October 6, 2021

New Survey Data Reveals Immaturity in Enterprise SaaS Management Despite Rapid SaaS Adoption

LeanIX SaaS Management Survey 2021 highlights a lack of standardized processes and clearly defined roles in SaaS management today, leading to widespread challenges.

BONN, Germany and BOSTON, October 6, 2021 – SaaS adoption in the enterprise continues to grow at an accelerating pace. Indeed, 70 percent of international IT leaders surveyed in a new study published today by LeanIX report strong SaaS growth over the last two years, in some cases doubling the number of SaaS applications in use over that time. However, the discipline of SaaS management across organizations lags behind this growth. Effective SaaS management suffers from an absence of purchasing processes tailored to the unique benefits of SaaS. Organizations surveyed have also been slow to implement tools purpose-built for SaaS management, instead relying to a large extent on manual processes and Excel.

Tools and processes aside, the survey also found no common standards when it comes to responsibility for SaaS management. In 80 percent of the companies surveyed, SaaS management can involve four or more departments. The enterprise architects surveyed indicated that the challenges associated with SaaS management, including poor visibility into SaaS application portfolios, are having an impact on their efforts to continuously transform the IT landscape in their organization. With this in mind, many expressed interest in the concept of a SaaS Center of Excellence, believing that their organization could benefit from the guidance one might provide. Unfortunately, the majority of enterprises have not even begun discussing the implementation of such an initiative.

As SaaS adoption continues to grow in the enterprise, IT leaders need to adopt a structured, focused approach to SaaS management. As LeanIX CEO André Christ puts it, "Those who establish a functioning SaaS management system will gain access to the detailed, timely information needed to make data-driven decisions about their SaaS application portfolio. This will provide two benefits: On the one hand, it can prevent security and compliance issues. On the other hand, it's the only way to take advantage of the special benefits SaaS has to offer."

André explains why companies need to take action now in the following way: "We see that organizations are not prepared for the challenges posed by SaaS. This is a big problem. The famous phrase 'software is eating the world' now needs to be updated: SaaS is eating software. This development cannot be stopped. Those who rethink their approach now will be on the right course for managing their IT landscape into the future."

Survey Background and Key Findings

Gartner forecasts global SaaS spend to hit $146 billion this year and to potentially reach $270 billion by 2025, a pace that the COVID19 pandemic has only accelerated. Software-as-a-service’s ease of access, high scalability, and continuous vendor-side maintenance makes it attractive to organizations of all sizes. However, some of these characteristics, such as the ability for anyone with an email address and a credit card to purchase SaaS, can lead to real problems such as lack of visibility, runaway costs, and security risks. Deloitte notes that without effective, comprehensive SaaS management, these problems will only get worse and companies will increasingly feel their impact.

LeanIX conducted the SaaS Management Survey 2021 to find out how companies currently purchase, manage, and control SaaS applications. Enterprise architects from a total of 105 companies – selected from LeanIX’s international customer portfolio – shared their knowledge and experience through an online survey in July and August 2021.

Some of the most compelling findings include:

  • 68 percent of respondents reported strong growth in SaaS adoption since 2019.

Estimated Growth of SaaS Application since 2019

  • While SaaS accounts for less than a quarter of the application portfolio in 58 percent of companies, it accounts for more than 50 percent of the portfolio for a growing number of companies.


  • In the US, 61 percent of companies report that SaaS represents more than one quarter of the application portfolio. In Europe, only 35 percent of companies say that is the case.

  • While SaaS actually makes decentralized purchasing easier, only 18 percent of participating companies said decisions about SaaS purchasing are made predominantly on a decentralized basis.

  • Companies use a range of tools to manage SaaS, but Excel spreadsheets – used by 57 percent of respondents – are the second most common.

  • 64 percent of respondents say automation is critical for SaaS management but SaaS management platforms featuring this capability are rarely employed.

  • 75 percent of the enterprise architects surveyed said their leading challenges included: discovering all the SaaS applications the company had purchased, providing information about the number and types of licenses currently in use, and calculating all SaaS-related costs.

  • In over 80 percent of the companies surveyed, four or more departments are involved in the SaaS management process. It is noteworthy that 11 percent of respondents do not know who is responsible for SaaS management


Time for a SaaS Center of Excellence?

In the absence of common standards for the ownership of SaaS management, it’s not surprising that the majority of respondents support the idea of a multidisciplinary team, comparable to the already established Cloud Center of Excellence, dedicated to guiding the organization’s approach to SaaS:


  • More than half of those surveyed believe their company would benefit from a SaaS Center of Excellence, although the concept has not yet been discussed internally.
  • That being said, 21 percent of companies indicated that the concept of a SaaS Center of Excellence is already in the planning stages or has been established.

Companies need to rethink SaaS management

The market for SaaS applications will only continue to grow. Experts all agree on this, and the results of the present study confirm this trend. However, the study also shows that the necessary steps have not yet been taken for effective SaaS management. These steps include establishing clear accountability for SaaS management, implementing processes that take advantage of the benefits unique to SaaS without exposing the organization to security and compliance risks or uncontrolled spending, and implementing SaaS management tools that provide timely insight into every aspect of the SaaS application portfolio.

About LeanIX

LeanIX's Continuous Transformation Platform® is trusted by Corporate IT and Product IT to
achieve comprehensive visibility and superior governance. Global customers organize, plan and manage IT landscapes with LeanIX's automated and data-driven approach. Offering Enterprise Architecture, SaaS Management, and Value Stream Management, LeanIX helps organizations make sound decisions and accelerate transformation journeys. LeanIX has hundreds of customers globally, including Adidas, Atlassian, Bosch, Dropbox, Santander or Workday. The company is headquartered in Bonn, Germany, with offices in Boston, San Francisco and around the world.