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The Definitive Guide to

SaaS Management

Everything about what SaaS Management (SM) is, why you should know about it, what are the key benefits, and what best practices to get started.


SaaS evolved from the growing need for centralized computing during the 3rd industrial revolution. Salesforce’s “The End of Software¹” campaign in 2000 and Concur’s resistance to a floppy disk and CD-ROM production invited a world of app services delivered via the internet.

This led to an explosion in cloud computing for the everyday person and inexpensive, web-based business licensing models. As history shows, disruptive advances invite both chaos and challenge, alongside productivity and growth.

And a solution for the SaaS chaos? Welcome to SaaS management.


What is SaaS management?

SaaS management is the practice of identifying and managing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications within an organization's technology portfolio. It lets you reliably discover SaaS apps, monitor license usage and spending, proactively manage renewals, and track compliance in an automated and scalable manner.

One business practice that combines all of the processes required to efficiently scale cloud software, extend businesses' strategic objectives and account for users' needs while upholding data security and privacy standards.


No more need for using spreadsheets to keep records of all SaaS applications, the SaaS management platforms use advanced discovery methods for complete visibility of your SaaS portfolio, e.g. integrations with ERP, HR, financial and contract systems, SSOs, and direct SaaS integrations.

For many, SaaS management adapts those processes once used to manage perpetual, on-premise software and modifies them to fit the realities of the SaaS subscription model with insights.

Comparison to application portfolio management

Application portfolio management (APM) provides a broad overview of an organization's software applications, covering both SaaS and on-premises solutions.

APM aims to align the application portfolio with business goals, focusing on efficiency and strategic relevance. It involves evaluating applications for performance, deciding on updates, and planning future technology investments.

The goal is to streamline the portfolio, manage costs effectively, and ensure the technology stack meets both current and future needs, offering strategic and operational benefits across the organization’s entire software landscape.


What challenges does SaaS growth bring to companies?

Accessibility, high adoption rate, lower costs, easy upgrades, and smooth integrations are the initial SaaS benefits. Once organizations subscribe to hundreds of SaaS vendors and implement multiple instances & licenses, the original promise of SaaS can quickly deteriorate.

Some of the challenges the SaaS model brings are:

  • Wasted spend on overlapping SaaS, excess licenses or usage, and overpriced vendors
  • Increased service and user lifecycle management time
  • Hundreds of renewals to manage
  • Failed SaaS implementations
  • Unmanaged SaaS applications — Shadow IT

Too many companies only focus on the transition to "cloud-first". Then, they face a new problem: limited visibility and control once SaaS consumes their business.


Why would organizations need SaaS management?

There is a problem since we’ve never been taught how to control and manage SaaS portfolios, plus many organizations rely on incomplete CMP or direct vendor analytics — SaaS application is not software on-prem or a typical IT Asset.

Besides the SaaS challenges mentioned above, software vendors also continue developing new technologies, changing pricing structures, and expanding features to feed the appetites of cloud-crazy companies, LeanIX expects even more spectacular SaaS adoption in the next decade. At the same time, Gartner² expects 85% of enterprises to operate ‘cloud-first' by 2025.

Employees and departments love to buy and adopt new SaaS technologies because it’s fast, easy and it enables them to increase their productivity when they are in need of results. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a typical employee uses 44³ SaaS apps to do their job.


Organizations and spreadsheets can’t keep up with the SaaS growth. Let the numbers show it:
  • Enterprises are wasting up to 30%³ of their SaaS spending.
  • The annual SaaS spend per employee totals more than $13k³.
  • The typical 800-person US company uses 141³ SaaS apps across the organization.

SaaS management or business-aligned application portfolio management is required since purchasing has become easy, decentralized, and way more uncontrollable for the leaders than it needs to be.

The key benefits of SaaS management

Even though application portfolio management offers broader strategic benefits, there are still specific gains to SaaS management for companies heavily relying on cloud-based services:

Visibility into your SaaS estate

SaaS management gives a complete picture of all SaaS subscriptions, user licenses, owners, contracts, renewals, and costs. It also captures vital usage trend data enabling informed decision-making about renewals and future investments.

The beauty of SaaS is when 30% of subscriptions are unused, it gives companies an option to not renew or renegotiate SaaS agreements in the next contract period.

Complete visibility was the initial use case explored by SaaS management platforms, and it remains the main one.

SaaS spend optimization―Increase SaaS ROI

SaaS managers can use the usage data to determine whether organizations are receiving value from SaaS investments. Following SaaS spend optimization process together with actionable insights allows them to remove excess vendors, licenses, and redundant SaaS solutions that are not needed.

SaaS management insights are used to drive discounts, e.g. by consolidating multiple Salesforce instances and contracts, or to yield savings during a competitive bid process for exclusivity when using Webex, Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Skype for video conferencing.

📚 Related: Application Rationalization

Security gaps removal and compliance certainty

First, SaaS management enables control over SaaS security threats with shadow IT discovery. Integrations allow tracking of any SaaS purchases happening across the departments一even the ones bought through corporate credit cards.

Secondly, access to an organization’s sensitive data is secured by automatically identifying and de-provisioning licenses with employees that already left the company.

Having full SaaS visibility enables leaders to identify SaaS vendors that comply with the organization’s policies and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, such as, GDPR, SOC2, and others.

