps that are included in the platform that offer useful core services for an organizations IT. You can pick and choose which you need.

Core Apps

Most people are familiar with the core, “killer apps” of G Suite, including:
Gmail: If you personally use Gmail, there’s a lot of continuity with the G Suite version. Admins can keep and search logs of emails as an added benefit for security and compliance.
Calendar: While setting up G Suite admins can specify how users can share their primary calendar inside and outside the company’s domain. For example, you can specify whether to show event details or keep them private, whether people outside your domain can change calendars, and more.
Google Drive / Team Drives (for G Suite Business and Enterprise): As mentioned above, Team Drives provide a simple way to store and organize files. The benefit is granting ownership of files to teams, rather than individuals. It’s easy to add and remove team members, or decide how you want to grant and restrict access.
Docs, Sheets and Slides: These core productivity apps in G Suite allow you to create documents, spreadsheets, and slide presentations, and easily share or revoke access for collaboration purposes.

Less Critical Apps

Certain Google apps can be useful for many applications, but aren’t necessarily best-in-class solutions for every use case. Here are a few examples:
Google Forms: This application can be good for organizations that need to manage a lot of events or conduct polls.
Google Meet: This recently updated video conferencing app (formerly known as Hangouts) can also be used as a conference calling line. A wealth of other free conferencing apps challenge Google Meet in terms of reliability and audio quality.
Google Hangouts Chat: A quick and easy default chat app is ok for one-to-one interactions, but other applications like Slack may be better for group chat or collaboration.

G Suite Marketplace and Third Party Apps

In addition to built-in apps, admins can extend the functionality of G Suite with deep integrations to other third-party SaaS applications via the G Suite Marketplace. This marketplace includes both free and paid business applications, ranging from simple Gmail extensions to robust business productivity applications.

Many SaaS apps outside of the G Suite Marketplace also offer Single Sign On (SSO) with Google functionality. This feature is useful for admins who want to know which permissions people are giving to which apps. Admins can pull custom reports (which is relatively complicated), or automatically get this data from Blissfully.

4. Set Up Security

With G Suite, there are quite a few security tools and configuration options at your disposal. Here are the areas you should be looking at securing when you set up your G Suite applications:

1. Multi-Factor Authentication

The single best thing you can do to improve your organization’s cloud security is to turn on and enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) for G Suite. This greatly reduces the harm that an attacker can do with stolen credentials.

2. Team Drives

As we’ve discussed, G Suite Team Drives are shared spaces for teams to store and access their files. Make sure to set your permissions properly (generally, give employees the minimum permissions necessary).

3. App & File Sharing Activity Reports

Another important function of the G Suite Admin Console is reporting. Two especially useful reports are “Apps Usage Activity” and “File Sharing Activity,” which can help you identify any suspicious usage or file movement.

4. Device Management

G Suite has two ways for admins to manage devices, with its mobile device management and endpoint verification tools.

Mobile Device Management: Admins can distribute apps to employees and keep data secure on employee’s iOS and Android devices using mobile management. Using these tools, you can check usage, manage security settings, and lock or wipe devices remotely.
Endpoint Verification: Google recently rolled out Endpoint Verification, a way for G Suite admins to get an inventory of which desktop and laptop computers are being used to access their corporate data and apps.

5. SaaS App Auditing

As we mentioned above, If your team use Google SSO, you can pull reports in your admin console to find out if your users have authorized any unknown or unapproved apps through their Google accounts. A SaaS management app like Blissfully can also provide a much simpler way to review app permissions with a click of a button.

Next Steps

We hope this quick guide to G Suite Admin basics was useful to you, as you look to set up G Suite for your organization. Setting the right administrative privileges and following these best-practices can help keep your organization secure, compliant, and productive. It’s all a matter of having the right visibility into user activity, while setting and automating as many processes as possible to avoid unnecessary human error. As you work with more and more distributed software and apps, you may want to consider a SaaS management app like Blissfully to streamline the process. Try Blissfully free today.

Or, for more information about G Suite, download our full G Suite Admins guide.

What is Shadow IT? Answers to Common Questions.

