Software as a service (SaaS) applications have done wonders to improve the quality of businesses in a variety of industries. But as businesses grow, it can be difficult to keep track of all the software.
Keeping track of payments, renewals, employee onboarding, and all the other details involved with these accounts and subscriptions can become overwhelming. Unfortunately, failure to keep track of your SaaS applications can lead to inefficiencies and an increasingly chaotic system. Every successful company must have a plan for SaaS management. So how can you avoid the chaos and ensure all your SaaS applications are being effectively managed? Here are seven tips to help you keep track and manage all of your SaaS applications
1. Avoid shadow IT.
In large or quickly growing organizations, shadow IT is all too common. Anytime software is purchased or used without organizational approval or awareness of an IT department is known as shadow IT.
The problem with shadow IT is that it is highly likely to be mismanaged, forgotten or underutilized. The IDC reports that by 2020, 67% of enterprise infrastructure and software will be for cloud-based offerings. It is extremely easy for cloud-based services to go unnoticed without a designated system for tracking them.
Shadow IT can be very costly for businesses, as employees often don't have full training for each service, leading to software being underutilized and overpaid for. Sometimes software subscriptions become forgotten, but not canceled, causing organizations to lose money on each automatic, unnoticed payment. Furthermore, when the IT department is unaware of what apps are being used, then they aren't able to ensure that the company's network is safe from vulnerabilities caused by SaaS access permissions.
Be sure each department and employee at your company understands how to record new software subscriptions. There should be one person or team in charge of knowing about all SaaS applications at the company and understanding their functions and requirements.
If shadow IT is already lurking at your company because systems for management are not currently in place, the first step is discovering, recording, and informing yourself about the functions of each software service. This step should be done as soon as possible to avoid wasting resources.
Once all shadow IT is uncovered, evaluate the importance and network access permissions of each software service. Perhaps some applications are no longer in use, or their function is not worth the cost. Be sure to cancel these wasteful services. Don't let shadow IT drain you of resources without your knowledge.
2. Put an onboarding system in place.
The first few days at a new job are often overwhelming for employees. There is so much to learn in a short amount of time. This process is only made more intensive if there are issues gaining access to all the various software services used by your company.
Organize your employee onboarding process for each SaaS application. This can be done by designating an IT or human resources employee to ensure all new employees have proper access and training for each software service. Creating an onboarding system will eliminate inefficiencies as employees won't waste time waiting for access to be granted. It will also ensure employees understand how to use each application so no service or subscription is underutilized.
Many managers know the frustration of encouraging employees to use a software service they don't want to use. But most software services are purchased because there is value in it when properly used. A proper onboarding process that includes providing quick access and dedicated training to new employees, leads to a higher likelihood that these applications will be used throughout an employee's time at the company.
Similar to your onboarding system should be an offboarding system to remove employees' access to apps at the end of their employment.
3. Make security a priority.
A severe consequence of mismanaged SaaS is a security breach. It's extremely important to keep up to date on all SaaS applications to avoid leaving yourself vulnerable to the exposure of your data.
According to Gartner, roughly one-third of successful cyberattacks experienced by enterprises will be on their shadow IT resources. This is why it is imperative to bring all SaaS applications to the forefront of your business, so security can be tracked and managed.
It is best practice to keep all software at your company updated to the latest version, as well as to frequently change passwords and monitor who has access. It is not uncommon in large businesses for former employees to keep access to old files far longer than is safe.
Security vulnerabilities can cause significant amounts of damage to a company. According to an IBM study, a data breach can cost a company up to $3.92 million on average, and they can happen to anyone. Small businesses are especially at risk, due to weaker security systems. SBM research found that roughly two-thirds of attacks target small businesses.
Avoid exposing yourself to data breaches by managing your SaaS applications and improving visibility for all IT services.
4. Keep a payment and renewal schedule.
One of the quickest ways to cause chaos in your company is to lose track of payments for software subscriptions. This frequently causes problems in two different ways.
The first way businesses are caught off guard by payment and renewal schedules is when a highly important and frequently used service is unknowingly canceled. Many software services have automatic renewals, but some require a licensing renewal process that does not occur automatically.
This can wreak havoc on a company when important applications are unusable during critical moments. It may seem simple, but due to the seemingly automatic nature of SaaS applications, many businesses do not do a good job of tracking the requirements to keep their access active.
The second problem caused by not having an effective schedule for all SaaS applications is when unimportant and rarely used services have costly automatic renewals. Companies should frequently evaluate all SaaS applications for effectiveness, and when it comes time for renewal, you should be well informed as to whether that is something that is in the best interest of your business.
5. Utilize SaaS management tools.
Even with a designated employee or team of employees assigned to managing all your SaaS applications, things can fall through the cracks. Consider enlisting the help of a SaaS management tool, which tracks usage, spending and optimization for each SaaS application at your company.
SaaS management tools can also help uncover shadow IT, onboard new employees, improve security and keep payment schedules. Some companies may choose to handle all these processes manually, but it's the invention of SaaS management tools that provides major advantages to companies that don't have a lot of extra time and resources and want to streamline processes.
Enlisting the help of a management tool frees up availability for your employees to work on other issues, and it also helps avoid human error in the management of these systems. These tools give useful insights into how each SaaS service can be better utilized.
6. Get all departments on board.
Having organization-wide controls for SaaS applications is highly important for effective management. There should be frequent communication between all teams about the use of software services. If you don't have consistency across your entire company, most systems will be rendered ineffective. A well-functioning system relies on universal employee buy-in.
Each department should have a vested interest in the success of whichever SaaS applications they use most frequently. Mismanaged software services could be affecting each department's budget, communication, efficiency and security without their knowledge. It might require training to ensure every department understands the processes in place for managing SaaS, but it will be well worth the time and most likely save your company resources in the long term.
7. Report and investigate for further improvements.
The goal of managing SaaS well is to increase visibility, understanding and communication surrounding SaaS applications. It's important after improving your management system to report on its effectiveness and continue to search for further ideas to increase efficiency.
Reflection is highly important to successful business, so anytime a new process is put in place, the organization should spend time evaluating its effectiveness and ensuring employees understand how the process worked. Reflection and investigation for further improvement will help avoid falling into old patterns. We don't want shadow IT to return or various SaaS applications to be forgotten again as new employees are hired and old employees move on. Good SaaS management is not a one-time thing; it is an ongoing process that will improve the functionality of your business long-term.