Attention: This article explains the ins and outs of SaaS Management, but if you’re looking to apply the principles to your daily work—check out our Distributed SaaS Management Playbook. It’s a short, insightful way for IT to get buy-in and start managing their SaaS sprawl company-wide.
Do you feel adrift? Like a captain at sea with a waterlogged boat? It’s not just you; that water around you is a sea of SaaS applications and related administrative tasks.
Jira tickets, Slacks, and rambling emails pour into your IT vessel faster than you can bail them out.
Like the ocean, your SaaS stack is hiding something from you. Whether you know it or not, you’re probably only aware of a fraction of the apps that operate under the surface of your organization. This threatens your company’s security, budget, and peace of mind.
Traditional IT Management strategies weren’t built for this. Like a pontoon built for calm waters and perfect visibility, they’re not equipped to monitor and navigate the paradigm shift, the storm of cloud-first software.
Fortunately, every problem has a solution—and you need a cloud-first solution for a cloud-first company, an emerging software category specifically designed for dealing with this struggle—SaaS Management Platforms (SMPs).
We’ll cover all the basics of SaaS Management Platforms from bow to stern.
In This Article:
What is a SaaS Management Platform?
A SaaS Management Platform (SMP) enables discovery, management, automation, and optimization for your company’s sanctioned and unsanctioned (shadow IT) cloud applications. The SMP allows IT to bolster identity and data protection, find and eliminate wasted expenditures, automate time-intensive or mundane tasks, and much more.
Unlike other systems, SaaS Management Platforms were built for the rapidly evolving world of SaaS. This only accelerated during the explosive growth of remote work in 2020. Today, Companies of all sizes use their SaaS Management Platforms to oversee all the applications used and be proactive with all application and employee lifecycle tasks.
According to Gartner’s Market Guide for SaaS Management Platforms, adopting SMPs will become pivotal to an organization’s future success. They state that through 2027, organizations that fail to consider these kinds of tools will “remain five times more susceptible to a cyber incident or data loss due to misconfiguration.” and “will overspend on SaaS by at least 25% due to incorrect and unnecessary entitlements and not rationalizing overlapping tools and instances.”
Note: This article will lean heavily on the research and analysis provided by Gartner. Be sure to grab your copy of the guide
Put simply, if your current state with SaaS apps is a roaring ocean, an SMP serves as a lifeboat and a lighthouse. It doesn’t make the journey “easy.” but it provides both the means and the direction to get out of trouble and back on track.
Now that you’ve grasped the essence of a SaaS Management Platform let’s dive into the exciting world of its key capabilities. The following section will explore how these powerful tools help you conquer your SaaS environment and unleash its full potential.
What are the Capabilities of a SaaS Management Platform?
In 2021, Gartner published their first Market Guide for SaaS Management Platforms. It listed three key capabilities: Discover, Manage, and Secure. In 2022, Gartner updated the guide and expanded the capabilities from three to seven:
But why the explosion in capabilities?
We can understand that by considering the cloud-first movement accelerated by the pandemic.
In modern organizations, more critical operations are pushed to operate cloud-first leaving traditional SAM tools and ITAM frameworks behind. As a result, it left a massive hole in the stern of IT departments. SMPs are designed—not just to patch that hole—but to improve the process for all other apps.
SMPs are designed to empower IT to orchestrate the interaction and automation of all their different applications by providing access to previously hidden data and quickly automating cross-app workflows.
These capabilities are helpful for the following purposes:
Manage SaaS Subscriptions
Subscription management is a time-consuming process. SaaS management software centralizes those subscriptions in one place—becoming the SaaS System of Record. Then, when IT or other departments have questions about contracts, licenses, or which SaaS applications are used, they have a designated place to look.
Onboarding new employees is difficult but essential work. A SaaS management solution can make user management easy through workflows for app provisioning. Additionally, some SaaS management tools provide a sanctioned way to add or request any SaaS application available in the company, like an application catalog.
Improper offboarding represents a massive surface area for SaaS security to fail. SaaS management features the ability to operationalize offboarding—in some cases, this can be done within moments of an employee leaving the company. This improves security and license management.
