Symptoms of an Unoptimized SaaS Stack (+ Solutions)

As software procurement is shifting to the SaaS model, IT can no longer monitor the applications as it did for the traditional on-prem software. 

SaaS apps have blindfolded CIOs and IT departments, making it difficult to track the application in use, who uses them, and how often they are used.


Though SaaS offers a lengthy list of benefits like cost-effectiveness, easy procurement, etc., there is also a huge burden on IT. 

Shadow IT can bring critical security and compliance risks to organizations. SaaS presents severe control issues in remote work culture, as the employees work outside the company's network. 

That's why you need to have visibility over your company's SaaS stack. 

In this article, I'll discuss the symptoms of an unoptimized SaaS stack. If you find them in your organization, it is time for you to act quickly and eliminate them.

Look Out for these Symptoms

Symptom #1: Presence of Redundant Applications in Your SaaS Stack

Research by RingCentral has found that 69% of workers waste 32 days per year just navigating workplace applications. Do you know why?

Many organizations have signed up for plenty of applications to streamline tasks, leading to an app overload. As a result, it's difficult for the employees to choose which is the best one for their work. 

Also, with the ability to procure SaaS applications, employees sign up for many apps to explore and choose the one that fits their needs. In this process, they forget to cancel the applications they aren't using, leading to SaaS wastage. There will be more than one application with the same use case.  

Redundant applications and overflowing SaaS stack is the first symptom that shows you need to optimize your SaaS stack, or else you'll be paying for unused or underutilized applications. 

1. Apps with the same functionality: With applications getting updated frequently, you need to watch out for applications with updated features.

Consider using Ahrefs for SEO. If you already use Hubspot, which offers you the same functionality free of cost after the recent update, you will be wasting money on Ahrefs. It's a common problem when there are plenty of applications, and you don't have visibility over each of them. 

2. Abandoned applications: When employees find comfort in applications they have signed up for, they leave the ones given by IT without informing them. It leads to paying for the apps that are no longer in use.

Abandoned applications play a significant role behind SaaS wastage. If you don't monitor unused applications, you're wasting your IT budget. 

3. Unused licenses: While offboarding employees, it's imperative to block access to all the apps they use. Otherwise, it can cause two issues-

  • You end up paying for licenses that are no longer in use. 

  • It can lead to critical security issues. These ex-employees will be able to access official files, even after they have left your organization. 

4. Wrong-tier licenses: Another common problem is overestimating your needs and investing in a top-tier SaaS plan.

But you don't use most of the features of the plan. A lower-tier plan was suitable for your requirements.

Symptom #2: Employees Need to Wait to Use a New App

Another symptom you should look out for is considerable procurement time.

When there is a requirement for a new app, just the procurement process takes a long time. Employees get tired of waiting. So, they buy any app on the corporate card without following the process. And start using it to save time.

Vetting a SaaS tool takes a lot of time, but using tools that aren't vetted poses risks and can cause costly damages. For example, it cost companies in the range of $1.2 million to $8.2 million for the data breaches. 

Symptom #3: Trouble in Managing Users Access for SaaS Apps

  1. Unrevoked licenses can cause a data breach. If there is no proper user access management in place, any employee who has resigned, retired, or was terminated from the organization can access the apps. It can lead to data breaches and severe security threats. 

  2. Audits are a nightmare due to shadow apps. When there is no centralized database for apps and users, you need to depend on the information provided by employees for auditing. 

    It creates a big problem as there is no way to verify this data. Since your SaaS vendors' info is not in a single place, you don't know where your data resides. Shadow apps don't just pose compliance and security risks; they can even cost you expensive damages like fines and lawsuits. 

Symptom #4: You've No Idea of How Much You Spend on SaaS Apps

With employees having the power to sign up for a new app, it's challenging to keep an account of SaaS spending. You don't know when free trials become paid subscriptions. 

With so many apps, it's easy to forget about an upcoming renewal. You know of the presence of many apps only after the auto-debit has taken place. 

For a large enterprise, it becomes difficult to keep count of applications that cost millions of dollars.

If the spending is left unchecked or unmonitored, it can lead to a disaster in your future financial goals.

Symptom #5: Collaboration Issues due to Multiple Apps

With the current remote work scenario, collaboration tools like Slack, Meet, Teams are making it possible to communicate with each other—be it within a departmental or between different departments.

Though the central IT department procures a universal application for collaboration, end-users, teams, departments, or a business unit tend to select their own. It makes it difficult for different teams to communicate.

For example, say the product team and engineering team have to work on a project. But the former is using Slack, and the latter is using BaseCamp. 

Though both the tools have the same functionality, your users have signed up for them, leading to collaboration discrepancies and overspending for the same use case. 

Symptom #6: Missed or Surprise Renewals 

If you have plenty of SaaS applications on board, it's difficult to keep track of the renewals. 

With auto-renewals, if you miss out on a renewal date, you end up paying and getting locked to a vendor without knowing whether you still need the application or would want to downsize it.

