Why Every Company Needs A SaaS Specialist

Posted by Tim R on February 10, 2021

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Employee-driven SaaS buying is at an all-time high. Unfortunately, this trend is bringing with it several cost, security, and data compliance concerns. As a result, IT management equipped with SaaS management skills are in high demand–as are dedicated tools for the job

Companies are using more SaaS

Deloitte has confirmed that 93% of CIOs are either using or considering using SaaS.

Reports from Okta also reveal an average of 129 applications in use per company–and that only takes into account apps that utilize Okta’s single sign-on. For example, cloud security company Netskope has found the number to be 1,071 cloud services per company.

SaaS growth problem

The convenience and utility of the SaaS marketplace makes it nearly impossible for IT asset management teams to accurately manage usage. In particular, unused or abandoned licenses are a financial drain, poor onboarding and off-boarding practices compromise sensitive data, and redundant tools across teams and departments hurt productivity.

Bloatware(i.e., unwanted or memory-intensive software)and cloud applications remain hazards unless properly inventoried. This reality only intensifies in large-scale, multi-tiered organizations. This is another reason why EAs need to be equipped with SaaS management skills.

Visibility and control

Two key obstacles faced by even the very best IT asset management teams out there are visibility and control. Without these two in place, no enterprise can be entirely safe. Right now, however, unbridled chaos is the norm.

One of the reasons for the SaaS model’s incredible success is that IT admins are kept out of the loop over software purchases. This makes them invisible, non-measurable, and ultimately unfixable.

IT asset managers nonetheless fight the tide as well as they can despite these challenges. Using in-house software or static spreadsheets, they can get some semblance of order in place. But this is rarely enough.

Up until recently, many teams have employed scattered approaches to organizing and managing SaaS. Processes simply have not had the time to catch up to the cloud boom. Consider what’s common:

  • Owned licenses get tracked in static spreadsheets by IT. This means IT staff has to schedule regular follow-ups with budget owners to confirm any new SaaS purchases.
  • Finance scours expense reports or collaborates with AP to stay on top of new deployments from IT or business line leaders.
  • Legal department inventories new software contracts and relays new ones to finance or IT as means to discover new tools.

The SaaS-buying paradigm (e.g., no direct owner, limited visibility, manual and error-prone process, etc.) makes the above processes impractical. And that’s why today's enterprises are dedicating extra staff to assist with the discovery process.

The SaaS specialist's functions

While many teams deploy LeanIX SaaS Intelligence to achieve cost savings and grow visibility, the dedication of a single IT manager to SaaS oversight can drive additional, systematic improvements. For many users, the SaaS specialist role combined with automated SaaS discovery tools like SaaS Intelligence have fast-tracked process development, helping processes keep pace with SaaS growth.

One of the keys to the role’s success is how it enables the success of other departmental functions. Within LeanIX's client base, here are some of the ways we’re seeing the position develop:

A cost-saver for CFOs:

  • At the enterprise scale, CFOs approve major licensing agreements and contract renewals expect certain levels of utilization to warrant the spend. SaaS specialists can deliver this insight quickly and accurately.
  • Partnering with LeanIX's Customer Success team can help SaaS Intelligence users derive insights and market intelligence to ensure they’re getting the best available subscription rates in the industry. Customer Success representatives can also help finance make sure costs are allocated accurately to ease annual budgeting.

As support for department leads:

  • Department leads want their teams operating at max productivity. This means that employees stay engaged with mission-critical software. However, CIOs have little way of assessing this.
  • Since the SaaS specialist has consistent visibility into usage, they can offer IT leadership a clear picture of tool use. Under-utilized tools or licenses surface. As do issues with inconsistent use.
  • Moreover, since one individual has an organizational-wide view of SaaS, they can share best practices from department to department to keep everyone using tools optimally.