Monitoring Application Adoption
Application adoption is not just about how many people access the app but how many use it. A SaaS Management Platform helps you see every SaaS application used within the company.
From the rockstars to the deadweight, to the shadow IT.
Management and security are top concerns for your software stack. While not a pure governance platform, SaaS management provides governance, access control, and visibility for multi-SaaS environments.
SaaS budget creep is a constant battle. Companies that manage their SaaS can stay on top of their expenses and quickly take action when surprise charges emerge. Some SaaS Management solutions allow you to compare similar apps side by side, looking at costs, usage rates, contract terms and more. With that visibility, you can take decisive action for continuous cost savings.
By centralizing your contract information, SaaS management helps keep track of upcoming renewals. Some platforms even offer a dynamic renewals calendar and notifications to automatically remind IT and Procurement when a vendor negotiation is coming up.
As mentioned, the capabilities are only possible thanks to SaaS discovery—a foundational capability. Let’s learn more about how unique feature transforms your company’s understanding of SaaS.
How SaaS Application Discovery Works—And Why It Matters
Discovery—the ability to uncover and map your entire SaaS ecosystem is the cornerstone of SaaS Management. After all, if you can’t see, you can’t act—effectively. Without solid app discovery, managing, automating, and optimizing SaaS becomes guesswork and can sometimes cause more damage than not acting at all.
Therefore, SaaS management platforms help you dive in and discover what’s going on under the surface.
At the bottom of your SaaS stack sea, your data lies in wait like angler fish, combing the floor in secret. A strong SaaS discovery process cuts through the darkness like a spotlight by cross-referencing data from multiple sources, such as:
- A browser extension
- Direct integrations
- Expense data
- Single Sign-On (SSO) logs
That process should also involve curation. Like a spotlight, it focuses your attention on the things that matter most. Rather than finding every streaming account, online game, or dating app, your SMP should reveal relevant business applications you didn’t know existed.
Whether you eliminate those apps, review them, or sanction them, the important thing is to illuminate their existence and take necessary measures to protect your company’s data and bottom line.
Learn more about Torii’s powerful app discovery.
How do SaaS Management Platforms work? TL;DR version
Even the most skilled sailor needs reliable tools and an understanding of the waters to navigate successfully—whether it’s a compass, a GPS chartplotter, or a good ol’ sextant. The right tools make all the difference.
Discovery and action capabilities depend on integration with your SaaS ecosystem.
You’re establishing an HQ for SaaS tools by integrating your critical apps with your SaaS Management Platform—the captain’s bridge from which you can orchestrate, operationalize, and act on critical insight.
But not all apps are equal. The most important application to connect to your SaaS Management Platform is the Identity Provider or HR Management System that you use to define user lifecycle statuses. This could be Okta, Google Workspace, BambooHR, or something else. This app becomes the source of truth for all other applications.
This is a critical point about managing SaaS effectively; rather than supplanting your existing tools, an SMP focuses on connecting your existing tools and establishing a hierarchy of apps based on each tool’s importance.
Once your apps are connected, you’ll start ingesting data from the entire SaaS ecosystem. That data is then normalized, organized, and critical insights are surfaced.
That critical insight informs your decisions and allows you to take targeted action. You can manage end-user access, enforce security policies, optimize SaaS usage, and automate repetitive tasks.
To sum up, SMPs harness data from various sources to create a clear picture of your SaaS landscape. This clarity allows you to effectively manage, automate, and optimize your SaaS environment, just as a skilled sailor navigates the seas with the help of a reliable compass.
Why use a SaaS Management Solution instead of Software Asset Management (SAM)?
While Software Asset Management (SAM) tools and SaaS Management Platforms (SMPs) share some common ground, they serve distinct purposes in the software management process. To understand their differences, let’s consider the unique challenges cloud apps pose.
SAM tools manage traditional, on-premise software installations, ensure licensing compliance, and optimize resource allocation. However, they fall short when confronted with the dynamic nature of cloud-based applications. This is where SMPs shine, as they are purpose-built to navigate the complexities of SaaS ecosystems.
