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How to manage SaaS in the age of distributed work

Productive distributed workforces require a choice of SaaS tooling while maintaining oversight to prevent businesses from drowning in cost and complexity

Transformation is continuous for every business as market conditions and technological advancements are constantly adding new requirements. It’s up to business and IT leaders to create the conditions for embracing continuous change.

New ways of working are at the core of this evolution. The past few years have demanded that leaders across the business embrace new working models and challenges, without dictating to employees where to do their job and when. The future of work must provide freedom to employees in nearly every direction: promoting personal skills, valuing unique life situations, creating trust and enabling continuous communication.

The logical consequence of new work models means that all employees must be empowered to design their workplace flexibly and individually going forward. Workplace flexibility is fuelled by new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools that can easily be signed up for, to connect the business workforce from anywhere in the world.

The explosion of SaaS

SaaS supports nearly every business operation, process, workflow and function today. For years, millions of professionals have used SaaS apps to reconfigure the workplace. From Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Project Management Software to communication and collaboration tools, the adoption of SaaS became nearly unavoidable.

Then, overnight, SaaS became even more important as the shift to remote work forced many businesses to quickly adjust to life away from a corporate office. Some organisations were more prepared to work remotely with the right IT infrastructure already in place, while others were left struggling to ensure people had the tools needed to keep the business up and running.

It is now predicted that by 2023, 86 per cent of companies will run purely on SaaS solutions. As adoption skyrockets, organisations are waking up to find hundreds of SaaS applications in use. While the opportunity to increase employee productivity and efficiency is coveted, SaaS introduces challenges for IT, security, finance and procurement leaders.

SaaS left unchecked

Sprawling and unchecked SaaS consumption make software management impossible as any employee can launch a new SaaS app in seconds via free trials or with a credit card. What most decision-makers don’t realise is that, on average, up to 30 per cent of SaaS spend is wasted because of underused or unused subscriptions, excess licences and overpriced vendors. What’s worse is that 77 per cent of organisations have experienced security incidents directly related to SaaS. It’s nearly impossible to gauge the ROI for overall SaaS usage, as many issues are underestimated or unknown entirely.

Take a minute and ask yourself how much SaaS your organisation is using. We at LeanIX currently spend nearly $2 million on SaaS for more than 360 employees – or roughly $5,000 per employee. Our priorities are to empower employees with the SaaS subscriptions they need without overspending on unused licenses and to proactively manage auto-renewals and tool access when employees leave or change roles. This requires a lot of data delivered to the right people at the right time to make the best decisions for our company.

The challenge for many organisations is that managing SaaS is a game of playing catch-up. Often, we see companies stitch information together with tracking spreadsheets or outdated IT asset management systems. Their SaaS is running unchecked while security, compliance and costs spiral out of control. IT, finance, legal and operations teams are left scrambling to figure out how to wrangle SaaS while removing the tension (or striking a balance) between corporate policies and helping employees succeed with their choice of SaaS tools.

Embracing SaaS management

SaaS management is an emerging practice to help companies gain complete visibility into their SaaS ecosystem and obtain the maximum value from cloud-based software tools. It evolves beyond classic IT asset management frameworks built in the pre-cloud era by creating systematic and easy-to-follow processes for SaaS purchasing, usage and control.

A distributed workforce is increasingly dependent on SaaS solutions for daily work productivity and team collaboration – at any time and from anywhere in the world. Empowering individuals and teams to choose the tools that best fit their workflow needs is only the beginning and requires planning and consideration for how each choice impacts the organisation as a whole.

Businesses must prioritise SaaS management to continuously discover and manage all the SaaS applications they own across their distributed workforce. This visibility allows teams to identify opportunities for cost savings by tracking usage and determining compliance exposures to mitigate risks. Companies that enable this data-driven decision-making can keep SaaS in check as adoption rises and the shift to remote work continues.

To set your course for success download the SaaS Management eBook: The Definitive Guide for IT and Finance Leaders