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SaaS Management Lifecycle: How to Manage SaaS at Every Step

procurement saas management

A SaaS management lifecycle creates a best practice template for managing SaaS applications throughout significant events during its time of deployment within the organization.

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SaaS Management Lifecycle


SaaS management lifecycle

What’s Needed

A discovery process to identify all existing SaaS applications.
SaaS application discovery plays an essential role in reducing shadow IT and enabling a SaaS management strategy.

It’s impossible to manage SaaS applications you or the organization is not aware of, therefore a reliable, accurate SaaS discovery process is needed to reflect an accurate inventory of the applications and spending that make up the technology stack.

A comprehensive, continually updated central system of record

This system of record for SaaS information reflects the outcome of the SaaS discovery process, but also serves as a source of truth for multiple teams in an ongoing manner.

For many, the first iteration of this record takes the form of a spreadsheet, but teams should explore ways to automate importing data related to SaaS, including spending, ownership, functionality, utilization information, and renewal dates, as the information can quickly become outdated.

A team or a professional SaaS management specialist dedicated to leading strategic improvement

of the value of SaaS applications as an enterprise resource. Typically teams or professionals s assigned to the task include CIOs, IT Procurement, or software asset managers. However, more organizations than ever are carving out specialty roles for SaaS managers.

In each of the lifecycle stage described below, you’ll find a simplified description of each lifecycle’s function and how these action items impact the overall function of SaaS management.

Review & Approve SaaS Applications Before Purchase

What it means

The easiest way to solve problems from SaaS applications is to prevent them from happening. Reviewing SaaS applications before purchase provides the opportunity to preserve value, avoid risk, and plan strategically.

Depending on your org chart, the software review process may take the form of an internal review led by an IT manager or sourcing team, or a cross-functional review board comprised of specialists from specific business units, including Legal, Finance, IT, and IT Security.

What it does

A pre-purchase review and approval process poses questions that empower the organization to:

  • Preserve value by cross-checking the proposed application against functionally similar alternatives. This includes similar tools on the market or tools that may have already been purchased and implemented within the organization.
  • Vet for compliance against standards and policies for specific concerns such as cybersecurity, compliance for data and privacy standards, regulatory compliance, and financial accountability.
  • Approve or reject a SaaS tool’s purchase and use based on predetermined objective criteria.

Onboard SaaS with a Plan

What it means

Following vetting approval and before purchase, it’s critical to develop an onboarding or implementation plan for mission-critical or widely deployed SaaS applications. A documented plan that specifically outlines ownership and roles, as well as benchmarks and milestones, will define success or failure of the application’s adoption and effective use within the organization.

Frequently, when an onboarding and ownership plan has not been developed, applications are not fully adopted or utilized and may linger in the organization well beyond the point of providing value.

What it does

An onboarding plan documents how the application will enter the organization and asks the necessary questions to help ensure it continues to provide value throughout its lifespan.

  • Prevents organizational chaos by clearly defining roles for governing the application, including ownership and stakeholder roles.
  • Creates a lifecycle plan including measurement and renewal dates to ensure the application continues to provide value.
  • Establishes benchmarks for adoption and utilization effectiveness that ensure future decision-making is informed.

Manage SaaS Applications & Measure Utilization

What it means

If enterprise SaaS applications are managed effectively within a life-cycle plan, the Manage phase represents longer-term sustained maintenance. Applications will “live” here the longest, but this stage is arguably the most important.

However, without regular, sustained effort to actively maintain, measure, and manage applications, this stage also represents the most significant potential for mismanagement.

At least once every 30 days, SaaS application owners and stakeholders should examine the following and take actions when necessary:

  • New SaaS applications added to the organization
  • All upcoming SaaS renewal dates
  • All SaaS costs or spending incurred
  • Any redundant applications or functionality
  • Unused or underutilized applications

What it does

Creates a regular check-in cadence for all SaaS applications, pre-venting costly surprises and shadow IT.

Ensures KPIs and metrics stay up to date through regular reporting.

Enables collaboration when used in conjunction with a system of record that provides visibility to teams, stakeholders, and application users.

Enforces governance with the continual discovery of new applications, measurement for existing applications, and timely notifications.

Use a Proactive SaaS Renewal Strategy

What it means

An application’s renewal date represents a fork in the road when viewed within the framework of a lifecycle. If the application is renewed, it will continue in the Manage & Measure stage (perhaps with some adjustments).

If the organization declines to renew or continue using the application, a retirement or off-boarding workflow then begins to ensure the application exits the organization with minimal risk.

For each contract term of each application, consider the following options:

  • Consider replacing with another tool
  • Keep and grow (increase adoption of existing teams or spread usage wider or other factors)
  • Keep as-is  (continue using at the current usage level)

What it does

  • Documents a renewal calendar that drives proactive and informed decision-making for upcoming renewals well ahead of required notification periods.
  • Evaluates SaaS application value holistically by ensuring that all factors affecting decision-making are considered.
  • Preserves and improves the value of SaaS tools by creating informed, data-driven renewal negotiations with SaaS vendors.

Ensure SaaS Applications Exit Safely

What it means

When an application has not met the criteria for renewal, it must exit the organization in a safe, cost effective, and compliant way.

Principle among off-boarding concerns should be preventing loss of data, ensuring off-boarded applications don’t pose a risk to security ,and ensuring that retired applications don’t re-enter the organization as shadow IT.

What it does

  • Creates a transition plan for functionality, users, and associated data to ensure continuity.
  • Ensures safe removal of company and customer data from applications designated for off-boarding to maintain compliance and reduce risk.
  • Actively monitors application inventory to en-sure retired and off-boarded applications do not become reactivated due to returning users or new shadow IT.

The conceptual framework of the SaaS application lifecycle is designed to help IT asset managers create workflows that increase collaboration, active monitoring, utilization, and value.

When used in conjunction with a SaaS management platform such as Zylo that creates a continual discovery process within a system of record, the lifecycle has the potential to unlock the true value of SaaS while also reducing risk and administrative burden.

Ready to fully leverage and optimize SaaS applications at every stage of their lifecycle? Book a demo of Zylo’s SaaS management platform today.