July 2, 2019 in SaaS Management, Security, Shadow IT

A visualization of shadow IT

Shadow IT Explained

Shadow IT is the use of IT hardware or software by an individual without the knowledge of IT within the organization.

With the rapid proliferation of mobile devices and cloud-based services, IT has moved from being a tightly controlled environment to being an open environment with a great deal of stakeholders and movement. Users have become comfortable downloading and using apps and services from the cloud to assist them in their work, and will do so with or without company approval.

According to Cisco in 2016, 80% of end users use software not cleared by IT, 83% of IT staff admit to using unsanctioned software or services, and only 8% of all enterprises actually know the scope of shadow IT within their organization. And shadow IT has only grown since then.
SaaS management software can help by providing both visibility and control of apps throughout the organization.

What are the problems with Shadow IT?

Every new device and application added without IT’s knowledge runs the risk of creating a security gap. Additionally, redundant apps, lapsed subscriptions, siloed data, and collaboration inefficiencies are other common problems.

In a world where malware can take down systems in the blink of an eye, one wrong move can leave reams of data unsecured, and that can be a scary thought. A well intentioned-user can end up doing more harm than good and at the end of the day IT, and more specifically the CIO, will be on the hook.

But are there any benefits?

People use Shadow IT for a reason: Flexibility. One of the more common motivators for a user of shadow IT to choose an “unapproved” app is because it is more efficient and effective than what the IT department has chosen, and chances are pretty good that the employee hired to play a specific role may know a bit more about the tools of their trade than IT.

Despite the security dangers, shadow IT gives users a way to quickly and easily get the tools they need to be more productive and interact smoothly with co-workers, customers, and partners.

Common Types of Shadow IT

Common shadow IT examples include:

  • Productivity apps (Trello, Slack, Asana)
  • Messaging apps on corporate-owned devices (Snapchat, WhatsApp)
  • Physical devices (flash drives, external drives)
  • Cloud storage (Dropbox, Google Drive)
  • Communication apps (Skype, VOIP)

What Is The Risk of Shadow IT?

With the spread of information technology into consumer hands, hundreds of these applications are in use at the typical enterprise. The opacity surrounding each one represents a security gap. Although some applications are harmless, others include functionality such as file sharing and storage, or collaboration, which can present big risks to an organization and its sensitive data. IT and security departments need to see what applications are being used and what risks they pose.

How to Detect Shadow IT

There are some technical steps you can take to sniff out shadow cloud and IT services, including:

  • Firewall logs
  • Web proxy logs
  • Data loss prevention tools
  • Network-aware monitoring tools

You can set up an automated process with any combination of these tools to alert admins about new cloud usage as soon as it is discovered. However, there might be areas where visibility is limited, and the setup process itself is a heavy lift.
Mobile creates an extra wrinkle, as SaaS applications do not necessarily travel through your business’s network.

How to Prevent Shadow IT

It’s not entirely preventable, but there are preventative steps you can take. A culture change to a collaborative environment lets IT and business teams share goals and stay aligned. Clear processes for requesting new apps and a quick turnaround time for new app requests keeps employees feeling listened to and productive. Training about internal processes and the risk involved with shadow IT, and transparency around what is in use by other teams will help employees feel empowered to go through the right channels rather than install their own apps.

SaaS Management

SaaS management software such as Blissfully can help by providing both visibility and control of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps. Blissfully allows users to see all SaaS apps in use and who is using them, optimize spending, manage vendors, and provides a central place for data security and compliance. Try Blissfully free today.

Or for more information about IT management and Shadow IT, read our Collaborative IT Guide.

The 3 Best Practices for a Cloud-First IT Strategy in 2019

June 28, 2019 in SaaS Management, Shadow IT

There was a time when IT (Information Technology) was a naturally centralized function. Information technology experts made decisions about everything from the phone on your desk to the screensaver on your computer. They controlled budgets, conducted troubleshooting, and served as the “buck stops here” department for all things tech.

If you work at a modern business today, you know this is rarely the case anymore.

