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Advice from Adobe: Keys to SaaS Management Success

Adobe SaaS Management

In a digital world defined by SaaS products and cloud companies, SaaS Management isn’t exactly easy. The IT leadership at Adobe knows this first hand: they knew they had a problem with SaaS spend, but it took concerted and consistent effort to move away from silos, shadow IT, and less-than-visible spend to optimize their SaaS.

“Something that bothered us was uncontrolled software spend,” said Ash Rai, Director of the Office of the CIO at Adobe, in a recent session from our SaaSMe event. “We had to constantly ask for more money, which does not put you in a happy place with your leadership.” But the dollar amount was just the beginning of the problem. “There was a lack of user data; we had no clue of what was installed, how many products were being used, or how many users were there. That was causing all kinds of problems for us.” 

Adobe quickly realized that traditional Software Asset Management (SAM) tools wouldn’t suffice. In fact, Gartner predicts that only 20% of organizations will use a single SAM tool across all of their environments by 2026. Adobe built their new SaaS Management program knowing they’d need a dedicated solution for tracking SaaS spend and usage. 

This is their guide to the best practices for building up effective software management. We were joined by both Ash Rai and Lupe Banuelos, Sr Program Manager of Software Asset Management, to share their journey and learnings.

Read the key takeaways or watch the full session below. If you can’t get enough of stories like this, be sure to register for the next SaaSMe Virtual this fall.

Adobe’s Core Learnings From Building Their SaaS Management Process

#1: Executive sponsorship is critical

Before you can get anything moving, you need executive buy-in and, better than that, executive sponsorship for your new efforts. 

“I cannot stress enough the importance of having an executive behind any program,” Ash told us. Since we work in the office of the CIO, our efforts are directly supported. But, believe me, it still comes with a lot of scrutiny and reporting. You’ve got to be on your toes.” 

Executive sponsorship, in turn, helps foster cross-functional partnership with other business units in the organization. This is another critical factor, according to Ash and Lupe. “The more people you pull together, the more successful you’re going to be,” Ash said. “Think big, but take small, incremental, achievable steps. If you’re trying to boil the ocean from the get go, you’re going to get disheartened.” 

Getting executive sponsorship first and then using that to build cross-functional partnerships gives you the opportunity to take those achievable steps. Looking for the opportunity to strike helps, too. In Adobe’s case, the team had just gotten hit with multiple audits to their spend and ecosystem. “Management was looking forward to quickly getting our SAM program off the ground,” Lupe shared. “We began with implementing a non-on-prem tool and increasing staff to enable us to put those core consistent processes in place from the very beginning.” 

Don’t have this level of executive sponsorship? Not facing those immediate audits? Take time to document the issues (and their costs), pull on resources like Ash and Lupe’s talk, and take the conversation from there. 

adobe saas management best practices saasme

#2: Get the right people, processes, and tools in place

“The second thing we realized is we need people, processes and tools to support this program,” Ash said, building off of the foundations Lupe mentioned. “We did everything possible with our initially-limited resources.” 

Ash and Lupe pointed to their Business Intelligence (BI) capabilities as an example. Before putting their SAM program in place, they had more than a dozen BI tools. Today, they’re at three tools—which has allowed them to train their entire support staff on a core set of tools instead of spreading themselves too thin. 

This is why people, processes, and tools all go together. “You can do more with less, because now you don’t need as many people to support those applications,” Ash said. “For software optimization, we wanted to reduce redundancy in the application landscape, specific category by specific category.” 

Without the right people to show the impact of these BI platforms, without the right processes to prioritize what we wanted and what we didn’t (more on that later), and without the right Software Asset Management tool—optimization wouldn’t have been possible. This allowed the Adobe team to optimize spend, resulting in direct cost savings and cost avoidance. “The entire SaaS space is still evolving,” Ash said. “People can go swipe a credit card and bring a tool into your environment. It’s scary. There’s no real way for you to measure and report. That’s where Zylo came in.”

So how did the Adobe team accomplish the measurement and optimization they needed?

“We needed to find a tool that could give us the information we needed, as well as provide services to help our small team operate,” Lupe told us. “We couldn’t have put a report or generated any kind of tool to give us the insights that Zylo has given us.”

Today, Adobe has more than 50 direct integrations with Zylo, and they’re on the path to reducing their 2400 applications to 500 applications with the SaaS Management tool. With the right people, approval processes and tools in place, they can keep their software crawl in check. 

#3: Get in the weeds with software standards, compliance, and alignment

Success isn’t about the big picture; it’s made by paying attention to the details. That’s why Ash and Lupe recommend setting software standards for what you’ll bring into your environments, paying attention to compliance and reporting, and aligning procurement with vendor management. 

  • Software standards: “In a couple of years, we saw our landscape grow from 1,000 products to about 2,400 products.” Placing software standards for which products the company can take on helped them reduce what was there and keep bad-fit products from coming in.
  • Compliance: “When management becomes a very important aspect, you’ve got to understand your licensing, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. You have to understand whether you are appropriately licensed and whether your agreements are going to support you. This is even more important in the SaaS world.” 
  • Alignment: “The other thing is that you need a really good alignment between VMO and procurement. License harvesting helps you realize the maximum value from your program.” Without alignment between vendor management and procurement, there’s very little visibility into usage, leading to waste. 

Remember: SaaS Management is an Ongoing Journey

While you can kick off your SaaS Management journey with gusto, Ash and Lupe remind us that it is a long-term process—a continuous practice to keep your environments agile and relatively low cost. 

The important part is to measure your successes along the way to justify continued investment in the program. 

“Manage your software usage, proactively create efficiencies that will allow you to realize value faster, and it’ll help you on the program,” Ash shared toward the end of the session. “If you’re saving millions of dollars, and you go and ask for money, there is no leader who’s gonna say no to you.”

To reach that point, the Adobe team recommends leveraging SaaS Management partners (like Zylo)—they recommend looking for a vendor that is in it with you. “If you’re trying to do it alone, you’re climbing Mount Everest without any tools. And you know what happens then.”

So, to get your journey started: get buy-in, communicate your wins to leadership, find the right partner, and keep moving. 

Hear Adobe’s story and watch the other SaaSMe sessions at