SMPs are designed to address the challenges of discovering, monitoring, and managing cloud apps. They provide granular insights into SaaS application usage, security risks, and SaaS license optimization opportunities unique to the SaaS landscape. While SAM tools can help you manage software you know about, SMPs go a step further by uncovering the unknown – the hidden shadow IT lurking beneath the surface.
Other software management systems and frameworks may offer some overlapping functionality, but they typically lack the focused approach and specialized features of an SMP. An SMP is your go-to solution to manage SaaS in a comprehensive, streamlined, and efficient way.
What is the Best SaaS Management Platform for Your Organization?
Selecting your organization’s ideal SaaS Management Platform (SMP) requires carefully evaluating your unique needs and requirements. There’s no single “best” because that largely depends on your needs and situation. However, here are the basic steps in evaluating the top SaaS Management Vendors.
How to Choose the Best SaaS Management Platform For You
- Understand Your Goals
- Do you need improved visibility, cost-savings, or operationalized SaaS? Narrow down your search by identifying your goals.
- Document Your Technology Requirements
- Create a list of “must-have requirements” based on your goals.
- Create a Shortlist of Vendors
- Use case studies, webinars, reviews, and, most importantly, documentation to understand which tool is the best fit for you.
- Use Stories, Not Checklists
- Create short scenarios or user stories to see demonstrated with each SaaS Management Platform. Checklists can lose the nuance of your unique situation—stories carry that individuality into the evaluation process.
- Arrange Demos or Trials From Your Shortlist
- Ask vendors to follow your scenarios and, if possible, provide sample data for the demos. Give your team time to debrief after each demo and schedule additional ones if needed.
- Use a Decision-Making Matrix to Evaluate Vendors
- This matrix gives you a reasonable, high-level reminder of the strengths and weaknesses of different vendors. While this matrix is not the be-all/end-all, it’s a great way to remember the highlights and limitations of each vendor.
- Select Your SaaS Management Platform
- “Selection” might mean signing a contract, or it might mean engaging in a POC. If you pursue a pilot project, ensure you test the whole process from start to finish, including managing software, monitoring usage, and optimizing costs.
Remember, each organization’s evaluation process is unique, so feel free to adapt these steps to fit your needs.
How To Use a Decision-Making Matrix for Evaluating Vendors:
Follow these steps to create a decision-making matrix for evaluating a SaaS Management Platform Vendor:
- Step 1: List the critical criteria: Identify the essential features, capabilities, or traits that matter most to your organization in finding a partner to help you manage and optimize your SaaS environment.
- Note: Make sure your list is not just technology. Your goal should be finding the organization to support your long-term success. You want to find a vendor with a track record of resilience, a team of competent experts excited to help, and a platform with the capabilities critical for today and the future. Also, be sure to understand the size and industry in which each vendor has the most success.
- Step 2: Assign weights: Assign a weight to each criterion based on its importance to your organization. The sum of all weights should equal 100.
- Step 3: Research vendors: Compile a list of potential SMP vendors, paying close attention to their features, pricing models, expertise, and customer testimonies.
- Step 4: Score each vendor: Evaluate each vendor against the key criteria, assigning a score from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible score.
- Step 5: Calculate weighted scores: Multiply each vendor’s score by the corresponding weight for each criterion, and sum the weighted scores to obtain a total score for each vendor (in Excel or Google Sheets, you can use the =AVERAGE.WEIGHTED formula).
- Step 6: Compare and select: Review the total scores to determine which vendor best aligns with your organization’s needs, budget, and strategic objectives.
Here’s a sample decision-making matrix:
|Criteria||Weight||Vendor A||Vendor B||Vendor C|
|Time to ROI||5%||4||6||8|
How Quickly Will I See Results with our SaaS Management Tool?
SaaS Management Platforms offer tangible results fast—the question is, what kind of results matter to your organization?
During Initial Discovery: For SMPs, some of the most exciting results appear immediately via the illumination of shadow IT.
For example, Torii users often find three times as many applications as expected during that initial discovery. Discovery also uncovers costs. Usually, the implementation of Torii offers a company its very first authentic look at SaaS spending. That visibility is invaluable.
Immediate Cost-Savings: Some cost-saving initiatives take time, but not all.