How SaaS is Changing IT Management

The growth of software as a service (SaaS), by its nature, has yanked control out from underneath IT teams. Now, anyone can download a new piece of software or open a web app and get to work. If a developer wants to try a new infrastructure tool or a sales associate needs a more robust method to manage customer contacts, there’s a plethora of options out there, and employees can make their own choices based on their unique, ever-shifting needs. This often means that better tools are being chosen because the people who actually use them are making the decisions. But it also means that IT team members in a cloud-first business have less visibility into what is going on. Stakeholders outside the department are ingrained in decision-making, forcing IT to quickly become a collaborative environment.

IT Approaches Divided Into Quadrants

Informal IT

At smaller organizations, the tendency is to naturally fall into a chaotic and informal approach. IT is handled on an ad-hoc basis. Need a new tool? Boom, here’s the company credit card. Want to add a team member to an existing tool? No problem, let’s do it!

While this is a flexible approach, it creates problems as a company grows. Spending can rapidly get out of control as team leaders purchase new (and possibly redundant) tools and seats. Information gets siloed into each team (Marketing uses Asana. Engineering uses Trello. Neither can see what the other is doing.) preventing collaboration and vendor management.

Command & Control IT

At larger organizations, the tendency has been to continually try to centralize and re-centralize IT functions. This can mean dictating which apps and technologies are permitted, tightly controlling budgets, and gatekeeping access and permissions.

The problem is that doing this can feel like trying to pull your feet out of quicksand. In many ways, it’s a losing battle. Bring your own device policies (BYOD) and shadow IT make it easy for employees to subvert and work around the rules. Even when IT manages to successfully control SaaS usage across a business, it often results in resentment and lowered productivity.

Collaborative IT

Overly centralized and authoritarian IT practices can handicap your team’s ability to be competitive and successful in today’s fast-paced climate. IT should serve as a facilitator, rather than an obstacle. For this reason, business leaders are increasingly taking the reins on technology decisions.

Given the trends outlined above, it’s clear that many businesses have some work to do to achieve a IT management system that works for them—one that balances choice and oversight. To move forward, you will need to assess where you are on the IT continuum today, scrutinize your current practices, and determine a plan of action to achieve a more successful, integrated IT program at your business.

But what does a successful, integrated, cloud-first IT strategy look like in 2019? It brings in stakeholders from across the company. It provides flexibility to teams and visibility to management and IT. It stays within budget and it meets security and compliance goals. And to achieve all of that, the IT strategy you implement now needs to be Collaborative IT.

Chart of IT Strategic Approaches

Getting to Collaborative IT

Whether you are on the formal or informal end of the IT spectrum, if you are interested in moving toward a more collaborative model, it will take some strategic effort. Here’s a straightforward three-step process to make it happen at your organization:

Step One: Know Your Stakeholders

When you get started building a Collaborative IT program at your organization, you want to make sure that you understand everyone who is involved in the process of SaaS management and how.

We suggest you sit down with team leaders from each of your departments and examine where this chart applies to your organization and where you differ, then put together your own chart that clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities with respect to SaaS—both today and in an ideal future state. If certain roles do not exist yet at your company, decide who will own various SaaS responsibilities until your organization grows.

Doing so will help you identify areas where there may be blockages or disconnects between teams and where you may be able to make choices that ultimately lead your organization to become more collaborative when it comes to IT management. You can annotate what responsibilities each role owns today and how that will change as you implement a more collaborative approach to IT.

Step Two: Adopt The Right Technology

For many organizations, the biggest thing standing between them and Collaborative IT is a lack of tools that facilitate this change. That’s why we built Blissfully. Our goal is twofold: to provide more visibility into SaaS usage (from spend to security and beyond) and to facilitate seamless SaaS workflows across different roles within the organization.

Step Three: Implement Cultural Changes

Finally, once you have determined your ideal breakdown of SaaS roles and responsibilities and adopted the appropriate technology, it’s time to implement the cultural changes that will make Collaborative IT a reality at your organization.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to get buy-in across the organization. Use your matrix to show team leaders how this will work, and make sure they understand the benefits of Collaborative IT. Then, bring in individual team members across the entire business. A brown-bag lunch could be a good time to sit them down and explain that this new process will give them the creative license they need to choose tools they love to use while still allowing leadership to understand what is going on in the organization.

Next, use your SaaS management tool to develop and implement key IT processes. These should be led by people and supported by technology. Processes you will likely need to integrate include: onboarding and offboarding, vendor contracts and approvals, budgeting, and, security workflows, all of which also goes into establishing a compliance system of record.

