The Top 8 SaaS Discovery Methods for 2024

Rohit Rao

19th February, 2024


SaaS discovery is crucial for IT managers to understand and make the most of their software tools in a landscape defined by digital innovation and ever-evolving technology. It helps them navigate and unleash the full potential of their digital systems.

SaaS discovery goes beyond the notion of a mere software inventory; it's a dynamic process that leads to transformative insights. This expedition delves deep into a business's software landscape, revealing intricate layers and unlocking untapped potential. 

It's a process that unearths concealed efficiencies, identifies overlooked resources, and strategically helps IT managers align the resources with the company's overarching goals.

Let’s uncover what exactly is SaaS discovery and the SaaS discovery methods:

What is SaaS Discovery?

SaaS discovery is the systematic process of identifying, cataloging, and managing SaaS applications used within an organization. It involves comprehensive exploration and documentation of all software tools employed across departments and teams.

The core objectives of SaaS discovery encompass achieving a holistic view of the software landscape, understanding usage patterns, optimizing expenditure, fortifying security and compliance measures, and enhancing operational efficiency.

This practice typically entails utilizing specialized tools, software, or methodologies to scan networks, analyze data usage, and monitor user activities. The resulting inventory or map of SaaS applications assists organizations in making informed decisions regarding software utilization, licensing, security protocols, and resource allocation.

The Benefits of SaaS Discovery

SaaS discovery offers numerous benefits to organizations, they are: 

  • Reduced Wasteful Spending

Reducing wasteful spending within an organization involves a strategic approach to identifying and addressing underutilized or inactive SaaS contracts. This process unlocks opportunities for significant cost savings by evaluating and optimizing the utilization of these subscriptions. 

Through meticulous analysis of SaaS usage patterns, your teams gain insights that enable them to streamline SaaS contracts and consolidate tools effectively. This optimization eliminates unnecessary expenses and enhances operational efficiency by aligning the toolset more closely with actual needs and usage patterns.

  • Increased Negotiation Power and Cost Efficiency

Understanding the nuances of auto-renewal clauses within contracts is crucial to prevent accidental renewals for tools that do not meet performance expectations. Vigilantly monitoring renewal timelines presents an opportunity for timely renegotiations, ultimately amplifying the return on investment derived from these subscriptions. 

Employing an integrated approach to contract management within a comprehensive SaaS ecosystem not only assists in refining negotiation tactics but also serves as a strategic tool in sidestepping expensive auto-renewals, thereby fortifying overall cost efficiency.

  • Enhanced Security and Compliance

Implementing software discovery tools is pivotal in uncovering instances of shadow IT within an organization. These tools effectively identify unauthorized software and devices employees might use without authorization. 

Shadow IT presents a significant risk of potential data breaches by operating outside established security protocols. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of all tools utilized across the organization, IT teams can actively mitigate instances of shadow IT. This proactive approach ensures stringent adherence to security standards, substantially lowering the risk of data breaches and bolstering overall security measures.

  • Contract Management and Renewal Control

Diligently monitoring the timelines for contract expiration and renewal dates allows organizations to avoid unintended auto-renewals. This meticulous oversight places them in a position of authority over their subscriptions, offering strategic leverage during negotiation processes while preventing unnecessary expenses.

A comprehensive comprehension of the entire SaaS ecosystem facilitates the streamlining of contracts, ensuring a closer alignment with the genuine operational needs of the organization. This systematic approach guarantees that contracts are finely tuned to meet specific requirements, thus maximizing the effective utilization of resources.

What are the Potential Challenges in SaaS Discovery?

SaaS discovery, while immensely beneficial, comes with its own set of challenges that organizations might encounter:

  • Security and Privacy Concerns: Performing SaaS discovery involves accessing and analyzing data related to software usage, raising legitimate concerns about data security and privacy. Safeguarding sensitive information during the discovery process is paramount but poses a challenge.

  • Lack of Centralized Visibility: In large organizations or those with decentralized structures, obtaining a centralized view of all SaaS applications used by various departments or teams becomes challenging. This lack of visibility can hinder efforts to comprehensively manage and optimize software usage.

