Software as a Service (SaaS) has proven to be a very successful method of software delivery and licensing. Through a monthly or annual subscription, customers can access cloud-based software with a high degree of flexibility. In general, cloud environments are highly appreciated because of the incredible agility and scalability they offer to companies of all sizes and industries. The all-in-one subscription pricing usually covers the usage, storage, maintenance/updates and security related services. SaaS audit is a tailor-made asset that can satisfy any business size, as your software footprint is adjusted to your company’s consumption, features required, and users in scope. Plus, it is easy to procure so it enables a convenient way of spinning up IT applications without having to wait on your IT department to deliver infrastructure and services.
Having said that, complex and rapidly evolving environments introduce serious risk of license compliance or software waste that often goes unmanaged. To date, most IT vendors have maintained their software audit focus on customer deployments on-premise. While they aren’t common today, cloud audits will become a common practice. Just think about how massive the SaaS space has become, and how much it will continue to grow. And as always, staying on top of your license management game is fundamental when it comes to keeping safe during audits, either on-premise or in the cloud. More than ever, Software Asset Management (SAM) and Cloud Cost Management (CCM) are essential programs for effectively mitigating compliance and over-spend risks resulting from this evolution. As a strategic decision maker, you want and need to get prepared for the costly challenges raised by SaaS –proactively assessing and monitoring your current subscription landscape. Here’s how.
First, let’s better understand the challenges any business faces when investing in SaaS audits.
Everything starts easily: in just a few clicks, you can purchase a Software as a Service subscription. While made very simple, it also creates shadow IT for organizations and increases the complexity of license management. Knowledge is key (i.e., your SaaS application inventory), but it’s not so easy to obtain.
With SaaS comes a decentralization of IT and procurement, creating individual IT-like functions across your organization. In some cases, this may align with your business model, but without having a comprehensive understanding of your SaaS deployments, there’s no way to ensure commercial economies of scale and limit the amount of compliance and security exposure introduced into your environment. With a company or personal credit card, SaaS can be purchased online, bypassing any need for IT or Information Security approval. This increases the amount of cybersecurity, compliance and financial risk within your company.
Without proper SAM and CCM processes, user access management is a nightmare to track and even more difficult to restrict. Over-subscription risk and application redundancy are common outcomes of SaaS customers who lack control over their environments. Not to mention, having stale or inactive users poses unwanted security threats to your enterprise.
Unfortunately, traditional SAM tools and service providers have not been able to keep up with the digital transformation age and widespread SaaS adoption. Obtaining a full picture of your current software deployments is never a trivial task, but when you factor in SaaS, baselining your subscriptions and measuring actual usage makes it even more daunting. Also, keep in mind that most subscription features aren’t locked down by IT suppliers, so inadvertent software over-use is more common than not.
Consequences are clear: there is a considerable risk of licensing imprecision. Of course, license over-consumption must be avoided, but there is also material risk of over-paying for subscriptions, features and users that are not required – wasting IT dollars that can help fund other key business initiatives.
So how can you successfully tackle the challenges mentioned?
To start, it’s very essential to develop a SaaS management strategy as part of your overall SAM program. Powered by leading edge partner technologies, we’ve developed a 3-step approach to gain control of your overall SaaS usage and establish proactive Cloud Cost Management, starting with a mock audit.
Step 1 – Measure and Establish a Baseline:
Gather data and evaluate the current situation. Uncovering what you do not know is empowering and necessary. It means identifying the SaaS applications and features in use, the users with current access, and the frequency of the usage.
Determine a precise mapping of vendor GL data to each application to understand who buys SaaS internally and how much is spent on each product. Then, by reconciling this usage data to your subscription entitlements (and payments), you will easily discover if there are any discrepancies that need to be addressed, whether license over-use or waste.
Conducting a mock SaaS audit is a best practice you should definitely incorporate into your overall license management discipline. It will tell you everything you need to know and more. Get the appropriate support beforehand to ensure both process efficiency and accuracy of the results. You can adopt leading practices from trusted providers and/or licensing experts, transferring knowledge and skills to internal staff. Also, having the right SaaS discovery tool is critical to ensuring the completeness and accuracy of your SaaS management efforts. Selecting the wrong technology will preclude you from producing data driven insights that allow you to meet these SaaS-driven challenges.
Step 2 – Optimize & Secure:
When and only when you have reliable SaaS deployment and usage data, you can start making smart decisions on how to optimize your licenses, reducing the footprint where appropriate and securing your user base. Assess licensing deltas resulting from your software reconciliation, identify capability and/or application redundancies, and be confident that you are now in a stronger position to lead any discussion with your service providers, either to re-negotiate terms upon renewal or reallocate any subscriptions.
Step 3 – Stay Prepared and Keep on Monitoring:
Develop proactive SAM and CCM processes, taking into account SaaS management. Establish compliance and security governance over software licensing, both on-premise and in the cloud. Follow up closely and regularly on this matter, staying ahead of the curve to help avoid costly surprises. Account for IT shock events (e.g., proverbial audit letter) and ensure you have established reporting and data analytics to support your SaaS findings.
Learn more from Connor today
Jumpstart your SaaS management and/or SAM program with our cloud and licensing experts today. Whether you’re in need of a complete SaaS mock audit or would like to prepare for a specific vendor subscription renewal (e.g., Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, etc.), Connor is here to save you time and money. Contact us at info@connor-consulting to start your no risk SaaS assessment today.