SaaS Sprawl and the

Importance of Software License Management

SaaS Sprawl and the Importance of Software License Management

Whether you’re an early adopter of SaaS or just beginning your move to the cloud, at some point you’ll have to deal with SaaS sprawl. Just as the term infers, this is when an organization’s loosely-formed body of cloud-based digital services becomes unwieldy – so much so that it’s hard to manage cost, consumption, and compliance. This growing problem is commanding the attention of IT leaders everywhere, so what can be done about it? Software License Management offers the solution.

How do Organizations End Up with SaaS Sprawl?

It’s incredibly easy to end up with the state of sprawl that mid-transformation organizations are experiencing right now. As individuals and departments find new ways to increase productivity and improve efficiency through SaaS, the overall enterprise-wide collection of cloud-based applications and the devices used to access them grows. Research shows that the typical worker uses around three dozen cloud-based apps – every day!

You can’t stop the evolution of business and how work gets done. And with the impressive business benefits that come with cloud adoption, why would you want to?

Cloud-based services are driving an immense leap forward in digitization for both SMBs and larger enterprises. Leaders strive for innovation and managers follow through by encouraging their departments with free reign to adopt whatever cloud-based technology they need.

Digital transformation can come at a price, however.

What SaaS Sprawl Does to Organizations

Leaders who jump into SaaS eventually come to realize that an unmanageable digital estate leads to all sorts of business risks. An unruly sprawl of untamed applications and cloud services can quickly become an angry nest of snakes, potentially causing serious harm to your organization.

While these risks manifest differently across organizations, most have experiences with one or many of them. People find and use the tools they need at work. But who’s watching? Who’s controlling software spend? What about overlapping capabilities across departments? Often departments have no idea what others are using in the cloud. And unused licenses – who knows? License violations? Security…?

From software spend to license violations to visibility and security, the risks that SaaS Sprawl open up are critical enough to demand attention from the executive level.

SaaS sprawl can spawn more problems like ‘Data Sprawl’, which is when your app data is sprinkled around the cloud ecosystem, yielding even more risk. These can expose your organization to privacy violations, especially in light of higher data protection standards such as GDPR, already in place, and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which will take effect at the end of the year.

Then there are department-specific sprawl issues. For example, the HR workflow is laden with permissions-based processes that give rise to potential problems with access security. Each time a new employee is onboarded, they must be granted managed access to the apps and systems they need. The same process happens in reverse during the offboarding process: when employees leave, what doors are being left open, exposing the company to risk? Is consumption and access being tracked when employees change roles? Consumption is a troublesome security issue, but it also comes into play when you’re figuring software spend. Is the organization paying for licenses that are sitting there, unused, after people change roles or leave?

These types of issues and concerns are duplicated across every department. Without a solid plan for management and control, it can all get out of hand quickly, exposing an organization to serious harm. Even enterprises who have large IT central departments will find their resources spread too thin when managing thousands of apps. And even if they could handle the sprawling digital estate, it would leave them with no time to fulfill more important goals like guiding the organization through the steps of digital transformation.

How to Deal With (and Prevent) SaaS Sprawl

Business departments and individuals are becoming more involved in the process of acquiring their own digital tools (adding to SaaS sprawl) but a business manager can’t exactly be expected to wear the hat of a fully-trained IT professional. On the other hand, IT can’t be expected to manage the free-for-all explosion of SaaS, either.

That leaves organizations with two choices: hire an IT/Security professional to manage every business department, or make an investment of time and resources in developing an effective, proactive Software License Management (SLM) program.

A Sound SLM Program Can Help

Having a sound plan for managing and controlling your SaaS ecosystem – from acquisition to compliance, involving security and licensing, all the way to the day you cancel each subscription or retire an app – can reign in SaaS sprawl. This plan is called Software License Management (SLM) and its part of how organizations are dealing with the growing problem of SaaS sprawl. Here’s how it can help.

1. Cost Reduction:

Problems with forgotten subscriptions will come to light, as will app inefficiency and a whole host of other costly mistakes that occur on a daily basis when nobody’s looking. According to a Gartner report, implementing SLM can reduce software spend up to 30 percent. Public cloud resources are wasted – that’s the norm. In fact, when we work with new clients, we typically find rampant waste in cloud resources.

2. Tighter Security:

A SaaS estate that’s acquired and managed ad-hoc will unfortunately also have ad-hoc security. In light of today’s critical hacking environment that’s rife with business missteps and breaches, this is a top concern. Since the lion’s share of company breaches happen as a result of bad employee passwords, guidance supervision and is clearly still needed in most organizations.

3. Help with Compliance:

Knowing who’s using what tools, who’s accessing your data, and for what reason is a major step toward staying compliant. SLM provides detailed and accurate reports that show this information and more. This can make audits less painful, especially when you have hundreds of SaaS subscriptions to manage.

Insight, supervision, and control of your software estate can not only rein in your SaaS sprawl problem – it can help prevent sprawl in the first place. A good SLM partnership gives your digital ecosystem the coverage it needs, allowing you to enjoy the road to digital transformation and business success.

End Sprawl with Effective Software License Management

Learn how we can help you on the path to achieving mature Software License Management, to reduce sprawl and maximize ROI.

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Gabe Honesto, Author SoftwareONE Blog

Gabe Honesto

Team Lead Software Lifecycle Management

Digital Transformation & Software Asset Management

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