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4 Key Takeaways from SaaSMe 2022

reasons to attend SaaSMe


Last year, Zylo hosted our first annual SaaSMe – the industry’s only SaaS Management event. Based on the massive success of our inaugural event, we brought SaaSMe back this year – and it was even bigger and better than before.

In September, IT and finance leaders gathered (virtually) to learn, network, and exchange ideas for harnessing the power of SaaS. This year’s event attracted more than 600 registrants from 23 different countries representing companies ranging from some of the world’s most recognizable enterprises – to the most innovative startups. 

Based on feedback from our inaugural SaaSMe, we expanded this year’s event to two days. Day one offered plenty of opportunities for finance and IT professionals to hear how the experts at the most innovative brands are driving down SaaS costs while increasing adoption and innovation. Cynthia Stoddard, SVP and CIO at Adobe kicked things off by exploring the expanding role of IT leaders in the face of massive SaaS growth. Experts from organizations including LinkedIn, Fresh FP&A, Salsify, CM Group, Biogen, Redis, and others gave us a sneak peek into how their organizations are optimizing SaaS. Zylo’s Vice President of Product then shared what’s in store for Zylo in the coming months. And finally, we wrapped up day one with the SaaSMe Awards, which honored Zylo customers who are taking a progressive, innovative approach to SaaS Management and driving impact in their organizations. 

Day two was created especially for Zylo customers. During day two, companies had access to hands-on learning designed to help ensure they’re getting the most from Zylo’s platform and services.

The energy at SaaSMe 2022 was palpable. There were so many great insights throughout the event, and attendees left excited and energized to take control of SaaS. 

The SaaSMe sessions covered a wide range of topics. However, a few key themes emerged. Read on for our top SaaSMe 2022 takeaways that you can start leveraging today to take SaaS Management to the next level at your organization. 

SaaSMe 2022 Takeaway #1: SaaS is Poised to Drive Business Impact

Modern businesses run on SaaS. In fact, everything that drives business impact – from mission critical workflows to customer experiences to internal collaboration – depends on SaaS. 

The shift to SaaS is fundamentally changing the role and expectations of IT leaders. Being tech experts is no longer enough. Today, IT leaders must also understand how technology can be deployed to drive business value and outcomes. In other words, they must run IT as a business. 

“Running IT as a business means as an organization, IT has to think and act in terms of business value and outcomes, not activities, tasks, or deliverables. Specifically, running IT as a business means establishing an IT strategy with clear, specific, and measurable outcomes for the fiscal year, and that align with the company’s goals and objectives.” said Cynthia Stoddard, CIO at Adobe. “It means managing our investments with budgeting, resource planning, optimized third-party spend from all vendors and rapidly integrating strategic integrations, and being good stewards of the funds entrusted to us. It means enabling scale with seamless execution and adoption through specialized PMO in organizational change management functions. Most importantly, run IT like a business means having culture, fostering it, protecting it and growing it. People are at the heart of everything that we do.”

Zylo’s own Chief Business Development and Strategy Officer Ben Pippenger also discussed the key role of SaaS in modern organizations. According to Ben, the shift to SaaS presents an unprecedented opportunity for CIOs, CFOs and their teams to harness the power of SaaS to create value and drive transformation. 

“You’ve got to jump in, reach across the hypothetical table, and partner with your IT and your finance teams. Bring your app owners to the table to collectively break down those silos to solve the problem.”

But IT and Finance don’t have to go it alone. Chris Asing, VP and Head of IT shared how Redis has enabled distributed ownership of SaaS throughout the organization, which has ultimately enabled a better employee experience. 

SaaSMe Afterparty

SaaSMe 2022 Takeaway #2: SaaS Management is a Journey, Not a Destination

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Life is a journey, not a destination.” On day one of SaaSMe, Zylo’s Founder and Chief Customer Officer Cory Wheeler challenged attendees to approach SaaS Management with a similar mindset. 

“Usually the number one question that a CIO, CFO, head of IT or finance and procurement will ask me is, ‘You’ve done this before. How do we think about this? The insights that you’re showing us across our entire stack are almost overwhelming. We knew we had a problem, but you are pointing out a problem far larger than we ever even realized,’” said Cory Wheeler, Chief Customer Officer at Zylo. “Well, the reality is enterprise SaaS management does happen on a spectrum, and we’ve broken it down into a consumable practice that you can implement in their business.”

During Cory’s session on Tuesday, he walked attendees through what the Enterprise SaaS Management journey looks like – from Implementation to Organization to Optimization to Orchestration. However, he stressed that first, you have to build a strong foundation. That means understanding the true size and scope of your SaaS portfolio by integrating, centralizing and transforming key data to create a SaaS system of record that enables stakeholders throughout the organization to work from the same system. 

“That first step is to centralize that data. It is pulling together all of your spend detail through multiple systems. It’s pulling together your utilization data, your single sign on data, as well as those contract entitlements… This implementation will give you the knowledge around what do we spend, how many apps do we have, how many risky apps do we have, and this phase allows you to begin to set up those KPIs and those goals that you’re going to drive to as part of a programmatic implementation.”

Keith Sarbaugh, Vice President, IT Infrastructure, Architecture and Operations at Biogen also believes SaaS Management shouldn’t be seen as a single destination. He shared how his team leveraged Zylo to build some momentum with quick wins out of the gate. 

