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Self Service is the Future of SaaS

start saas management

There’s no question that SaaS is the future of software.

From getting team collaboration off the ground to managing complex cloud environments, most of your software will soon be made up of SaaS tools (if it isn’t already).

But successfully implementing a SaaS tool within your organization isn’t as simple as those “Try 7 days free” CTAs make it out to be.

As your employees take things into their own hands, how can you ensure that the SaaS applications within your organization are effective, approved, secure and cost-effective?

Our take: instead of reacting negatively against the individualization of SaaS, embrace it by introducing and encouraging self-service within your organization.

Shadow IT is the New Norm

Shadow IT (tools and applications not directly managed and controlled by IT) is often considered a rare drawback among the many benefits of SaaS.

But it doesn’t have to be as black and white as that.

As SaaS applications continue their explosive growth and proliferate in most business IT environments, many businesses are pioneering a new approach to employees and shadow IT: they’re embracing and normalizing employee-based SaaS acquisition.

But they’re using new tools and approaches that help ensure that employees continue to follow compliance and security best practices, along with keeping things cost-effective.

In other words: seeing a decrease in IT sourced and managed solutions doesn’t necessarily mean that IT has to lose visibility and control over the applications that an organization puts in place over the long term.

Gartner predicts that, by 2023, 40% of workers will choose business applications and tools like they do their music streaming experience.

“The human desire to have a work environment that is similar to their personal environment continues to rise — one where they can assemble their own applications to meet job and personal requirements in a self-service fashion,” the report concludes. “The consumerization of technology and introduction of new applications have elevated the expectations of employees as to what is possible from their business applications.”

This is what we mean when we say that self service is the future of SaaS.

The foundation for self service in enterprise SaaS has been taking shape for years.

Embrace Shadow IT

Gartner has long instructed businesses to embrace shadow IT in a way that addresses its challenges and risks, but also addresses that shadow IT can be beneficial for innovation. Back in 2014, the firm advised IT leaders to embrace shadow IT, adopting “practices that will exploit it as a delivery mechanism, albeit with some guardrails and clarification of accountability to mitigate the risks and enhance the value.”

This best practice follows what we see in our own customer base, where business units and employees have combined control over the majority of SaaS spending and SaaS inventory. In fact, Zylo data today shows that IT only manages 27% of SaaS applications. Nearly 80% of applications are chosen by individuals and lines of business.

Long story, short: businesses that value innovation must be able to flexibly adapt to new tools while also providing the governance to keep spending in check.

Getting to this point takes some work, but sets your entire organization up for success in the long run.

Convert Your Shadow IT into Innovative Self Service SaaS

After working with thousands of customers to drive innovation without driving up costs, we now have an established playbook for building the maturity you need for a self service approach to SaaS:

  1. Establish your baseline inventory — by discovering all shadow IT within the business. Start by taking stock of what you already have in place, whether it’s controlled by IT or sourced from individual employees (see the Zylo Discovery Engine for more on how to run this seamlessly, without interrupting your team’s workflow). This is also when you have the chance to vet any unvetted applications and eliminate those who may be problematic. You can also eliminate apps tied to departed headcount without risking interrupting a process.
  2. Curate a portfolio of best in class SaaS applications. Your baseline inventory will likely reveal redundant SaaS applications. To avoid a similar problem as you move forward, you should put a specific review and approval process in place for new SaaS applications. How the process takes shape depends on your organization — some customers utilize a single IT manager while others employ full review boards. Either way, the goal is to cross-check the new application against applications already in use, check for compliance, and review against objective criteria.
  3. Empower employees with self-service access to your SaaS applications. This is where “self service” really comes in. After rationalizing your current applications and establishing a curation process, you can place these applications in an App Catalog, where employees can easily discover and select applications that have already been approved. When your employees know they can turn to the App Catalog to search for existing applications that may solve their problem area, you simultaneously encourage self service and reduce shadow IT.

Looking to learn more about SaaS management? Check out our full guide here.

3 Major Benefits of Employee Self-Service SaaS

We’ll leave you with what our customers have highlighted as three of the most important benefits of putting a self service element of SaaS in place for your employees:

  1. Drive awareness of approved business tools. Employees can quickly discover and acquire the tools they need to effectively perform their work.
  2. Fast-track employee onboarding. Give new employees access to basic tools required for their roles — but also provides them the option to self-select tools that can help them be more productive in their work.
  3. Give users clear lines of communication. It’s important to be transparent with users about who owns what, and give them a way to learn more about how an application is used in their business so they can make informed requests for application access

Looking for more? Check out our full guide to the Zylo App Catalog, and how it can support you in your quest to adopt a self service approach SaaS.




Zylo is the leading enterprise SaaS management platform that transforms how companies manage and optimize the vast and accelerating number of cloud-based applications organizations rely on today. The platform provides one system of record for all cloud-based software purchased across a company, enabling customers to discover, manage, measure and optimize cloud investments with real-time insights into spend, utilization and feedback data.