Enable SaaS Management with Continual Shadow IT Discovery

Eric Christopher

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As SaaS becomes a larger portion of enterprise tech stacks, many IT leaders recognize the challenge to manage and optimize their SaaS portfolio in an ongoing, continual cycle.

Evaluating and continually discovering SaaS in an ongoing manner can produce unique advantages that allow business technology leaders to be better informed and more cost-effective with their application inventory in real time.

Increased SaaS Spend Increases Shadow IT

Analyst Gartner predicts that in 2019 overall SaaS spending will climb 17.8% and that by 2021 SaaS will capture a market share of around 40% of the $278 billion overall technology market.

The increase in overall spending is leading to greater SaaS application quantity among large firms; our data shows over 600 apps on average. Identity management provider Okta recently noted that large business customers have increased the number of SaaS apps in their stacks by 68% over the last four years, now using 129 apps per customer on average. According to Zylo customer data, on average, about one-third of application inventory is integrated with an identity management solution.

Shadow IT Grows from Democratized SaaS Purchasing 

More than 50% of technology spending worldwide now occurs outside of IT budgets according to IDC. While the democratization of SaaS purchasing and management has provided business units more control of decision-making for needed technology, the potential downside for IT teams is a lack of enterprise-wide visibility into this shadow IT.

Compounding the potential risks of shadow IT for larger organizations is the continual, unmanaged addition of unknown apps into the SaaS inventory. Based on Zylo customer data and feedback, it’s estimated that as many as seven to 10 unique applications enter the inventory of organizations with 800 to 1,000 or more employees every month. Given this fact, it’s not surprising that businesses often underestimate the actual number of apps used by the business by two to three times.

Business technology managers must be enabled to discover the full scope of applications that are currently being used by the business at the time of adoption.

SaaS Management Relies on Continual Shadow IT Discovery

For many technology managers, discovering and recording SaaS applications throughout the business is a spreadsheet-driven process. Zylo’s solves the macro-level issue of shadow IT by discovering all SaaS applications purchased and implemented within the business and creating a continually updated system of record. This visibility reveals apps that may undermine security, financial or governance best practices.

Zylo’s cloud-based application discovery also allows users to categorize the application by tagging its function or use area, as well as cost center. Associating SaaS application spend with respective business units in one platform creates an enterprise-wide view for managing critical SaaS applications across the organization. With Zylo’s Views feature, individual business units can take ownership of their respective app inventory.

Because new SaaS applications are continually being added to the enterprise technology stack, application discovery must also be a continually updated.  With Zylo, businesses can engage in an ongoing process, where discovery is regularly refreshed and new incoming applications are categorized, assigned ownership and assigned to cost centers in real time.

Harness the Benefits of IT Discovery

At its highest level, continual discovery of new applications helps organizations discover what technology, apps and software their teams use.

From a security perspective, continual discovery quickly and regularly reveals SaaS apps that may have not been vetted against organizational policies and best practices for security, data or customer privacy. Applications that violate these best practices can then be promptly integrated or decommissioned.

For sourcing or vendor management teams tasked with maximizing value from enterprise-wise technology budgets, an ongoing discovery process highlights new SaaS purchases in real-time, allowing the applications to be associated to cost centers.

The increased speed of discovery and identification also allows redundant, duplicative, or non-standard apps to be identified. Then, IT teams can take appropriate actions to decrease time to value for each applicatiopn.

For any team concerned with technology budget (not only sourcing or vendor management teams), continual discovery enables accurate SaaS budget forecasting by providing up-to-date cost information.

How to Create Shadow IT Discovery Processes

Answer the following questions to take concrete steps towards building a SaaS management strategy that features continual discovery.

Evaluate current approach for creating app visibility, if any.

  • How are SaaS applications currently discovered?
  • When discovered, where is application categorization, ownership, cost center and performance data stored?
  • How frequently is this information updated across the organization?

Identify stakeholders essential for collaboration and validation.

  • Who owns top-line responsibility for technology management?
  • Who will be the designated owner of a central system of record when built?
  • What business unit or team is responsible for deploying best practices for security and data best practices?
  • How much ownership over managing the SaaS applications do teams or employees currently have?

Identify KPIs that will make data actionable.

  • What data will SaaS inventory decisions be based on?
  • Do different teams or cost centers need different evaluation data?
  • What data is critical to be updated on a regular basis?
  • How frequently should data be refreshed?

Take the first step toward continual discovery and real-time decision-making for SaaS management: Create a centralized, collaborative SaaS system of record. Request a demo to understand how Zylo delivers continual discovery and data updates for improved SaaS management decision-making.

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About the Author

Eric Christopher

Eric Christopher is CEO and Co-Founder of Zylo, the leading SaaS management platform. After 14 years of buying and selling software, Eric knew there had to be a better way to manage cloud applications within a company. Eric started his career in sales at ExactTarget from 2002 to 2010. He spent the next six years in Chicago leading sales teams at Shoutlet and Sprout Social Inc., and founded Zylo in 2016.