📚 Related: Technology Risk Management

Operational efficiency

Continuous SaaS stack growth means companies have multiple renewals per week to process. SaaS management saves time by having all the renewal information in one spot一ownership information, usage data, contract value, and renewal dates (renewals calendar).

Finance, procurement, and IT analysts are able to switch from active to proactive approaches. They are notified with automatic alerts of when renewals are due and answer questions, such as:

  • What software does a salesperson need to start working?
  • How much does software for each marketing person costs? How much is the departmental cost?
  • How much will our software cost drop when an employee leaves?

Employee onboarding and offboarding take time, especially when the complete SaaS portfolio is unknown. SaaS management insights speeds up recognition of which applications a person leaving was signed up for and automates the IT request process to ensure employees receive the software they need to do their job quickly and with minimum impact on IT resources.

Employee satisfaction

SaaS management software enables users to recognize the value of SaaS investments and ensures the employees are getting the most out of them.

It provides insight into whether users are fully adopting new solutions and can uncover areas where training or an internal comms campaign can help. This is done through fine-grained tracking of which features are being used by each user.


How to get started with SaaS management

You know your business and which areas are noticeably undisciplined—likely losing money or failing to generate a return from their investments.

The market of SaaS management tools out there is growing and each one has its differentiators, therefore it’s necessary to know how to get started:

Build a buy-in

Defining your SaaS management business case is the key to success. When you know what you want to achieve, and why, you can get the necessary buy-in. LeanIX suggests aligning views internally with:

  • Assign ownership teams with cross-functional perspectives and relationships
  • Define a clear vision for SaaS management, including priority outcomes
  • Agree to a holistic approach to SM. This includes managing SaaS through approval, acquisition, usage, and renewal or retirement
  • Build relationships and plan collaboration with functional SM stakeholders
  • Determine experience owners (e.g., FP&A or IT) and dedicate the human capital needed for management
  • Evaluate SM platforms and select a vendor with industry expertise and a dedicated support team

Collect requirements and set goals

Stakeholders need shared objectives—this starts with expectation setting at the executive level that cascades throughout the business.

Defining these objects is a set of collaborative experiences. Interested stakeholders (ideally, with varying levels of seniority) can work together to broadly discuss opportunities for the business to improve. Then, project leads can work tactically to deliver these.

C-level leaders should discuss main challenges including issues of risk, compliance, value-creation, employee engagement, and/or cost-reduction. These may be prioritized, quantified, and assigned clear targets. A task force of IT, finance, HR, and security leaders may then be assigned to evaluate SM platforms and map out an implementation plan.

Navigate vendors and platform differences

SaaS management marketplace features a crop of innovative platforms working inside both startups and Fortune 100 companies. Platform capabilities do vary, however, LeanIX finds that platforms’ support of the benefits discussed earlier often differs.

Ask the questions to help assess the right fit

Understanding platform capabilities is essential to finding a right-fit solution. Often, platforms seem the same; however, vendors emphasize a variety of features or functions and prioritize certain business drivers, like visibility, differently.

Below, we organize sample sets of vendor discussion topics. Verify these in the context of your business goals during an SM platform evaluation:

  • Unlocking visibility and discovery
  • Realizing value delivery
  • Improving risk management
  • Supporting operational efficiency

Deployment timeline

While the deployment times vary based on the project complexity, enterprises generally have a platform running four to six weeks after contract signing.

To ensure swift onboarding secure a company-wide alignment around the problems that SM intends to solve, allocate internal resources for this initiative, compile input information about SaaS estate, and share documentation around any past attempts to solve SaaS management.



No matter how mature your SaaS management processes are–from reasonably defined to non-existent–it’s not too late to expand control.

Smart businesses are moving en masse to SaaS management to restore both the value promise of cloud applications and mitigate debilitating security and compliance issues. The importance and sense of urgency to become a more agile digital business are clear.



³ Statistics are taken from 2019 The State of SaaS Business Spend report conducted by Cleanshelf (now a part of LeanIX).

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What is SaaS Management?

SaaS Management is a practice of monitoring and managing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications within an organization's technology portfolio. It lets you reliably discover SaaS apps, monitor license usage and spending, proactively manage renewals, and track compliance in an automated and scalable manner.

How long does it take to implement SaaS Management?

SaaS Management deployment times vary based on project complexity, enterprises generally have a platform running four to six weeks after contract signing.

Can I use SaaS Management instead of other asset management systems (ITAM, SAM)?

For companies that use only SaaS applications, this is a necessary discipline to run an efficient and secure organization, since SaaS Management is the only discipline to focus specifically on SaaS. For the companies that use SaaS only partially, having an established ITAM or SAM system is a great starting point to try and get some SaaS consumption and visibility. Therefore, SaaS Management is a compliment to your existing processes.

Who is SaaS Management for?

SaaS Management is for companies and leaders who want to get rich insights into their SaaS estate. Our active users are IT, finance, and security leaders who can now support and collaborate with SAM, HR, procurement, project manager, and business system teams with reliable data from one place.

How do I know if SaaS Management is right for me?

If you want to achieve an effective and proactive approach to business control and planning within an organization that uses SaaS applications, SaaS Management proves to be the right fit.