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6 Steps for Getting (and Keeping) Your Company’s SaaS Stack Under Control

Uri Nativ | 19 May 2020

It's easy to understand why you and everyone else at your company might have fallen in love with SaaS. By adopting business SaaS applications, you can get to enjoy enterprise-grade functionalities without having to wait for lengthy purchasing, installing and training processes that used to come with buying software licenses. Subscriptions to these apps are often so affordable that your employees can purchase them on their own and use them for work.

However, this practice has its price, the burden of which falls on IT teams. This rise in "shadow IT," the use of ungoverned apps within company networks, brings about security and compliance risks. What’s more, when the toolbox is decentralized, planning budgets, maximizing integrations, streamlining IT infrastructure and curbing waste become impossible.

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That’s why you need to get your company’s SaaS stack under control. Using a SaaS management app is crucial in this regard, as it can help you automate the discovery and tracking of all instances of app use in your infrastructure. SaaS management tech provides much-needed visibility into the details surrounding these apps, their use at your company, budgeting, and the ongoing automation of the entire app lifecycle.

Indeed, living in the age of SaaS calls for the use of SaaS to manage SaaS.

Here are six ways you can use SaaS to get your SaaS apps under control:

1. Create a dynamically updated inventory of all business apps in use

To start making sense of how your company uses SaaS, you need to have a proper inventory of all the apps that are in use. Start by creating a comprehensive and updated inventory of apps, including details like who uses the app and for what purpose, the number of subscriptions, their tiers and lengths, costs, contracts, and legal and compliance information.

This may mean performing software surveys, app discovery, system audits and with no SaaS management solution, quite a lot of manual work. You can use a SaaS management service that performs many of these tasks automatically – and that refreshes the audit in real time, based on actual app use. Knowing the apps you’re dealing with is the first step in designing and implementing the right processes for your IT infrastructure.

2. Review and vet apps

SaaS adoption is inevitable these days. Some 83 percent of enterprise workloads are predicted to take place in the cloud this year. Considering the latest SaaS apps often quickly become key tools to certain business roles, it’s highly likely that new apps will continue to be added to your stack.

But to ensure that your company’s SaaS adoption doesn’t spiral out of control, you must set up a proper review and vetting process for each newly adopted app. Consider factors such as feature sets, security, permission controls and ease of integration.

You’ll also want to check if these apps are compliant with regulations that cover your company and your customers. You don’t want to be exposed to potential fines, litigation and brand reputation damage just because you’ve given non-compliant software products permission to handle your customers’ sensitive data.

3. Give people full ownership

Among the reasons why companies eventually run into the problem of shadow IT and app stack bloat is users’ inclination to experiment with technology. Tech-savvy millennials now dominate the workplace, and 71 percent of them admit to using unapproved apps at least a few times a year. So, when trying to make sense of your SaaS inventory, involve your line-of-business users in the discussion. 

To truly add value to organizations, IT teams need to empower line-of-business users, rather than simply trying to stop them from doing harm, and to do this, you’ll need to understand the rationales behind their preferences. While you may gain an appreciation of their thought process, it’s also crucial for you to let them understand the impact that their use can have on your company, especially the risks associated with shadow IT.

Better yet, assign specific team members as “owners” of each SaaS app. Make them responsible for the subscriptions they acquire. Allow them to become the champions of their selected apps and serve as the links or liaisons between IT and end users.

4. Automate your SaaS product adoption processes

If your SaaS product evaluations are going to be reactive, at least you can minimize errors and lag times by automating as many aspects of the process as possible. For example, SaaS management platforms can already perform discovery and monitoring of SaaS app use. They can securely collect information concerning all SaaS activity within your network.

Monitoring tools can also be configured to automatically send notifications to administrators should anything require human attention. You can be notified if an app has become dormant, indicating that it may be an abandoned account and its license should be terminated. Even more crucial, you can be notified if an app you discontinued starts being used again. 

You can also use custom triggers to deploy questionnaires and queue up evaluations that help managers make informed decisions. This way, all concerns can be readily addressed.

5. Automate user onboarding and offboarding

It’s important that your employees know how to use your apps properly. Connecting people with the apps they should be using allows for a quick onboarding process and shortens their ramp-up time. 

Offboarding users is equally vital. Overlooking security precautions when an employee leaves your company can be a major risk. Make sure that they have properly turned over all work data. Revoke their access credentials with just a few clicks as soon as they leave the company. 

Get your new staff up and running as soon as possible, and ensure that no unauthorized users linger within your network. This also allows you to make sure unused apps and subscriptions are readily deprovisioned.

6. Consolidate and optimize licenses

Sometimes, SaaS app choice can boil down to personal preferences, leading users to acquire multiple apps that support similar functionalities. This can lead to collaboration silos and redundancies in your app stack, a bad way to burn through your software budget.

You can avoid this trap by establishing a roster of preferred apps. Determine which apps are safest and fit in best with the rest of the stack, truly adding value to your company’s work. Make sure you understand how each department benefits from these apps. Reconcile these parameters with frequency of use and subscription costs, and look out for use case overlaps when new products are added to the mix.

What’s more, having access to an updated list of renewal dates gives you ample time to renegotiate terms or to migrate from one platform to another as necessary. Having a streamlined stack allows you to get the most out of your SaaS spending.

Conclusion

The use of unauthorized or redundant apps exposes your organization to various risks. Comprehensive visibility and understanding of your app stack is key, so that you can better monitor user activity, manage access controls and inventory, and implement policies that are tailored to the needs of your IT infrastructure. Ultimately, taking the necessary measures to properly manage your app stack will enable you to maximize the value of your apps and improve efficiencies in your organization.

 

Want to level up your IT management? Let’s chat.

 

A shorter version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

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Author: Uri Nativ

Co-founder, CPO
Uri Nativ has over 19 years of software engineering experience as both an engineer and a hands-on manager. He founded the Klarna Engineering center in Tel-Aviv, holding the position of VP Engineering & Site Manager. Uri has broad experience building B2B enterprise products from his days at VMWare, EMC, nLayers, and Sanctum.
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