  • Shadow IT and Unsanctioned Applications: Identifying all SaaS applications used across an organization can be challenging due to the prevalence of shadow IT. Employees often use unauthorized applications or platforms without IT approval, complicating the comprehensive discovery of all software in use.

  • Integration Complexity: Ensuring seamless integration and interoperability between various SaaS applications can be intricate. Discovering how these applications interact and ensuring their cohesive functionality without causing disruptions or data silos requires meticulous attention.

8 Best SaaS Discovery Methods

The best discovery method often involves a combination of the following approaches to gather diverse perspectives and comprehensive information before making a decision.

1. Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) are intermediary software tools between an organization's on-premises infrastructure and cloud services. They regulate access, enforce security policies, and monitor data transmission to safeguard sensitive information within cloud applications.

CASB tools utilize network traffic analysis to detect and manage SaaS applications. They excel in identifying unauthorized or unmonitored SaaS usage, known as shadow SaaS, mitigating associated security and compliance risks.

However, CASBs have limitations in detecting SaaS usage outside the corporate network, posing a challenge in monitoring remote work scenarios. This creates a potential blind spot that requires supplementary strategies for comprehensive SaaS oversight and security management.

2. API Connectors

API connectors are essential for software management platforms (SMPs) to access and consolidate data from diverse SaaS vendor portals. These connectors gather key information like user assignments, contact details, and associated application rosters within a SaaS subscription.

They swiftly integrate into SMPs, offering quick insights—such as identifying discrepancies between purchased and allocated subscriptions for optimization opportunities.

However, like SSO discovery, API connectors have limitations. They only work for known applications, missing out on discovering shadow SaaS. Their effectiveness relies on the data provided by each vendor, varying in depth. Additionally, SMPs have a finite number of connectors, accessing data from only a fraction of the extensive SaaS landscape.

3. Browser Plugin

Deploying a browser extension is a valuable tool for monitoring software usage on company-endorsed hardware. It aids in tracking sanctioned and unsanctioned software activities, assisting in identifying shadow IT within organizational systems. 

However, it's essential to note that browser plugins possess limitations. They cannot monitor activities on personal devices or across alternative browsers, thus offering a partial solution to the comprehensive oversight of software usage within an organization.

4. Agents

The primary function of agents lies in analyzing usage patterns across these hybrid platforms. It enables your teams to optimize costs within tiered pricing structures commonly found in such applications. 

By monitoring user activity across on-premises and cloud environments, agents facilitate identifying opportunities to migrate users from higher-cost tiers to more cost-efficient ones, aligning with their actual usage.

However, while agents offer valuable insights, they do come with limitations. Unlike single sign-on (SSO) and API connectors, agents are not adept at uncovering shadow SaaS applications. 

Additionally, their implementation process demands more time and resources, leading to a longer time-to-value than other discovery methods, potentially delaying realizing their benefits.

5. Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single sign-on (SSO) is a centralized authentication solution for overseeing and regulating access to authorized applications within a company's ecosystem. It streamlines user authentication by enabling access to multiple applications with a single set of credentials.

While SSO facilitates efficient governance of known SaaS applications, its implementation comes with certain considerations. SSO licenses, typically essential for enterprise SaaS tools, can incur higher costs, sometimes triple the expenses of non-SSO licenses. 

Moreover, its utility is limited to integrated SaaS applications, rendering it ineffective in detecting or managing access to applications outside its purview.

Despite these limitations, SSO remains a powerful tool for managing sanctioned SaaS usage within an organization, offering centralized control and enhancing security by enforcing uniform access protocols across integrated applications. 

Organizations employing SSO should complement it with supplementary measures for comprehensive SaaS governance and monitoring.

6. Pay Records

Analyzing a company's financial records or pay records is a dependable method to unearth existing software contracts. This approach involves tracing expenditures to uncover any active subscriptions that might have been overlooked. 

It necessitates thoroughly examining invoices, direct debits, and staff expenses, potentially revealing instances where employees have procured SaaS solutions that the company is funding.

Yet, while financial records serve as a crucial starting point to identify contractual obligations, they offer limited visibility into actual usage patterns. To gain a comprehensive understanding, it's essential to complement this approach with another discovery method. 

