AvePoint understands the challenges that come with managing multi-SaaS applications. That’s why they’ve put together this guide to showcase the value of better SaaS management as well as give you best practices and solutions to enhance your SaaS operations, making it easier to manage your organization’s portfolio.
Read this article to start maximizing your SaaS potential today.
The demand for IT is expected to remain strong in 2023 as enterprises push forward to modernize their digital workplaces. In fact, worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.6 trillion in 2023, an increase of 5.1% from 2022.
A large portion of this spend will be dedicated to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. On average, today’s businesses are maintaining 125 different SaaS applications. These apps are critical to the modern workplace, transforming the way we get work done by enabling remote and flexible work as well as driving growth and performance.
Today, the average business maintains 125 SaaS applications. Source: Gartner
There’s just one problem: many organizations are struggling to keep up with the adoption of technology, as traditional management strategies can’t keep pace with this snowballing tech stack. Processes to manage SaaS apps in the single digits will not be as effective or sustainable to manage SaaS applications in triple (and growing) digits.
Poor SaaS management can lead to security concerns, non-compliance, operational complexities, unnecessary IT spending, and administration burden – risks no business can afford. Rather than sacrifice the tools that are driving employee productivity and satisfaction, it’s time to find a better, easier way to manage your organization’s SaaS portfolio. In this guide, we’ll help you understand the value of better SaaS management and provide you with best practices and solutions to establish an effective, sustainable, and easy SaaS management strategy. By doing so, you can achieve a safe and secure digital workplace.
25% of employees would consider leaving their job because they don’t have the tools they need. Source: Gartner
What is SaaS Management?
SaaS management is the methodology of managing and operating Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. While experts’ definitions of SaaS management vary, the crux is the same: solutions and strategies that help businesses discover, manage, automate, optimize, protect, govern, and enable their SaaS applications.
BENEFITS OF SAAS MANAGEMENT
- Optimize spend
- Improve efficiency
- Increase visibility
- Enhance security
Proper SaaS management has so many perks – such as process simplification and tool optimization – that can be realized quickly. However, the true value lies in the long-term benefits: sustainable scalability, maximized investments and future-proofed digital workspaces. By effectively managing your SaaS environment, you can ensure that your organization is equipped to adapt to changing and growing business needs and technological advancements, leading to continued success and growth over time.
Often, SaaS management is centralized in a SaaS management platform (SMPs), aggregating usage metrics, monitoring, and management in a single platform. Gartner predicts by 2027, 40% of organizations using multiple SaaS applications will centralize management with a SMP – up from less than 25 percent in 2022.
Although SMPs can enhance your SaaS management, effective SaaS management entails more than simply purchasing a product that claims to solve all your issues. A high-quality SMP should facilitate the implementation of best practices that enhance the digital workspace for your entire organization, simplifying IT management, guiding users towards optimal practices, and securing your environment.
To that end, it is crucial to establish the guidelines and standards that align with your organization’s objectives. The SMP will assist in implementing these guidelines, but it’s up to you to make the decisions that are right for your organization.
SaaS Management Made Easy: Your 5-Step Blueprint for Success
Whether you decide to invest in a SMP or DIY your SaaS management with a combination of strategies and solutions, you must ensure your choice enables SaaS management best practices that increase visibility, enhance security, and improve efficiencies across all your SaaS applications.
- Extend Your IT
- Optimize Your SaaS Spend
- Simplify Management
- Scale Your Security
- Empower End Users
These best practices are easily achievable by following simple strategies. If done correctly, you won’t only improve your SaaS management, but make your digital workplace a safe, controlled, and productive space to get work done.
Let’s dive into how to achieve each best practice.
Best Practice One: Extend Your IT
When it comes to essential tools like Microsoft 365 and Power Platform that your team uses daily, it’s impossible to keep up and scale management and security manually. If your central IT is responsible for managing the entirety of your SaaS applications, your users will be waiting around for days for IT to come and approve requests, driving them to shadow IT. The more time IT wastes on menial and routine tasks, the less time they have to innovate and build solutions that can make a difference. After all, you don’t want to avoid adopting transformative tools like Power Platform because you don’t think your team has the bandwidth to handle it.