Finally, hold regular check-ins to make sure your Collaborative IT efforts are achieving the intended goals. We suggest holding these on a quarterly basis, and including the team leaders identified in your stakeholders map so that they can represent the needs and interests of their own teams.

Ready To Change Your Approach?

Like many aspects of running a business, a Collaborative IT program should be a continual process of testing and refinement. Always, your end goal should be to empower employees to get work done the way that best suits them while maintaining the security, visibility, and oversight your organization needs to succeed. A complete SaaS management platform like Blissfully can automate many of the tasks and workflow management recommendations described above. Try Blissfully free today.

And for more information, download our full guide about Collaborative IT.

3 Steps to Effective SaaS App Onboarding

May 31, 2019 in Employee Lifecycle, SaaS Management

The one thing that remains constant about SaaS apps is change. According to Blissfully’s 2019 SaaS Trends research, more than 40 percent of the average company’s SaaS stack has completely changed in the last two years. If that’s not complicated enough, the typical midsized company uses 120 apps overall, and sees an average of 2,700 app-to-people connections in their SaaS Graph. Companies need to master SaaS app onboarding to ensure that people know how to properly and securely use their applications, and are aware of their roles and responsibilities.

Here are some tips on where to start.

Step 1: Start Training on Day One

Knowing the ropes of a SaaS app can prove integral to a new hire’s success. Just because someone is a domain expert doesn’t mean they’re familiar with all of your organization’s dedicated SaaS tools. Mastering the art of training starts on a new hire’s first day. If team members are able to use the tools of the trade immediately, they’re more likely to be productive.

When onboarding a new hire, assign her app training to a team member who has become a power user. Have this power user onboard the new hire and give her a product tour, explaining how the tool is relevant to her job. Finally, have the new hire test her knowledge by completing a task under the supervision of the power user, and leave plenty of time to answer practical questions in the weeks to come. Likewise, if there’s an app change, have the account owner run a new app training for everyone in the group.

Step 2: Know Your Role Within the SaaS Graph

Remember the 2,700 app-to-people connections we mentioned? Each one of these connections represents a potential point of vulnerability or inefficiency for the organization. For example, people may have different levels of account access for very specific reasons, and these types of controls should remain in place regardless of how many new users are onboarded onto an app.

If there’s a sudden app change, make sure these roles are well documented and understood as a new app is adopted within the organization. No one loves change, but if they’re able to understand exactly how to use the new app, and the reasoning behind their level of access, the process will be much smoother for everyone involved.

Step 3: Embrace Account Security Best Practices

There’s good news in the midst of all this change: Across every type of app, certain SaaS security best practices remain consistent. Adopting them should be a matter of policy within your organization, not a matter of individual user choice. For example, two-factor authentication should be required for every account across the board, to provide an extra layer of protection against hackers.

In addition, team members should adopt security practices that seem like second nature. Tools such as password management solutions can help users generate strong passwords without having to think about creating and tracking dedicated passwords. After all, who can keep up with the number of accounts and constant change happening within most organizations?

Final Words

A SaaS system of record like Blissfully can help organizations manage change dynamics by tracking important data within a single destination. Most organizations don’t centrally manage IT anymore; everything’s distributed, and for good reason. With stakeholders throughout the organization, apps constantly in flux, and thousands of connections at stake, leaving SaaS management up to chance isn’t something most organizations can afford to do anymore.

Inside The SaaS Graph: The Hidden Relationships Transforming IT Management

May 8, 2019 in SaaS Management, SaaS Trends

The relationship between apps and people is far more complicated than most organizations realize. Much like Facebook’s “Social Graph” for people-to-people relationships, the SaaS Graph illustrates people-to-app relationships and the complexity they can introduce into the organization. Each SaaS Graph relationship could represent a potential point of security vulnerability or unnecessary efficiency. A new approach to SaaS management can minimize these risks and optimize once-cumbersome workflows. Let’s dive into how.