For example, Torii highlights fast opportunities for immediate value by showing all idle, unassigned, or unreclaimed licenses.
Note: Learn how Lunchbox saved $430K in 9 months
Our recommendation engine can even automate the deprovisioning and reclamation of your inactive licenses from business-critical apps like Calendly or Asana. For multi-tier apps like Salesforce or Zoom, it can change their license tier based on the functionality they use. Learn more about License Management in Torii
Long-Term ROI: The right SMP should provide immediate value and long-term ROI.
For example, Torii customers often adopt Torii for the cost-saving capabilities, but they renew thanks to the operationalization of the SaaS ecosystem. An effective SMP doesn’t simply save you time or money; it changes your company’s relationship with technology. Giving you a holistic and insightful overview.
How Can I Convince C-suite That We Need SaaS Management?
Convincing C-suite executives to invest in a SaaS Management Platform requires a strategic approach. Demonstrate the value of SMPs by focusing on four key aspects:
Cost savings: In a recent data report, we found that 75% of CIOs consider poor visibility into their SaaS spending as a long-term threat to their organization. An SMP provides the visibility they want with the cost savings they crave. Showcase the potential for immediate and long-term cost savings by optimizing subscriptions, identifying unused apps, and reallocating resources efficiently.
Risk mitigation: Second in that list of long-term threats was cybersecurity. And, as we all know, most data breaches occur due to human error—often via shadow IT apps or apps that should have been deprovisioned. Highlight how an SMP can uncover hidden apps, automate offboarding processes, and offer better insight into the risk profiles of your apps based on integrations.
Operational efficiency: Time is precious, and your CIO won’t OK a new tool unless they’re sure it reduces, not increases, manual tasks. Reinforce the benefits of streamlined processes, automation, and centralized management, saving time, increasing consistency, reducing errors, and increasing productivity.
Data-driven decision-making: A good leader always craves new data to inform their decisions, and your CIO is no exception. Explain how an SMP provides insights and analytics to drive informed decision-making and strategic planning, ensuring your organization maximizes its SaaS investments.
If you’re looking for the final blow in the battle for an SMP, don’t forget to lean on trusted experts that CIOs trust—such as Gartner.
What Does Gartner Say About SaaS Management Software?
Gartner says establishing a SaaS management process is critical. Companies spend more and more on SaaS every year, but IT leaders often don’t know about most of their SaaS apps. This makes it hard to control costs and keep things secure.
To fix this, IT leaders should work with other teams like procurement, finance, and different departments. They need to figure out what kind of platform provides the best outcome for their company and make a plan to use it effectively.
Using an SMP can help a lot. It can make it easier to see and manage SaaS apps, get the most out of the money spent on them, and make better contract decisions. It can also help keep track of approved apps, make adding new employees or apps easier, and reduce the workload for IT teams.
Gartner thinks that more companies will want to use SMPs as they realize their usefulness. This will lead to better teamwork between different teams and departments. Over the next year or so, they expect more companies to use SMPs to monitor their SaaS apps, make employee onboarding and offboarding smoother, and manage SaaS costs better.
They also think that SMP vendors will start offering more features and that other companies in similar markets will join the SMP game. There will be more interest from investors, too, so the future looks promising for the world of SaaS management.
In the final section, we’ll share some quick resources and success stories to inspire you on your journey to mastering SaaS management with SMPs.
Resources and Success Stories
To help you embark on your SaaS management voyage, we’ve curated a list of useful resources and inspiring success stories:
- Torii’s Blog: Stay up-to-date with the latest trends, insights, and best practices in SaaS management by following our blog.
- Gartner Market Guide for SaaS Management Platforms: Gain a comprehensive understanding of the SMP market, its key players, and essential capabilities.
- SMP Case Studies: Discover how organizations like yours have successfully implemented SMPs to optimize, secure, and streamline their SaaS environments.
- SaaS Management Webinars and Resources: Expand your knowledge and learn from industry experts via data reports, ebooks, webinars, and more.
- Read SaaS Management Platform reviews via G2’s quarterly user report. You can read the latest SaaS Operations (SaaSOps) Management and SaaS Spend Management reports for free.