Integrating financial insights with data from usage analytics or employee surveys can provide a more holistic view of the software landscape within the organization.

7. Web Proxy

Web proxies are crucial in fortifying employee internet traffic by meticulously evaluating website destinations. They assess the risk associated with each visited site, empowering the proxy to proactively restrict access to potentially harmful locations, such as recognized phishing or malware sites. 

However, while web proxies can provide some insights into SaaS discovery, their primary function is not geared toward this purpose, often demanding exhaustive manual analysis. Their dependency on network traffic introduces limitations, especially concerning SaaS applications accessed via personal devices or outside the corporate network. 

Moreover, many web proxies necessitate endpoint agents, leading to potential compatibility issues between these agents and specific SaaS applications from various vendors. These intricacies underscore the challenges of solely relying on web proxies for comprehensive and seamless SaaS discovery and management.

8. Rule-based Matching

Rule-based discovery in network management involves creating predefined rules that automatically guide NNMi to explore and include specific network areas in its topology. It efficiently discovers numerous devices with minimal input, ideal for large and dynamic networks. 

However, it can lead to license limitations and complexity in fine-tuning rules for intricate networks. While it ensures compliance and timely discovery of new devices, managing excessive discoveries and tenant assignments, post-discovery may be time-consuming.

How Discovery Methods Impact Various Areas of an Organization

Each department of an organization benefits uniquely from discovery methods.  These methods offer valuable insights and opportunities for optimization, compliance, and strategic decision-making within the organization.

  • Discovery methods for IT and Security

Discovery methods wield significant influence within IT and security domains, offering multifaceted benefits crucial for organizational safety and efficiency.

  • Firstly, they serve as invaluable tools for risk identification by meticulously pinpointing every SaaS application in use. This comprehensive visibility significantly curtails the risks associated with shadow IT, minimizing potential security vulnerabilities that might arise from unmonitored software.

  • Moreover, these methods play a pivotal role in access control and compliance. By employing discovery methods, organizations can enforce stringent access control measures. This ensures that security protocols are uniformly applied across all software employees utilize, fortifying the overall security posture.

  • Additionally, discovery methods contribute immensely to security patch management. IT teams leverage these methods to monitor and manage security patches for diverse applications vigilantly. This proactive approach bolsters cybersecurity, promptly addressing and mitigating software vulnerabilities.

  • Discovery methods for finance

Together, the following aspects showcase how discovery methods in finance streamline spending and budgeting practices and fortify the organization's financial compliance, bolstering its financial health and regulatory adherence.

  • Cost Optimization: These methods provide a clear lens into SaaS spending, enabling finance departments to pinpoint underutilized or redundant applications. This insight paves the way for cost-saving opportunities by strategically reallocating resources and optimizing software subscriptions.

  • Budget Allocation: With a comprehensive overview of SaaS applications, these methods facilitate precise budget allocation. This understanding ensures funds are directed toward essential tools and licenses, aligning financial resources with operational needs for enhanced efficiency.

  • Financial Compliance: Discovery methods play a pivotal role in maintaining financial integrity. These tools ensure compliance with financial regulations and internal controls by monitoring software expenses, reinforcing the organization's adherence to regulatory standards.

  • Discovery methods for procurement

Discovery methods play a crucial role in transforming the landscape of procurement strategies within organizations, particularly in three key aspects:

  • Vendor Management: These methods provide an expansive view of the diverse range of software vendors utilized across the organization. By cataloging and analyzing this comprehensive vendor landscape, procurement teams gain valuable insights into vendor relationships, facilitating better vendor management and oversight.

  • Contract Negotiation: Leveraging discovery methods to understand the actual usage patterns of various software applications empowers procurement teams during contract negotiations. Armed with precise utilization data, contract negotiations become more informed, allowing contracts to be structured based on real needs, potentially leading to considerable cost savings.

  • Optimized Procurement Strategy: The insights gleaned from discovery methods enable a data-driven approach, guiding decisions regarding vendor selection, contract terms, and resource allocation, and optimizing the procurement process.