New data from Blissfully’s 2019 SaaS Trends report shows that the typical 200-500 person company uses 123 apps, which doesn’t sound too unmanageable. But, when you consider the SaaS Graph relationships, it gets much more complicated: the same sized company has an average of 2,700 SaaS Graph relationships. The number of relationships get deeper and more complex as the organization grows: companies with 500-1,000 employees have an astounding 5,671 app-to-people relationships!

The Dimensions of the SaaS Graph

The SaaS Graph spans five key dimensions, all of which represent new challenges to stakeholders across the organization. While SaaS has made it much easier for anyone to purchase and deploy new software across teams, these dimensions introduce new, potentially hidden problems and inefficiencies.

Role

Not all SaaS users look alike. The role of each user can get complicated, especially as new team members are onboarded and offboarded throughout the course of a year. Without a clear understanding of these roles, organizations could be wasting time on inefficient processes, wasting money, or worse, granting permissions to the wrong people (which could be a big security concern).

Potential roles within any app include:

  • IT Admin: Think of this person as the one who holds the “keys to the kingdom.” Admins can add or remove users, or change permissions for anyone across the organization.
  • Contract Owner: Usually the contract owner is the initial buyer or decision maker who selected the SaaS app.
  • Billing Recipient: This person may sometimes be the same as the contract owner, but could be different (for example, billing recipients could be on a finance team).
  • User: This role includes any team member using the software, and user types are defined by each individual app.

License

Usually teams have either free or paid licenses, which on the surface seems pretty clear-cut. However, paid licenses typically have different tiers, which companies need to track when employees join or leave. Issues also arise when team leaders purchase licenses for software that has redundancy across subscriptions in other teams or departments, or if there’s a good, free alternative.

Usage

The frequency of app usage can vary drastically across individuals and teams. Often, apps can go underused or unused for months without anyone in the organization knowing about it. These inefficiencies can add up to major wasted spend.

Data

From a security and compliance perspective, data is the most important dimension of the SaaS graph. Without the proper protections in place, sensitive data could be at risk. For example, each user’s connection presents a possible security vulnerability, in the absence of strong passwords and/or multi-factor authentication.

Typically, data within apps exists in three different states:

  • Created: Users create data within their apps on a daily, if not hourly or by-the-minute basis. Often this data can be sensitive intellectual property or customer information.
  • Generated: Many apps themselves generate their own data after analyzing inputs from users, or other information.
  • Delegated: Some apps delegate permissions to other apps, and feed data between them. For example, a Salesforce account may have access to a Gmail or G Suite account.

Vendor Status

Without knowing vendor status, teams could be at risk of wasted spend, or potential security vulnerability (if accounts are left open to unauthorized users or unattended altogether).

A selected vendor might be in any of the following phases within an organization:

  • Exploratory: A freemium app or free trial are the most typical exploratory phases. Sometimes these licenses automatically convert to paid after the trial expires, or convert to paid after a certain usage limit has been met.
  • Unsanctioned: Often referred to as “Shadow IT,” these off-the-radar apps exist in nearly every organization, often as a result of a Team Lead or user choosing what works best for them.
  • Sanctioned: These represent approved apps by IT or other stakeholders in an organization.
  • Deprecated: These are often unused apps at an organization that have already been replaced or are no longer useful, but may never have been canceled.

Rapid Rate of Change

Average SaaS App TurnoverManaging the SaaS Graph gets a lot more complicated when you examine the rapid rate of change at most organizations. Our 2019 SaaS Trends report found that 43 percent of the average company’s application stack changed in the last two years. According to data from LinkedIn, that’s more than three times the average employee turnover rate in the tech industry. These two factors taken together mean that the average SaaS Graph relationship changes on a dime, which demands an entirely new approach to SaaS Management.

Managing The SaaS Graph: A Team Sport

Since there’s typically no longer a “command-and-control” approach of a centralized IT manager provisioning apps across the company, each dimension in the SaaS Graph needs to be periodically examined. There’s a new set of stakeholders in town, and they each need a seat at the table.

By taking a Collaborative IT approach, organizations can bring all of the key stakeholders into the process of SaaS management. Unlike in the command-and-control days, team leaders, finance, HR, operations, security and IT must all be involved in the process to ensure that each SaaS Graph relationship is valid and up-to-date.

