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The Hottest Career in Enterprise Tech: SaaS Manager

SaaS manager career


Imagine telling someone 15 years ago that you work as a social media manager. 

“You mean you get paid to post on MySpace and Facebook? Seriously?” 

Sure, it seems humorous now, considering how most companies employ at least one social media manager, but the role was only recently born out of technological advancement. 

Rapid change occurs across every industry, and when it comes to software, the massive rise of cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) flips the way IT teams need to think about SaaS acquisition and management. In fact, according to Bessemer’s Cloud Industry Update for 2020, cloud will account for over 75% of all software by 2030.

As organizations adopt more cloud and SaaS technologies, they quickly realize they need to take a new approach to manage these resources and get the most out of their investments. There’s now an in-demand career opportunity for IT and other professionals who can effectively manage an organization’s SaaS portfolio. Enter the SaaS Manager.

This was a session topic at Zylo’s 2021 SaaSMe conference, the industry’s first-ever event dedicated fully to SaaS Management. 

Titled “Defining Your Career with SaaS Management,” Zylo Chief People Officer Ellen Humphrey hosted a panel of IT professionals, including Samantha Emrick, Software Asset Manager at Genesys; Leah Tubb, Program Manager of IT Strategy and Business Solutions at Atlassian; and Renee Turco, Technology Asset Manager at AbbVie, to discuss their paths to finding success in SaaS Management.

Read on for some of the key takeaways or watch the full session below. And be sure to catch the rest of the SaaSMe 2021 sessions here.

How Does Your Organization Define SaaS Management?

The panelists all mentioned how they experienced an explosion in SaaS, with Tubb and Emrick noting how their organizations plan to become fully cloud-based in the near-future.

“At Atlassian, we’re 99% cloud. We have very few on-premise instances,” Tubb says. “And for SaaS Management, I was encouraged by my management chain to really dig in. We call it the onion. We keep peeling back, and keep finding more and more. Right now, it’s working to make sure we’re compliant with our privacy rules, making sure we’re getting them access correctly, making sure they’re spending money in a good way. But also making sure our employees can do their best work.”

Turco described how AbbVie employs a mix of on-premise and cloud, but as they grow their SaaS portfolio, the need for a dedicated SaaS Management system becomes more important by the day.

“SaaS Management for us, from a procurement perspective, is determining if something is physical software on a device or if it’s going to the cloud that’s based on a subscription,” Turco says. “We absolutely recognize it has to be managed. We’re spending money on it, so we need to understand the consumption. And then, how do we provide more insights to our business, so there’s more value-add.”

define saas career

On Becoming a SaaS Manager

With SaaS Management still a relatively new concept, none of the panelists started their careers working as a SaaS Manager. Instead, they all mentioned their previous software or IT experience, mixed with a need to better understand their organization’s software investment.

“I started out on our sales team, and I was on the very first team that was selling our full cloud offering,” Emrick says. “My foundational understanding of the cloud licensing space was pretty strong, and then Genesys ended up pursuing a need for a procurement team, so I moved over there, given my understanding of the license-based pricing models.” 

Advice for Starting a Career as a SaaS Manager

When giving advice for starting a career in SaaS Management, the panelists suggested finding a mentor and figuring out what you like to do—and don’t. Since we all use software, Emrick suggests learning the ins and outs of different applications, which she says directly led to her current position at Genesys.

“Get your hands on as many tools as possible. I had the luxury of having a Salesforce license from the very beginning of my sales career and a Coupa license when I went into procurement, as well as a handful of other licenses that I was able to intricately and intimately learn. It gave me a great foundational knowledge of the overall SaaS marketplace. Whether or not you know exactly what direction you want to go, if you have that general foundation of knowledge, it gives you a lot of tools in your tool chest to choose your own path,” Emrick says.

Getting Executive Buy-In for SaaS Management

A robust SaaS Management platform provides key metrics on license usage, spotlights redundant or duplicate software, and most importantly uncovers actionable insights to drive significant savings. All of the panelists mentioned it’s an easy sell, because the data speaks for itself.

“I hate to say it, but money talks, and every company is looking to grow their bottom line,” Turco says. “Well, how about if you could reduce your spend by 35%? And that’s just in SaaS alone, because it’s being wasted. You have to have that visibility and provide that story to the right people. The finances will speak for themselves.”

The Future of SaaS Management

With SaaS now the fastest growing segment of cloud software, the need for SaaS Management and a dedicated SaaS Manager becomes more critical by the day. 

“It’s crazy how fast you can start an account with a lot of these really great platforms,” Emrick says. “They hire very smart engineers who know exactly what their end users want. It’s great, and it gives us a lot of opportunity to change and pivot very quickly. But it’s also really scary. The amount of free trials that anybody in your company can start, the shadow IT, the lack of security review, it’s a beast to get your hands around.

“I think it’s going to keep growing in visibility, and I think it’s going to keep growing in job needs and job growth,” Emrick adds. “There’s going to be a lot to come of it in the next two to five years.”

Tubb mentioned that as SaaS continues to explode, companies need to focus on SaaS Management not just to improve efficiencies and reduce costs, but to ensure security compliance and avoid risk.

“We need to protect our companies and get our hands around the security aspects; I think it’s going to be huge. And make sure your employees are well-versed in what the security aspects include, because we want people to be able to spin it up quickly, but we want them to do it smartly.”

Ready to dive deeper? Watch the full session and check out the rest of the SaaSMe sessions