  • Discovery methods for CIOs & operations

Discovery methods empower CIOs and operational leaders to enhance workflow efficiency, allocate resources effectively, and make informed strategic decisions.

  • These methods provide crucial visibility into departments' most utilized and efficient applications. This understanding empowers CIOs and operational heads to streamline workflows by leveraging and encouraging these highly effective tools. 

    By optimizing workflows, productivity surges, enabling teams to accomplish tasks more efficiently and effectively.

  • Understanding the landscape of applications used within operations aids in precise resource allocation. CIOs can strategically direct resources by prioritizing support and optimization efforts toward pivotal tools for daily operations. 

    This targeted approach maximizes the efficiency of resources, ensuring that time and investments align with the most critical tools necessary for smooth operations.

  • Insights derived from discovery methods are critical for strategic decision-making. These revelations inform CIOs and operational leaders about the adoption or optimization of technology. 

    By aligning these decisions with overarching business objectives, organizations can ensure that technological investments and enhancements are purposeful, contributing meaningfully to the company's growth and competitive edge.

    Understanding the impact of discovery methods on organizational areas is crucial. It sets the stage for exploring how various SaaS management platforms like Zluri optimize SaaS discovery and management in the context of enhancing various facets within an organization.

Enhancing SaaS Discovery and Management with Zluri

Zluri is a powerful SaaS management platform with an unmatched library of over 225,000 applications, positioning it as the global leader in app repositories. This extensive collection and sophisticated discovery techniques position Zluri as the frontrunner in achieving a 100% SaaS discovery rate.

Here’s how it works:

  • Unmatched Discovery Methods: Zluri employs five innovative methods to comprehensively map your company's app landscape. Zluri's comprehensive discovery suite encompasses Single Sign-On (SSO) or Identity Provider (IDP) integrations, financial system analysis, direct integrations, browser extensions, and desktop agents. 

    5 discovery methods

  • Efficient App Optimization: Beyond discovery, Zluri excels at streamlining your software ecosystem by efficiently removing redundant, underutilized, or potentially risky applications. This optimization enhances efficiency, security, and cost-effectiveness.

How Zluri works with your systems:

1. Single Sign-On (SSO) & Identity Providers

Zluri smoothly syncs with various single-sign-on and identity provider systems like Okta and Google Workspace. It actively gathers essential directory information, departmental details, and user roles and even syncs with HR systems for data.

SSO and IDP Integration

Linking your HRMS with Zluri is vital for seamless information flow. Once connected, users effortlessly choose specific data sources via Zluri's user-friendly settings, including departments or user titles.

Zluri doesn't just stop at directory info—it dives deeper, retrieving detailed datasets from SSOs. This includes approved app lists and intricate login records, revealing login frequency and success rates.

Moreover, Zluri goes the extra mile by tracking third-party data sharing and gathering insights on shared personal information like names and email addresses with other applications. Overall, Zluri's comprehensive data gathering empowers efficient oversight of SaaS landscapes while prioritizing data integrity and security.

2. Finance Management Systems

A pivotal facet of its functionality is its seamless integration with finance management systems like Netsuite and QuickBooks, meticulously gathering crucial data.

Finance Management Systems
  • Uncovering Insights from Transactions: Zluri excels at handling both corporate and personal card transactions, which are often missed by other systems. These transactions reveal valuable information about employee-purchased applications reimbursed through company channels.

  • Detailed Transaction Tracking: Using intelligent data collection methods, Zluri captures intricate transaction details, including amounts and dates. It then links these transactions to specific applications, providing insightful connections.

  • Flexible Data Input: Zluri offers manual CSV file uploads for user convenience for transaction data. This user-friendly approach ensures data accessibility and control over the integration process.

  • Automated Transaction Mapping: Zluri automatically matches transactions to corresponding SaaS applications, offering a clear overview of how expenses align with specific software and empowering users with actionable insights into their app landscape.

3. Direct Integrations

Zluri offers unparalleled insights and control over the vast landscape of SaaS applications by harnessing direct SaaS integrations and comprehensive data collection.

Direct Integrations

Zluri directly connects with over 600 popular SaaS apps, covering a wide range of categories. This connection helps Zluri gather detailed info about how users access these apps and what they do within them.