While this approach may sound more complex, in reality, it’s a cultural shift that feels natural to most organizations, and is much simpler to maintain in the long run. Each group has a vested interest in sharing responsibility for SaaS apps: whether it’s to gain access to the right apps, balance the budget, or ensure security and compliance. Gathering these teams around a single system of record can ensure that everyone’s getting what they need out of technology in a fast-growing organization.

Why You Should Optimize Your SaaS Stack for Flexibility

May 2, 2019 in SaaS Management, SaaS Stack

There’s a good chance that at least one of those hot new SaaS apps you’re about to implement organization-wide is going to be replaced in a year.

Whether due to acquisition, funding woes, or a well-publicized security breach, some apps simply don’t stand the test of time. Others will serve their purpose for a while but then you need new features, so you make a switch. In still other cases, a product already in use at your organization will expand its feature set to cover the territory of another app; it can be wise at that point to consolidate.

Regardless of the reason, the reality for modern businesses is that app turnover is very common. In fact, the typical mid-sized company saw 39% of their SaaS stack change in 2018. According to our research, it’s safe to assume that within two years, roughly half of your tech stack will be different than it is today. While it’s easy to interpret this as bad news and look for strategies to avoid app turnover as much as possible, we argue a better approach is to embrace change and build your business for SaaS flexibility.

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 change in SaaS feature sets makes it nearly impossible to predict which apps you will keep for the long term, which will disappear, and which ones you’ll want to replace with a better, more innovative option.

Rather than trying to predict the future, focus on optimizing for flexibility and process. This will empower your team leaders to experiment and give your organization leverage to adopt the best tools at any given point in time.

Here’s a look at how to prioritize a flexible SaaS stack at your organization.

Balance Risk with Innovation

Of course, you don’t want to invest in apps that are likely to disappear or become obsolete, so it is worth spending time evaluating whether an app is built for longevity in your organization. The good news is that you can combine this research with other key analyses: security features, compliance compatibility, and availability of integrations. Vendors who check these boxes are more likely to be thinking long-term, and thus more likely to stick around. Ideally, when your SaaS stack changes, it should be on your terms. Doing the upfront homework will increase the odds that an app switch is a proactive choice, not a reactive leap.

Find Common Ground with Integrations

In particular, look for apps that integrate with the ones you already use, since this will ensure that your SaaS stack can be connected for maximum productivity, rather than siloed and walled off. Your team will be able to get the most value out of apps that can share data and piggyback off of each other’s features. This common ground will reduce unnecessary turnover while making it easier to swap apps out when it is truly in the best interest of the organization.

Check Those Security and Compliance Boxes

If the apps you choose include common security features (like SSO or 2FA), meet or exceed compliance standards (like GDPR and SOC 2), and integrate nicely with adjacent technologies, the odds are good that your choice will stick around long enough to be worth the time and effort of starting up with it.

Seek Community

Another good way to test the water is to look at the size of the community around a given app. While it can be exciting to be on the cutting edge of trying out a brand new SaaS app, you may not want to be the very first organization (or one of the first organizations) to adopt it, simply because there won’t be a community of folks who have used it enough to develop best practices, or adequate support around the tool.

To evaluate where a product stands in terms of the community around it, you can check out whether they have built a robust and thriving community on their own accord—many apps do. Or, check out their presence on existing communities. If it is a development-related tool, you can also check out developer communities  like Stack Overflow, Github, and Reddit to see how active the communities around the app are.

Streamline Your App-Related Processes

Doing your homework is a good first step, but then it’s time to let go and embrace change. To prepare for the inevitable reality of app turnover, it’s a good idea to streamline your app approval, implementation, and removal processes to make them as efficient as possible. This way, when the time comes to make a change, it’s not a massive headache to do so.

To improve your processes, we recommend instituting a decentralized IT management paradigm—what we like to call Collaborative IT. This means that apps can be chosen, purchased, and implemented by team leaders—rather than having every single technology decision carried out by a central IT function. As you can imagine, this dramatically speeds up both implementation and removal of apps, since it removes unnecessary gatekeepers and hurdles. To balance this freedom with security and budgetary controls, seek out a single SaaS system of record that provides visibility into the entire stack for management purposes.