Accelerants to human resources:

  • Fast-growing companies hire fast too. All too often, HR or hiring managers are forced to chase down IT to get tools bought and assigned. With a SaaS specialist, HR has a resource to systematically onboard new employees to ensure new hires show up on their first day with the right toolset to be immediately productive.
  • A few short years ago, the role of a SaaS specialist would have been questionable use of company resources. But digital advancements have made that idea old-fashioned. As we all know, Fortune 500 companies weren’t spending hundreds of millions on SaaS a few years ago. And the industry wasn’t an $85 billion a year market either (a figure that Gartner believes will rise to $113 by 2021).

SaaS management best practices

Here are our five key points to consider when incorporating SaaS management into IT management.

1. Spearhead your ITAM policy

You would probably nod your head in agreement if you heard that most staff are not acquainted with your enterprise’s current IT procurement policies. Are you being clear about what they can and cannot do?

Does staff understand that there are now automated ways to check what they are doing? Perhaps they are relying on this being absent.

Being straightforward and providing all employees with easily accessible guidelines will do a lot to help ensure that they are not buying SaaS that puts your organization at risk. Even if a free trial is purchased, that SaaS can still leave your enterprise exposed. Few, if any, employees would be aware of that—but you can help them understand.

As is usually the case, explaining the background behind your reasoning is more likely to get committed support. Even super-users may start heeding your rallying cry, giving you the boots on the ground you need to help implement your policies. Finance will support you too – they need to know how much the enterprise is spending.

Backing will also come from LOB heads, whose heads will roll if they don’t know what SaaS their department is using or how much they’re spending. Your allies will emerge.

2. Corporate governance

Enforcing rules through corporate governance policies –and getting everyone to follow them isn't easy.

From an operational perspective, policies might seem like they’re enough but nothing could be further from the truth if there isn’t a foolproof way of enforcing them. There is still going to be a lot of data that you will not be able to access.

What is owned? Who owns it? Is it under-used or is the subscription otherwise unsuitable? What risks, if any, does the SaaS expose the business to? Which features are being used? When are the renewals coming up? Are you overpaying? What about duplication between enterprise and individual licenses?

You probably need no reminding what a nightmare it is to keep track of all this on a day-to-day basis. Something else is needed.

3. Risk discovery and management

You know you cannot control your IT assets if you cannot even see them. Without that visibility, the risk of hacks and data breaches will remain high. An automated solution is the only way to overcome SaaS security gaps.

It is worth bearing in mind the external threats you face, but what about the internal? What impacts could these have on your business? A few months back an IT asset manager of one of our clients came to us with the following request:

“On Monday I have a meeting with our CIO, and I need to know everything that is out there. That means all details on department usage, spend and waste. I’ve had an analyst on this for two weeks, but we’re still no nearer getting these questions answered. Can we get this done now?”

Having already discussed the implementation and scope, LeanIX was able to jump in and help straight away. But not all IT managers have this luxury –the majority still use Excel spreadsheets and rely on lots of leg work.

4. Fix problems

Once you see what is out there, you can finally understand the risks to which you are exposed. Once you know a problem exists, you can fix it. This might sound simple, but you would be surprised how often this is neglected.

The ticking time bombs in your IT asset stack are going to go off at some point, and it makes sense to be ready for any eventuality. Decrease your exposure through automated and real-time reporting. Don’t let problems fester and worsen. Nip things in the bud.

5. Proof

Now comes another critical factor. How can you prove that you do indeed have control? LeanIX products offer automated and configurable reports to show you exactly where your issues lie.

Having such information at your disposal will prove to executive teams that you have a strong understanding of the IT assets your company manages. Here is just some of the data we provide to put your mind at ease:

  • Number of services
  • Anticipated monthly/annual spend
  • Utilization by department
  • Top services by spend
  • License usage
  • Monthly active members
  • Renewal timelines

These reports will become your best friend as they are a great way to get business partners onside with your efforts. Once they see the importance of tracking all IT assets, and how easy it is for everyone to see them, you’ll be more successful in achieving your goals.