IT workloads have increased by 60% or more since the pandemic. – Source: Harvey Nash Group
Extending your IT is a simple one-two punch: trust but verify. First, provide them additional hands-on support through delegated administration. Identify trusted resources to hand over some of the more repetitive tasks (such as onboarding new employees, managing permissions in team environments, or provisioning new workspaces) so they can focus on more important tasks.
Second, empower your central admins to keep an eye on things with audit reports that detail what each rolebased admin is doing, allowing them to review activity, configuration settings, and any new workspaces. From these reports, it is easy for them to identify potential issues and revert anything that seems off.
For example, as part of your application lifecycle management in Power Apps, it’s a best practice to follow a three-environment strategy:
- build an app in a sandbox environment;
- trial it in a test environment; and
- deploy it in production environment.
Consider appointing an environment admin who has the power to create new environments, like a test environment, as needed. This ensures that not just anyone can create an environment but doesn’t stop app production simply because your global IT’s bandwidth is stretched thin.
Intrepid Travel reduces IT workload by 40 hours a month with AvePoint Cloud Governance.
Best Practice Two: Optimize Your SaaS Spend
Gartner’s 2022 Market Guide for SaaS Management Platforms found SaaS spend continues to grow by 15%-20% annually. While SaaS spending is growing, budget increases aren’t necessarily following, and businesses need to find a way to optimize their SaaS costs or risk facing budget overruns.
Incorrect and unnecessary entitlement and overlapping tools can cause organizations to overspend on SaaS by at least 25%, predicts Gartner. – Source: Gartner
It’s important to set rules around who can purchase new SaaS applications and implement a checks and balances process, so your organization isn’t investing in duplicative tools. This also limits your team’s collaboration to sanctioned tools, which is essential for maintaining security.
Then, to properly manage the tools you have purchased, monitor your team’s usage across your applications to identify opportunities for optimization or even cost savings. For example, perhaps you have 200 seats in an application only 25 people use, or you invested in an expensive tool and no one has opened it in months. Once you identify these underutilized apps, you can cancel or downgrade your subscriptions and divest the funds to more valuable resources.
With more information about usage and costs, you can identify easy wins for your budget and make better decisions about adopting, cancelling, or continuing a subscription.
Best Practice Three: Simplify Management
The more complex your environment, the more difficult it will be for your IT admins to maintain and control it – and the higher the risk of vulnerabilities and errors. This complexity could be caused by a multitude of culprits, from custom permissions and workspace sprawl to manual, routine tasks and maintenance all placed on the shoulders of IT.
While it may feel like a complex posture is the only way to maintain the right control of your applications, it quickly becomes a daunting task to keep up with the pace of creation, let alone change. The results? Uncontrolled growth, compliance issues, and inconsistent application of security controls.
94% of IT executives believe manual SaaS management methods lead to poor decision-making about SaaS spending. – Source: Productiv
Maintain the integrity of your applications by keeping it simple. The simplest solution is often the best one, and the fewer moving parts or complexity to a system, the better. There’s a lot of ways you can interpret this in your SaaS applications, but the easiest way to keep it simple is by establishing organizational standards and automating them. This ensures consistent application of rules and security policies across your applications while keeping management as simple and hands-off as possible.
For example, as your SaaS use matures, there is nothing more important than having an advanced operational governance strategy. However, a hands-on strategy is time-consuming, tedious, and error-prone. Instead, implement automated governance, ensuring consistent policies across your environments.
Automation streamlines lifecycle management as well. Inactive or orphaned workspaces (like old Teams channels) and objects (like outdated workflows) can clutter and complicate your environment. When you implement automated lifecycle management – which triggers owner recertification after a period of inactivity – you not only control environment growth but put the onus on owners to manage their workspaces, freeing up IT from menial tasks.
Then, to ensure the guidelines you set are followed, implement policy enforcement to identify deviations from your organizational standard and revert any changes. This keeps IT in control of your environment without constantly needing to check that their policies are still applied and relevant.
30% of software investments could be wasted due to service duplication and unmanaged growth of production and sandbox resources. – Source: Amalga Insights
Best Practice Four: Empower End Users
To ensure your environments stay secure, you will need to put controls in place to make certain everything stays safe and sound. Except…what makes IT and security teams happy will likely make collaboration difficult for your users.