Next, automate as much of the onboarding and offboarding processes as possible, so that new team members can quickly get up and running with every app they need to do their jobs (an average of eight apps per employee), and can be quickly removed if and when they depart the organization to avoid security holes. Automating onboarding and offboarding has the added benefit of making it easier to replace software down the road as needed.

Finally, with the visibility into your SaaS stack we recommend above, you can quickly see exactly who is using an app. This way, you can make sure the entire team understands why you are removing or replacing an app long before it actually goes away. This gives them time to adjust, whether that means porting data and key processes to a new tool or simply wrapping their heads around a new way of working.

Fear Not the Natural Evolution of Technology

Apps will come and go, for a whole variety of reasons. The agility with which you can replace apps or add new ones should ultimately propel the pace of innovation at your organization. With the right balance of agility and risk-mitigating controls in place, there’s no real reason to stress out over the reality that half of your tech stack will be different within a couple of years. Of course it will! Out with the old, in with the new, and on with the pace of business.

5 Practical SaaS Vendor Management Tips for IT Leaders

April 4, 2019 in SaaS Management

The task of SaaS vendor management has become a lot more challenging over the last few years, since the CIO and IT team don’t always have direct visibility into the apps employees are using across the organization. A variety of trends — including team members directly testing and purchasing new apps themselves — have made the “Command and Control” (or highly centralized and restrictive) role of IT management virtually impossible. The following SaaS vendor management best practices can help CIOs and their teams get a handle on the growing SaaS boom, while giving team members the freedom and flexibility to choose the tools they want and need.

1. Streamline Vendor Contract Ownership

One reality of modern SaaS vendor management is that vendor agreements and contracts may be owned by multiple team leaders across the organization. This distribution of ownership may result in unnecessary spending from unused, redundant, or underused apps.

Finance and IT teams (who were once responsible for vendor procurement and subsequent management) may find it difficult to rein in these contracts. On a regular basis, take an inventory of who owns what vendor relationships, and try to consolidate these touchpoints to as few owners as possible.

2. Check In On Your SaaS Renewals

Renewals are one of the trickier parts of SaaS vendor management, simply because the account owners don’t necessarily always know when these renewals are coming. One common scenario is that an account may be set to an auto-renewal status, and the owner may not even realize they’re being billed annually for an app they aren’t using. In other cases, the team has chosen to use a free software product and continues to be billed annually for a redundant paid product.

Either scenario can add up to a lot of wasted budget!

Managing all of your renewals and contracts with one system of record can alleviate some of the stress behind trying to remember when renewals will come along, or being caught off guard by an unexpected bill.

3. Audit SaaS App Redundancy and App Effectiveness

Collaborating with team leaders whose direct reports use SaaS applications on a daily basis is the only way to really know if an app is working well for the team. A quarterly or twice yearly review of your app inventory — completed with the help of team leaders — can provide a wealth of information for the IT team, including:

  • Which apps are in heavy rotation
  • Which paid subscriptions are underutilized
  • Whether there are any redundant apps
  • Whether free tools could replace paid apps in certain circumstances.

In cases where the current tools are underutilized, there may be a case for selecting a new app that meets more of the team’s requirements. Taking the time to understand these requirements will pay dividends when end-of-year budget talks come along, since teams can request more budget.

4. Reassign Billing Owners During Offboarding Process

One of the most surprising data points in our 2019 SaaS Trends was that 71% of companies have at least one SaaS subscription with no billing owner. You don’t want to be paying for subscriptions indefinitely. Make sure to include a step in your offboarding process to check for and reassign any billing relationships (and licenses) a departing employee may own.

5. Use a Complete SaaS Management Platform

A complete SaaS management platform like Blissfully can automate many of the tasks and workflow management recommendations described above. Rather than tracking SaaS vendors in a spreadsheet, Blissfully provides a constantly updated system of record that gives CIOs and IT leadership visibility into every app across the entire organization. From SaaS spending, to onboarding and offboarding, to security visibility, having a SaaS management platform can save time and frustration, so IT teams can focus on more strategic work.

Hopefully these SaaS vendor management best practices help your team get organized in 2019. For more details and useful tips, check out The Blissfully Guide to SaaS Management, Blissfully’s 2019 SaaS Trends Report, and The Blissfully Guide to Employee Offboarding.