Here's what Zluri does:

  • User Access Details: Zluri figures out who's a regular user and who's an admin for each app it connects with. It also keeps track of what users do in these apps.

  • Detailed Data Collection: Zluri doesn't just stop at user access. It gathers detailed information about licenses for each user. This includes info about subscription plans, pricing, and features available to them.

  • Deep Analysis: Zluri looks at access logs and activity history within apps. This helps us understand how apps change over time and how people use them. It goes deep into the app's data to get insights into usage patterns and trends.

In short, Zluri's direct connections to apps provide thorough information about who's using what and how they're using it. This helps you and your teams understand app usage and make informed decisions about app management.

4. Desktop Agents (Optional)

Desktop agents are specifically designed to gather non-sensitive yet crucial information from users' systems. By accessing this data, Zluri comprehensively identifies, monitors, and manages various facets of SaaS applications within an organization.

Desktop Agents (Optional)

Here's what they do:

  • Data Collection and Processing: These agents efficiently gather information like installed applications, background running apps, and when users sign in or out. They also note device-specific details, giving a full view of your software landscape.

  • Optional Activation: You're in control. You can choose to use Desktop Agents, but even without them, Zluri has other ways to keep track of all your software.

  • Precise Information Processing: Zluri carefully processes the data from these agents. It notes down essential details like the name and server URL when a software application is accessed, pinpointing the exact one in use. It also tracks user activities within these apps, generating scores that show how engaged users are with each application.

  • Empowering Decision-Making: Managers in SaaS operations, IT, or software management get access to a ton of useful information through Zluri's Dashboard. They can see which apps employees are using, making it easier to decide how to manage and optimize these tools.

These Desktop Agents work across major operating systems—MacOS, Windows, and Linux—ensuring a comprehensive view of your software landscape.

5. Browser Extention (Optional)

Browser extension that redefines how businesses handle their software ecosystem. This Extension, adaptable across Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, is a pivotal tool for data collection, ensuring an optimal balance between insightful analytics and user privacy.

Browser Extention (Optional)

Here's how it works:

  • Privacy Priority: This extension records essential data without touching browsing history or cookies, ensuring user privacy.

  • Insight Generation: Tracking website interactions offers insights into user engagement with various applications.

  • Easy Installation and Monitoring: Admins can prompt installations and track adoption rates, ensuring widespread and efficient management.

The process is user-friendly: navigate to Sources > Agents > Users and filter based on specific criteria, such as users without installed agents or particular agent types. This targeted approach empowers your admins to selectively or en masse prompt installations, providing granular deployment control.

Moreover, your team can track adoption rates by monitoring the number of users who have installed the extension, ensuring comprehensive coverage and efficient management across the organization.

Zluri's commitment to robust SaaS management isn't just about comprehensive insights but also prioritizes user privacy, providing actionable analytics while safeguarding sensitive data with the utmost integrity.

So why wait? Book a demo today!

Embracing the Continual Evolution of the Ongoing SaaS Discovery

SaaS discovery is an ongoing journey rather than a one-time task. As businesses evolve, their software needs change, new applications emerge, and existing ones undergo updates. 

The essence of ongoing SaaS discovery lies in its adaptability. Businesses must stay agile, consistently exploring, evaluating, and integrating new applications to meet evolving needs. This approach ensures that companies remain responsive to technological advancements, industry changes, and shifting organizational demands.

By embracing the concept of ongoing SaaS discovery, organizations cultivate a culture of adaptability. This allows them to proactively manage their software ecosystem, optimize costs, and align their technological arsenal with their ever-evolving objectives.


1. How do businesses usually start the SaaS discovery process?

Businesses often begin by identifying their needs, setting clear objectives, and conducting basic research to understand available software options.

2. What mistakes should be avoided during SaaS discovery?

Avoid rushing the process, neglecting scalability needs, overlooking hidden costs, disregarding user feedback, and not considering the long-term implications of the software choice.

3. What mistakes should businesses avoid during SaaS discovery?

Avoid rushing the process, overlooking scalability needs, neglecting user feedback, underestimating hidden costs, and ignoring long-term implications.

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