As cloud-based software rapidly replaces on-premises systems, most CIOs and their IT teams value the role SaaS (service-as-a-service) plays in creating a more productive virtual work environment. The trick lies in obtaining an accurate view of this cloud-based ecosystem and using those discoveries to develop an enterprise IT architecture that strengthens employee productivity — instead of derailing it.
A comprehensive SaaS management strategy helps CIOs and other business leaders see exactly what’s deployed across all business units, how much those services cost, and how employees use the software to fulfill their job duties.
How to Leverage SaaS to Improve Productivity
If you look at an average employee’s smartphone or tablet, they likely rely on a variety of applications to provide entertainment, follow the news, track personal goals, manage finances, and much more. Their preference for curated, specialized technology doesn’t end when they log in for work each day. By 2023, Gartner predicts 40 percent of workers will choose business applications and tools like they do in their music streaming experience.
“The days of buying large monolithic applications and consuming different parts of the application while the rest of the parts sit idle are gone,” says Pranab Sinha, CIO at Genesys, a provider of cloud-based customer experience and call center technology. “The industry is moving to a consumption-based model where you pick and choose the best applications to fit your needs. You need a strong SaaS management platform, which provides a good view of what your enterprise and the economics look like.”
Enterprises can boost employee productivity with a thorough SaaS management strategy that follows these three best practices:
- Give employees access to a flexible range of approved applications.
- Regularly measure SaaS usage and adoption across business units.
- Practice application and architecture rationalization, then act on those findings.
Give Employees Access to a Flexible Range of Applications
Improve the employee experience by providing visibility into every business-approved application at their disposal. Give employees the freedom to choose from a stack of pre-vetted SaaS applications and an easy way to acquire any of the cloud-based tools.
Consider introducing a centralized application directory as a core piece of enterprise IT architecture to meet those goals. An app catalog allows employees to explore a curated selection of pre-vetted, business-purchased SaaS applications and streamlines access requests.
Without a holistic view of available SaaS applications, employees often waste valuable time figuring out if another team member within the organization already pays for the same software application or tracking down the owner (or owners) of an existing SaaS license.
Eliminating overlapping or redundant applications and presenting employees with a curated, vetted list of best-in-class tools reduces IT workload. It also empowers business units to self-manage application portfolios and collaborate with others across the company using shared applications, improving employee productivity across the board.
Be mindful when picking SaaS tools for each business process or functionality. If employees don’t find the tools useful, shadow IT and rogue employee purchasing of software services will inevitably creep in to fill those gaps. Those one-off purchases of SaaS licenses waste money and resources and open the organization up to security risks and duplicative purchases.
Measure Usage and Adoption Regularly
How do you know if the selected SaaS applications truly represent the top options for a particular business process? If you don’t monitor SaaS application utilization, it’s impossible to know if employees actually use and value the software.
Most applications track license-specific utilization data via a dedicated metrics dashboard. However, measuring SaaS application usage manually can prove difficult and time-consuming—especially for large enterprises.
Single sign-on systems (SSO) can help assess SaaS utilization, but the resulting data is only accurate if employees use the SSO every time they log into any application. At Zylo, we oftentimes discover SSO workarounds employees devise to directly access applications, hindering utilization discovery.
To truly understand your full Saas utilization, make sure to frequently measure all users of every application. Find a SaaS management platform that directly integrates into mission-critical applications, like your CRM, web conferencing, product management applications, and office suites, to accurately measure application utilization across the entire software portfolio.
Practice Application and Architecture Rationalization
In addition to measuring utilization, it’s important to ask the following questions when deciding which SaaS applications to keep and which to eliminate from the stack:
- Does this application make economic sense for my organization?
- Does it improve employee productivity or hinder it?
- Do other existing applications already serve the same purpose?
- How well does the application fit into the overall technology portfolio? Does it “play well” and easily integrate with other technology?
Application rationalization involves deciding which software services should remain in use and which applications should be replaced, consolidated, or retired. From there, it’s important to consider how the SaaS catalog fits into the enterprise IT structure to streamline requests, spending, and improve access.
Atlassian, which develops software and collaboration tools like Trello and Jira, uses the Zylo SaaS management platform to inform internal IT management and improve its own enterprise architecture. The enhanced transparency gained through application rationalization drives the international company’s decision-making and leads to a more effective architecture overall, according to Atlassian’s Senior Enterprise Architect John Stame.
“When you discover applications and start to put them in context from a business architecture perspective, you’re mapping everything by capability or function,” Stame says. “You start to see where you probably don’t need 17 separate learning solutions.”
Optimize SaaS Portfolios to Benefit the Business and Employees
As modern CIOs’ role continues to evolve, they must adapt and learn how to best serve a mostly digital workforce. Optimizing technology portfolios through a verified SaaS management process represents a fundamental step forward for CIOs developing an enterprise IT architecture strategy to improve both business performance and employee productivity.
By measuring each application’s utilization and effectiveness for everyone working at Genesys, the technology provider eliminated overlapping or redundant SaaS applications and consolidated its portfolio. Not only did the consolidation deliver “substantial savings,” it also improved the employee experience, according to Sinha.
When Genesys selected a single cloud-storage application to serve the entire organization and replace duplicative software, Sinha says 15 to 20 employees immediately reached out to show appreciation for the move to standardization.
“It was great to see that,” Sinha says. “Generally, people want a centralized environment.”