In recent years Software Asset Management (SAM) has undoubtedly proven its worth within the IT sector. Organizations who have invested in such solutions have been able to actively, and effectively, manage their entire software landscape – and yet, the rise of SaaS has altered the environment entirely.
Research has found that SaaS-based applications are increasing. In fact, Gartner analysts predict that the total SaaS market will grow from $85 billion in 2019 to $113 billion by 2021, with more and more businesses transitioning to SaaS applications every day. And, of course, this isn’t surprising, with an estimated 11,000 SaaS companies operating worldwide!
So, with this general shift in focus, it’s natural that many will question the importance of SAM as we move forward. At Certero, we understand that this evolution will not mark the end of SAM or lessen its overall importance within the tech industry. Rather, businesses will need to reconsider what they know about SAM as well as SaaS applications and identify how the two will support one another in our ever-advancing environment. Luckily, we’re on hand to help them do just that.
Recognize the differences
First things first, we must understand how SAM works differently on-premise and in the Cloud as the two are not interchangeable.
SaaS applications can be purchased in a couple of clicks and don’t require IT to set up infrastructure. As a result of this, they can often be set up and purchased without IT’s knowledge and may even be simply expensed on credit cards. This creates a new challenge for IT in that they will have poorer visibility of their IT applications. To combat this, IT teams will need strong policies and governance to ensure that all SaaS application procurement goes through the same stringent procurement processes that take place when traditional technical and security measures are considered. The first challenge is therefore visibility; how do I ensure that I have a full view of all the SaaS applications in my IT estate? Because if you don’t have this information, your business could face significant security and cost risks.
In the SaaS realm, SAM is less concerned about preparing for compliance audits – as can often be the case in the on-premise scenario – and instead focuses on utilization. The question is; am I utilizing my licenses?
This isn’t too difficult to wrap our heads around as with SaaS applications, your organization will not purchase ownership of any software. Instead, you’ll be paying for user licenses of the product in the Cloud; so compliance needn’t be a primary concern for SAM managers as the risk of being found under-licensed is eliminated by default.
However, this does not mean that a business’ concern about cost and risk goes away; in fact, far from it. The reality with SaaS is that the ease with which licenses can be consumed means that SaaS platforms are prone to routine over-licensing and over-spending on licenses that are not fully utilized. Furthermore, the ongoing challenge of managing a typical volume license agreement covering thousands of users or devices would now need to be actively managed – down to each individual user, by name.
Whilst traditional, on-premise software would likely require routine maintenance this is not the case for SaaS applications as the burden of maintenance is placed on the SaaS provider. But this doesn’t mean that security can simply be forgotten about. Due diligence should be taken when procuring SaaS applications and integrating them with any other systems. If your business data is being shared between these systems then you should ensure that it is protected and ask the right questions, such as; where is my data stored? How does the data flow? Is the data encrypted?
If these questions aren’t addressed and IT departments will procure these solutions without following policy, your organization could be setting themselves up for a potential data breach. Additionally, you should keep a centralized log of all of your SaaS applications. This way, should an application be compromised, you can immediately check your records and see whether it is used within your organization. If it is, you can swiftly begin remediation.
Of course, knowing who has access to your organization’s SaaS applications is also of paramount importance. Within the on-premise world, software will have been installed on the user’s corporate laptop or device. So, when they leave the business they will lose access to these applications.
In the SaaS world, access is granted through each of the SaaS portals. So, without proper management, any individual can log in and access the application if their license has not been manually removed. Therefore, having visibility over your SaaS applications and accurate information on its users is vital. For instance, if a member of your marketing team leaves, would your business be equipped to identify every SaaS application they have access to? And, would you be able to remove their access before any company data is compromised?
By opting for a SAM solution that provides this visibility in a centralized data source, your organization will be able to view SaaS applications that are in use across the organization – regardless of which department purchased the subscription and who they are assigned to. As such, you’ll be able to identify application access information as individuals leave the business and protect your corporate data.
Continue to prioritize governance
As briefly mentioned, governance will still need to be a focal point for your organization when utilizing SaaS applications as it will allow you to accurately monitor and manage your SaaS licenses. The first step is checking that you have the correct SaaS policies in place and then further ensuring that you have the tools to monitor and manage these environments; this is where a tailored SAM solution will remain invaluable.
Your organization must create a robust SaaS governance policy but additionally be mindful in striking a balance; too lax and you risk losing control, too strict and employees could become discouraged and turn a blind eye to the rules.
Avoiding Automatic Overspending
Whilst transitioning to SaaS has clear advantages when it comes to the daily procedures within your business, it still carries risks. You could find yourself with too many user licenses and routinely paying for inactive users – meaning your licensing costs could surge if not properly managed. And with software costs becoming a regular point of discussion among business leaders across the globe, it’s a good idea to get ahead and have the answers and necessary controls ready.
With a SAM solution, you will only need to pay to secure the SaaS licenses you require. So the cost is more variable than when negotiating for on-premise software. However, SaaS products come at a premium price and contracts often auto-renew regardless of how they have been used, or, in some cases, seldom used. In this scenario, reliable governance and management are essential.
Getting in control
SaaS applications cannot be managed without the correct solution. So, your organization will need a SAM solution that gives you the visibility and control to enforce governance and optimize licensing based on utilization.
Step 1: Get visibility – You need to be able to see all of your SaaS applications. A ‘single pane of glass’ viewpoint for all software and licensing will allow you to keep things simple, even when making big decisions. So, enforce governance to ensure your IT teams are aware of all SaaS applications in use. Following on from that, find a solution, such as Certero, that can centralize the data in a single solution for easy management.
Step 2: Gather Utilization Data – You need to understand exactly what is being used and by who. Luckily, an efficient SAM solution will allow you to intricately understand your usage and utilization of SaaS applications with advanced analytics and reporting; providing you with improved insight.
As a result, your organization will be able to identify everything from whether the software is being used infrequently to whether it’s being used by one department exclusively. With this insight, you can ensure you’re only paying for the resources you need and guarantee you have the most cost-effective subscription level for each user. Additionally, you’ll be able to negotiate SaaS agreement renewals. Each SaaS application comes with its own metrics, and so your organization will need to identify and invest in a solution provider that can manage the vendor or vendors in scope.
What’s more, you’ll want the solution to enhance the given data with additional data from within your environment – such as computer assets, AD information, other SaaS applications and usage as well as active directory data. Combining this information will allow you to gain a holistic understanding and viewpoint rather than just one piece of the puzzle.
Step 3: Create Business Intelligence – Now that you have all of the data you need in a single solution, you must transform this into business intelligence. Manipulate the data and create dashboards and proactive alerts. This could include highlighting all of the licenses that haven’t been accessed in 60 days, right-sizing licenses for users who are not using the full functionality of their assigned subscription and setting alerts for users that hit these rules in the future.
In short, whilst SaaS is certainly exciting, it’s not without its challenges. The decentralized nature of its data ensures that effective SAM solutions are more important than ever. It’s within these solutions that your organization can access one, normalized data source that considers SaaS applications, cloud, hardware and software – allowing you to right-size licenses, improve decision making and enhance additional data sets in a centralized platform.
Of course, this acts as a direct definition of what Certero’s Software Asset Management solutions provide.