And when an environment is overly restricted, users WILL turn to shadow IT. It’s much easier to buy a small subscription to a collaboration tool they can own than to work within the confines of an environment with so many restrictions that they can’t get any work done. And if you leave your end users to their own devices, you will sacrifice necessary security and compliance.
IT is typically aware of only 1/3 of SaaS applications due to decentralized ownerships and source. – Source: Gartner
The City of St. Port Lucie reduced manual provisioning process by 600% with AvePoint.
Find a balance between restrained and free-for-all to empower your end users with existing tools rather than restrict them. Leverage solutions that make it easy to do the right thing, setting guardrails around workspace provisioning, permission management, and access configurations.
There are so many ways you can make it easier for your teams to collaborate, from streamlining how new workspaces are created to enabling access to transformative tools with Power Apps and Power Automate.
It all starts with right sizing the polices you apply to your end users. This means applying the appropriate precautions – no more, no less – to your environments to keep them secure and controlling who can do what and where.
For example, allow your end users to create their own workspaces but require them to complete a questionnaire during provisioning, identifying the purpose and intended membership to ensure the appropriate policies are applied. If your user indicates their workspace will be used for sensitive information, prohibit the space from being public and require verification before any external user is added as a member.
When you make it easy to do the right thing, your users will work within sanctioned tools you provide under the conditions you set, and you can rest easy knowing your investments aren’t a security nightmare.
Best Practice Five: Scale Your Security
Even with proper policies and procedures in place, things can still fall through the cracks. Hazards like accidental oversharing, misconfigured permissions, or unmonitored external users can easily sneak past your policies and be a real threat to your security.
Unfortunately, your IT can’t constantly watch for missteps like this, particularly across hundreds of applications and workspaces. That’s why you need to scale your security by going beyond policies and procedures, monitoring for risks in your environment and taking action quickly to remediate them.
Over 90% of employees who admitted undertaking a range of unsecure actions during work activities knew that their actions would increase risk to the organization but did so anyway. – Source: Gartner
The better you understand your environment, the easier it will be to control. It’s important to keep an inventory of any applications, workspaces, and objects across your organization.
With this inventory, you have centralized visibility into what’s happening across your environment, making it easy to monitor for changes, anomalies and possible risks.
This will help you catch security issues before they become concerns, like an external user lurking in a workspace longer than needed or sensitive information shared more broadly than it should be. These scenarios could cause real issues for you, but wouldn’t necessarily be prevented by your standard policies and procedures. Risk monitoring not only allows you to find and remediate issues, but identifies gaps in your security postures, enabling you to update policies to prevent similar mistakes in the future.
Business Refinery discovered 30,000 anonymous shared links with AvePoint
Bringing it all together: Your checklist to ace SaaS management
Extend Your IT
IT can’t be everywhere – maximize your team’s bandwidth by sharing the management burden with trusted resources.
- Delegate administration
- Implement single pane-of-glass visibility
- Generate admin audit reports
Optimize SaaS Spend
IT budgets aren’t endless – make informed decisions about where best to invest and have the most impact.
- Review access and usage metrics
- Consolidate available SaaS management tools
- Optimize licenses of SaaS management investments
Complicated doesn’t mean safer – make it easy to keep your collaboration controlled and secure with simple management practices.
- Automate governance
- Streamline lifecycle management
- Implement policy enforcement
Empower End Users
Overly restrictive environments will drive users into the shadows – apply controls that help you feel confident allowing them to collaborate.
- Establish right-sized policies & security settings
- Improve permission management
- Streamline provisioning
Scale Your Security
Your policies and procedures won’t stop every mistake or threat – you need to keep an eye on your applications to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
- Centralize visibility
- Enable risk monitoring
- Streamline risk remediation
The good news? It is possible to make it easy for your users to do the right thing by setting the right guardrails in place for secure, scalable collaboration.
IT teams are managing more than ever before, and processes that worked for managing a few SaaS applications are no longer effective when dealing with hundreds of them. But you don’t need to compromise your SaaS applications to avoid costly management, security concerns, and operational complexities. Instead, improve your SaaS management practices to create a better digital workplace for your entire organization.
By following best practices, you can ensure your applications are not only available, secure, and cost-effective, but that your team can use them to their full potential, maximizing your investment and driving performance and profits for your organization.