Ditch the Spreadsheet: Track SaaS Subscriptions the Smart Way

January 18, 2019 in SaaS Management

Did you know that the average mid-size business has 100+ SaaS apps in place? Even with numbers that high, the majority of businesses still track their SaaS apps with an Excel or Google spreadsheet. If you’re one of them, then you probably know first-hand how unwieldy and inefficient managing a SaaS program manually with a spreadsheet can be.

In this post, we take a deeper look at why tracking internal SaaS usage with a spreadsheet has become increasingly difficult, and offer a more effective approach going forward.

The Challenges of Tracking SaaS Apps in a Spreadsheet

First off, it’s worth stating: A spreadsheet is better than nothing. An imperfect organizational system is much better than none at all, so if that’s where you are today, know that you are still moving in the right direction.

Now, let’s take a look at why this approach can be so challenging, and where many organizations need to make improvements.

Staying on Top of Changing Subscriptions

If you’re already using spreadsheets, you know it can be really tough to stay on top of them. For one, SaaS apps are constantly rotating in and out of organizations. This is normal; part of the value of apps delivered via the cloud is that it’s easy to spin them up and down based on what your team needs at any given moment.

But this also means a manual spreadsheet requires you to continually check in with your team about whether they have added or subtracted apps from the roster. Inevitably, something falls through the cracks and doesn’t make it to the spreadsheet. It’s hard — if not impossible — to stay on top of the ever-changing rotation of SaaS subscriptions in any given organization, at least if you’re trying to do it manually.

Managing Ownership and Update Frequency

The task of keeping an internal SaaS spreadsheet up-to-date is a massive one. It could easily take up the majority of one team member’s time to update things like:

Number of subscriptions or apps from each vendor

  • Number of seats per app
  • Cost per month or year
  • Renewal dates
  • Ownership
  • Compliance status
  • Processes related to onboarding and offboarding
  • Security
  • Privacy

And lots more!

It’s almost certainly too much for one person. Yet if updating the spreadsheet is delegated across multiple team members, responsibility can become confusing and, again, items may fall through the cracks.

As far as the mechanics of remembering to update the spreadsheet, teams could set calendar reminders to do this, but at what frequency? It’s not a rote or predictable task, since (as we mentioned earlier), subscriptions change all the time.

For these reasons, even the most organized person or company will struggle to keep manual spreadsheets completely up to date.

Minimizing Human Error

Finally, spreadsheets—because they are maintained manually—are naturally error-prone. Whether it’s a mistyped line item or a small change that happened without notification (like a seat being added or a price increase from the vendor), these documents quickly become full of small mistakes that add up to an inaccurate picture of your SaaS landscape.

A Better Way Forward: SaaS Management

Rather than manually maintaining a spreadsheet of your SaaS subscriptions, we recommend you invest in a SaaS management platform. This way, you can use a single platform to view invoices, manage renewals, create approval workflows, and track compliance. In one pane of glass, you can view all of your SaaS apps, who is using them, and how much you’re spending on them.

Here’s what that looks like with Blissfully:

As you can see, a SaaS management platform allows you to automatically track all of the vendors your organization is using, as well as the number of subscriptions from each (since you may have different apps or multiple of the same app for different teams.) It will let you see at a glance how much you are spending annually and when subscriptions are set to renew.

Additionally, responsibility is clear because you can assign an owner to each vendor. If HR or finance has a question about how a particular program is being used, what it takes to onboard a new team member, or why the bill for AdWords is so high this month, they will know exactly who to go to for answers.

If your organization follows compliance or legal frameworks like GDPR or SOC 2, a SaaS management tool will also let you verify at a glance that you have only invested in tools that are also compliant with those regulations and requirements. This reduces your organizational risk and saves time and headaches when you have audits.

Say Goodbye to SaaS Spreadsheets Once and For All

Replace your dreaded SaaS spreadsheet. Use one platform to view invoices, manage renewals, create approval workflows, and track compliance. See all of your SaaS apps, who’s using them, and how much you’re spending on them.

Get the visibility and tools you need to take control of SaaS across your organization.

Schedule a demo today to learn more
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