How SaaS Sprawl, Inaccurate Data Fuel SaaS Management Issues

eWEEK DATA POINTS: When it comes to SaaS management, what you don’t know can hurt you.


Many CIOs are making key business decisions in a vacuum; think of it as the software-as-a-service management “black box.” CIOs need accurate application engagement data to understand company SaaS usage; effectively provision, adjust and renew application licenses; and forecast future application use patterns. 

According to Productiv's recent survey of 100 IT executives, The State of SaaS Management in 2020, conducted by Pulse, 78% of IT leaders agree they need more information on key usage metrics to inform their decision-making leading up to SaaS license renewal. Many of today’s IT executives are not getting the SaaS usage data they need to make informed decisions.

The task of cracking open the application engagement black box to gain real-time visibility into how people collaborate is difficult, however. This year, it’s become even more challenging; COVID-19 and the all-virtual office have changed how we collaborate. Zoom usage has skyrocketed as people have adjusted to virtual meetups, video meetings and always-on, real-time chat. Amidst these collaboration-related changes, IT remains focused on matching the right technology with the right employees to maximize remote productivity.

In mid-2019, Jody Shapiro, former head of Google Analytics and current CEO of Productiv, outlined key trends shaping SaaS application management among top cloud computing companies. In this eWEEK Data Points segment, Shapiro re-examines the trends shaping the SaaS management landscape as we close out 2020.

Data Point No. 1: SaaS sprawl plagues enterprises and affects employee experience.

According to the survey, nearly two-thirds (61%) of IT executives say their organization is currently subscribed to more than 100 SaaS apps. More SaaS apps means more SaaS management challenges, which stresses IT resources and affects operational efficiency. Just as IT struggles with managing apps, employees also grapple with actually using all of them. According to Gartner, the average employee spends more than five hours a week wrestling with tech issues.

SaaS sprawl impacts employee experience. When the employee experience suffers, so too does efficiency, collaboration and productivity across the board.

Data Point No. 2: IT executives still rely on inaccurate, reactive and outdated information to make important decisions.

Last year, in a 2019 Pulse SaaS Application Management survey, 56% of IT executives reported that they relied on internal tools and manual spreadsheets to manage their SaaS apps.

Our research shows that this year, 77% of IT leaders rely on vendor notifications to manage SaaS subscriptions and gauge a tool’s usefulness within the company, while 86% of companies automating SaaS management through a dedicated tool also rely on manual methods like spreadsheets and vendor notifications.

What this means is that the dreaded SaaS management spreadsheet is alive and well. Despite IT's efforts to automate away the SaaS sprawl problem and kill the spreadsheet, existing tools lack the depth and breadth of information that leaders need to truly get a hold of their SaaS portfolios. IT leaders can only help to eliminate redundancy and mitigate out-of-control SaaS sprawl with accurate, up-to-date information on how people are engaging with apps.

Data Point No. 3: Manual tools and inaccurate SaaS engagement data mean poor business decisions.

Most (97%) of the survey respondents admit they do not have complete visibility into how their SaaS tools are used by employees as a result of using manual, reactive approaches to SaaS management. Pair that number with the 94% of IT executives who think that reactive, manual methods such as spreadsheets and notifications puts them at risk of missing key information that would help make better business decisions. There’s no dancing around the numbers here; incomplete and/or inaccurate data affects major business decisions.

Data Point No. 4: IT leaders believe core SaaS apps are most over-licensed or underutilized at their companies.

According to our survey, the top three tools IT leaders believed are over-licensed (i.e. the company has too many licenses) or underutilized (i.e. value doesn’t equate investment) at their organizations are Salesforce (40%), Office 365 (38%) and Zoom (29%).

However, 62% of respondents admit that their companies rely on SaaS vendors themselves for the data they need to understand usage. This SaaS vendor-supplied data, in turn, may not provide a complete picture as to how a specific company’s people are actually engaging with the apps on a daily basis.

Data Point No. 5: IT leaders need centralized information to make better SaaS management decisions.

The survey found that 88% of executives admit having a central location for SaaS management would simplify their internal processes, enhance visibility and allow their teams to allocate their time to strategic initiatives. As they work to drive business value from their companies’ SaaS applications in our current decentralized era, IT leaders recognize that they need a central system of record to collaborate effectively on application strategy.

This past year has brought with it escalated IT challenges, as companies bolstered their remote-work infrastructure. At the same time, IT has worked to empower their all-remote workforce to collaborate, communicate and connect. Effective, efficient SaaS management is key to eliminating app sprawl, waste and redundancies – and this will be top of mind for IT executives as we move toward 2021.

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