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How Biogen Leverages SaaS Management as a Program, Not a Project

biogen saas management program


Many modern businesses operate with the help of a portfolio of SaaS products. Depending on the size and scope of your business, this number can range from a few hundred to thousands. But with such a high number (that is increasing every day) there is a lot of opportunity for waste and mismanagement.

To manage your breadth of SaaS products efficiently, you must employ a SaaS management system in your business operations. But as many businesses have found out, this cannot be a one-time project, but a consistently applied program that is integrated with your normal business operations.

Learn how one company, Biogen, implemented SaaS management as an integrated program among their business operations, and how it has provided for lasting success and efficiency. Keith Sarbaugh (Vice President, IT Infrastructure, Architecture, and Operations) and Derek Krow from Biogen hosted a SaaSMe breakout session that details their experience with SaaS management software and best practices, in particular, with Zylo.

Here are the key takeaways from their almost year-long experience using Zylo.

Start with Quick Wins

“Think big, aim small” was Biogen’s approach to implementing their SaaS management program effectively. Investing in yet another program, especially when it is meant to remedy an existing issue with too many programs, can be a difficult sell to stakeholders. You need to be able to identify a product with significant long-term potential but produce enough returns in the short term in order to get people on board.

For Biogen, their short-term win was $400K in savings almost immediately after implementing Zylo. When Sarbaugh was researching their potential SaaS management program, he saw the potential for much more savings, “something like $900,000 to a million dollars”. But these were for big-deal products that might take longer to record a return. So immediately after implementing their program, they identified more mid-sized products they could target, which yielded this impressive $400K in savings.

For teams wanting support for SaaS management in their organizations, identify the opportunity for long-term success, but work towards short-term immediate gains as a proof-of-concept. After these short-term wins, you can then expand your success in much the same way that Sarbaugh and Biogen did, through operationalizing these optimization efforts.

Operationalize to Turn Short-Term Wins into Long-Term Momentum

This is where the program versus project philosophy really shines through. If you approach SaaS management like yet another business project, you can face issues with overloading your staff or incurring more costs by adding new hires to manage this project. SaaS management is most effective when integrated into your existing business operations.

As Sarbaugh puts it, “We’ve got the platform up and running, how do we integrate it into our operations and not make this just one more thing on the plate of people who are already busy? So we looked really hard to say, `let’s not create something new, let’s integrate back where we can.’”

For Biogen, part of this integration included adding SaaS management processes into their normalized monthly operational reviews. Now, their SaaS program has become a standing part of that review process and does not represent any significant disruption from their normal operations.

This operationalization of SaaS management supports one of the qualities that is most important for business success: visibility.

Emphasize Visibility in Your SaaS Management Practices

To get all stakeholders on board with the SaaS management goals, it is important that goals are clearly communicated and established. At Biogen, the team set massive savings goals, and information regarding progress toward these goals is regularly disseminated throughout the organization.

On top of promoting general visibility, Zylo can also provide you with the tools to offer further in-depth analysis for specific stakeholders. In Sarbaugh’s experience, this is a recurring theme in the places he has worked. “…there are different groups of stakeholders who care about different things and I can’t tell you how true I’ve seen that play out to be both here at Biogen and at my previous place.”

By curating specific experiences in the interest of particular stakeholders, you can promote the general goals of the SaaS management program while emphasizing the specific areas that they have a stake in.

Implement Regular Opportunities to Reharvest and Deprovision Unused Licenses

This will be one of the biggest advantages of employing a SaaS management program in your business. As Sarbaugh shared, Biogen managed around 360 software products. Without a comprehensive SaaS management platform, it is difficult to analyze the value of all of these and truly identify what is necessary for the company.

Now, if you created a team to sit down, collect all of your records, and analyze by hand the use cases of all of your software products, this could be a project that would lead to short-term gains. However, this is incredibly inefficient and would cost an incredible amount of time to accomplish, drawing your staff away from more important endeavors.

Instead, by employing SaaS management software like Zylo and implementing regular reviews of your software products, you can ensure that you are maximizing your efficiency and not overspending where unnecessary.

It is entirely possible that you purchase a software subscription with the intention of using a certain number of licenses. Without a disciplined review of your software usage, however, you could be overpaying for licenses that are going unused.

This offers a great opportunity for negotiations during renewals, or total removal of a no longer necessary service. For Biogen, their SaaS management software has allowed them to implement rules for renewals and be ready to negotiate with application owners when the time comes. “We’ve put governance in place for renewals about rules based on thresholds to spend and set expectations with application owners that we’re looking at this stuff. So when you bring a renewal forward, we better have done some level of analysis on: what do we have, what are we using and what do we need going forward?”

Socialize Wins across Your Organization

As with any long-term program, you want to keep people motivated and invested by showcasing the value of their effort. The importance of short-term wins was mentioned already, but when establishing a continuing program, you need to ensure that you also continually communicate its success.

For Biogen, Sarbaugh mentions the importance of “one source of truth”, a place where any stakeholder can go and review key data and keep track of progress. Zylo has become their “one source of truth”, even if they may use other programs for support. By implementing a simple dashboard for easy viewing, all stakeholders, even those less invested in the direct management process, can understand the goals and feel invested in progress.

At Biogen, their experiment has already been a great success. “We set a goal this year of saving a million dollars in renewals and we’re measuring that quite conservatively. I’m happy to say that we’re well on track to hit that in our full first year of the implementation.”

Focus on Processes and Structure, Not Just Tech Solutions

As you can see in the case of Biogen, approaching SaaS management as a program and not a project is the key to achieving long-term results. With Zylo, companies can easily observe and manage their entire portfolio of SaaS products and implement consistent initiatives in order to maximize efficiency and save money, not only in the short term but in the long term as well.

You can listen to Keith Sarbaugh and Derek Krow’s full session, as well as conversations with IT experts, by checking out our SaaSMe on-demand video sessions.