Unplanned renewals are what contribute to unplanned SaaS spending.

Though auto-renewals are for convenience, they become a problem if you aren't aware of ownership, utilization, or the purpose of an application.

Symptom #7: Support in Case of SaaS-Related Issues

If a business unit is facing a SaaS-related issue, they would need the help of the central IT department for support. 

If they are having trouble migrating data from one application to another or have doubts in handling the CRM, the IT department needs to intervene and solve the issues.

While onboarding new employees, they need training on the SaaS applications before they start using them. If the employees don't find an app user-friendly, it may lead them to use shadow apps.

Solutions

Prevent IT bloat

  • Identify all SaaS applications: An essential part of managing SaaS is to have visibility over the SaaS usage in your organization. 

    You should know the applications present, the users, access credentials, cost, and security and compliance information. Only with this critical information can you come up with strategies to streamline and manage SaaS apps.

    It’s exhausting to know the payments done for applications if you use different credit cards for the whole organization. 

    SaaS management tools like Zluri can help you do regular SaaS audits and track usage by taking information from your expense management tools, browser, and single-sign-on providers. 

    It gives real-time updates of employee activities whenever they procure a new application.

    With this information, you can understand the functionalities that your employees and teams need to complete the tasks. 

  • Review/Vet Applications: After you are done with the audit, you should streamline your SaaS stack. Zluri lets you know the number of applications and tells you the redundant apps present in the SaaS stack. 

    Collaboration tools like Slack, Zoom, and Meet have the same functionality. But there are chances of different teams signing up for different applications with the same use case. 

    You can cancel the overlapping, redundant subscriptions and keep only those that best fit your situation.

  • Optimize SaaS stack by Standardizing the Apps: With SaaS decision-making in the hands of users, there are chances of personal choice being the reason behind selecting the apps.

    This would only lead to problems in collaborations, data silos, and wastage of the SaaS budget.

    To avoid this, you need to list out the preferred applications, determine which are safest, fit the best, and add the most value to your organization. 

    With the renewal dates at your fingertips, you will have enough time to think about whether you still want to continue a particular app or would like to terminate.

Integrate Apps for Seamless Data Flow

When there are plenty of SaaS applications, it leads to data silos and a lack of collaboration across departments and teams. 

If each team uses its own SaaS apps, there will be a block in the workflow. 

To overcome this and have a seamless data flow, you need to integrate these applications. It'll smoothen the workflow process across your organization.

Consolidating your data through app integration helps in analytics, business intelligence and also gives you more accurate insights.

SaaS Governance

  1. Offer ownership of SaaS apps. 71% of millennials have admitted to using unapproved apps at least a few times a year. 

    So when you are making decisions about SaaS inventory, it's important to include departmental heads in the discussion. 

    If you want the SaaS apps to add value to your business, saying "No" to those who procure SaaS apps is not going to help.

    Instead, you should try to understand the reason behind their preferences. 

    You can educate them about apps that can be a threat and also give occasional training on maintaining a healthy SaaS inventory. 

    You can assign owners for every application that is loaded in the SaaS stack and make them responsible for these subscriptions. 

    They will carry over any kind of negotiations that happen with vendors and will serve as a link between IT and users.

  2. Automate procurement. SaaS management platforms like Zluri can discover and monitor the SaaS apps in use, and they collect all the SaaS activity happening in your network. 

    It can also send notifications to the administrators if something requires attention, like an app remaining unused or an app that was discontinued is being used again, or an upcoming renewal.

    To know what your team needs, you can come up with questionnaires and surveys regarding SaaS decisions and give them to team heads. It'll help you make an informed decision.

  3. Automate user onboarding & offboarding: It's the responsibility of the IT department to help employees who are onboarded newly to an organization. They have to be taught about the usage & procurement of SaaS apps and the IT policies. 

    By automating the onboarding process, any new employee joining a particular department will have instant access to the SaaS stack pertaining to them. 

    Similarly, when an employee quits an organization, it's vital to suspend their licenses. 

    If it is overlooked, it might lead to critical security breaches. 

    You need to automate the onboarding process where their licenses can be revoked within a few clicks. 

Monitor Apps Usage and Users to Remain Compliant

Unlike on-prem software, SaaS reduces the burden of maintenance and installation costs. But that doesn't mean you can leave it unattended.

SaaS apps should be constantly monitored to ensure they don't bring any security threats to the business. 

An audit by NPM tools found that 51% of the applications that use Java scripts have at least one vulnerability. Though it is the due diligence of developers to patch these applications, it's in the hands of IT teams to exercise necessary precautions to avoid such applications.

Also, you need to find who has access to the applications. Only when you know the users can you revoke their access when they leave the company. 

Zluri also acts like a pseudo single sign-on (SSO) and gives you the power to give as well as revoke access whenever necessary. 

Your SaaS stack left unattended can get worse over time. The problem might not be visible until you look for them. Take control now.