“As soon as we got the implementation done, one of the first areas we focused on was integrating with Okta, so we could get some insight into all the applications that sit behind SSO. There were about 160 apps in that domain, and right out of the gate, we identified about $400,000 of savings and a handful of renewals,” said Keith Sarbaugh. 

Rather than approaching SaaS management as a one-off, reactive project though, Keith and his team have transformed it into a strategic program and were able to keep the momentum going by building optimization into his team’s processes. During his breakout session, Keith gave attendees an insider’s look at how his team at Biogen have built a SaaS management program that drives smarter purchases and renewals at scale. 

“Integrating the tool, the methodology and the discipline into already existing operations – that’s how we found success. So don’t create something new, don’t make it something additional that people have to do – rather we integrated it into how we get work done.”

SaaSMe 2022 Takeaway #3: SaaS Management is a Team Sport

When on-premise software reigned, purchases were typically funneled through the IT team. Oftentimes, IT was solely responsible for both purchasing software and managing it. 

But SaaS is a different beast. And effectively managing it can’t be a single-person sport.  

Unlike on-premise software, SaaS lives throughout the organization. Purchase decisions can come from just about anywhere – from the CIO and CFO and their teams to business units and even individual employees. As such, managing these assets must be a team sport. 

“There’s two words that come to mind when I think about running a SaaS program,” said Gordon Atkin, VP of Technology and Business Platforms at Salsify. “One is transparency. I want to have transparency and visibility across the entire organization in terms of what we’re spending our money on. Most departments know what they’re spending their money on, but CFOs, IT leaders, procurement leaders, there’s lots of people in the company that need visibility and transparency into what’s going on. 

The second word that comes to mind is discipline. Recognizing, again, how much money is spent on software SaaS, specifically within organizations. We need to have a discipline. Step back a decade or two ago, when SaaS wasn’t around, there was a lot of rigor around capital spend. Introducing SaaS, that rigor has become less and less – so reintroducing rigor and discipline back into what we do is something that I really try and focus on.”

Progressive IT and finance leaders get it. They know that collaboration across teams and the organization is essential to effectively and efficiently tackling SaaS. 

“SaaS Management has to be a highly, highly collaborative initiative,” said Shravya Ravi, Manager of Asset Management at LinkedIn. “It just cannot be done in a silo. It all starts with executive sponsorship. When it comes top down, in terms of this is how we are going to operate as a business or as a company, it’s more likely to be followed. Once you do have that executive sponsorship, then it further sets into motion whatever work that we can do with finance teams, with our procurement, sourcing, and vendor management teams, with our application owners and with our security teams.”

But what exactly does that look like in practice? During our customer panel, attendees had the chance to hear firsthand how leaders at LinkedIn, Salsify and Fresh FP&A are building alliances throughout their organizations to drive maximum impact with SaaS. 

“Any good relationship and any good business partnership that’s creating value is built on two core competencies, trust and competency,” said Chris Ortega, CEO of Fresh FP&A. “Go meet the business where they are and speak the business language. There’s a classic analogy I always use when I lead finance organizations. If you want to move fast, go alone. If you want to move further, go together.”

SaaSMe 2022 Takeaway #4: SaaS Spend is an Opportunity for Optimization

The SaaSMe 2022 agenda featured several sessions led by Zylo customers – sharing their SaaS management successes and challenges. While the sessions covered a wide range of topics, one consistent theme emerged: SaaS spend is an opportunity for optimization. 

Of course, you can’t manage and optimize what you can’t see. Rather, full visibility of all SaaS is key – and is the foundation for successful SaaS Management. Karen Hodson, Global Procurement & Real Estate Officer at CM Group shared how she drives visibility into SaaS – and then takes action on those insights to drive significant savings throughout the organization. 

“When you have that initial visibility, it’s a lot of information,” said Karen Hodson, Global Procurement and Real Estate Officer at CM Group. “You finally now have all of this data. What we have done in the past is to sort the vendors by top spend. Attack the big ones first. What can you do for any of them? Is there some impact and change that you can make immediately? Take a look at the top 10, then look at the top 20, 25 and start building it down… My suggestion is to take that information and start at the top that spend and see what you can do to fix that.”

Cost savings is a top goal of any SaaS Management practice, and continuous optimization is the way to get there. Brittney Linville, Manager of Global Enterprise Procurement at Highspot, shared her best secrets for driving SaaS cost savings through license management, shifting expense spend to AP channels, and keeping redundant applications at bay. We also heard from Jon Alves, Category Manager, Technology, at Momentive about how his team drives cost optimization and savings through rationalization, license management, vendor consolidation, and strategic contract negotiation.

In fact, being an expert negotiator – both at purchase and renewal – is key to unlocking savings opportunities. Mousa Hamad, Vice President of Corporate IT and Procurement, shared how Pushpay leverages calendar alerts and data to tackle negotiations – and win. 

“Creating a usable process will make you a partner people want to work with, which will empower you to be a better negotiator on behalf of your business. Being approachable, internally and externally, building good, solid relationships. Being transparent with your negotiation partner, celebrating the wins and involving everybody in the business – all of this allows you to drive better value for the business.” said Mousa Hamad. 

The bottom line? The right SaaS is essential to your business. But SaaS portfolios are ripe for optimization. Now’s the time for IT and Finance to harness the power of SaaS to drive down costs while increasing adoption and innovation. 

Couldn’t make it to SaaSMe 2022 live? We’ve got you covered! Delve deeper into the SaaSMe 2022 key takeaways by heading to the SaaSMe Afterparty