SaaS Management
Erin Geiger, Director of Content at Lumos

SaaS Operations Management

The average company uses well over 100 SaaS applications—that’s a lot of licenses to manage. Learn why license management is important, and how to get started.

Over the past two-plus decades, the number of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications available to businesses has absolutely exploded—which has mostly been a positive development. These diverse applications provide versatile functionality and can transform how a business does what it does. With each new application comes a wide range of potential issues, however—from integration issues to budget strain to security vulnerabilities, and so on.

Modern businesses have mostly embraced this explosion, enthusiastic about the possibilities. But they’re also a bit hesitant. After all, change can be scary, and each new application introduces new, sometimes unpredictable variables into the mix. Plus, dealing with new vendors can always be a bit of a wild card.

Studies show that the average organization uses well over 100 distinct SaaS applications—although research also indicates that roughly one-third of the average company’s IT budget is wasted on unneeded or under-utilized applications.

This all underscores the importance of SaaS operations management, a subset of general SaaS management. But what are SaaS management and SaaS operations management, exactly? What does SaaS operations management entail, and how can you get started with it? This article will answer these questions, and more.

What Is the Meaning of SaaS Operations, and What Is SaaS Operations Management?

While SaaS management and SaaS operations (or SaaS operations management) sound similar and are certainly related to each other, it’s worth defining these terms.

  • SaaS management, meaning a set of strategies and best practices for tracking—and optimizing—an organization’s various SaaS investments is important to get right. Effective SaaS management typically includes things like evaluating tech spend, managing vendors and contracts, enhancing IT infrastructure and efficiency, ensuring security and compliance, and so on.
  • SaaS operations (or SaaS operations management), which focuses on managing an organization’s in-use SaaS applications—including managing individual user accounts and access controls, monitoring app usage to optimize the IT budget, evaluating ROI, and identifying opportunities to “retire” under-used or duplicative applications.

What Is the SaaS Operations Strategy?

An organization’s SaaS operations strategy is the template or framework it uses to develop, implement, and monitor the various SaaS applications it uses. The exact components or scope of the strategy depends on various factors, including the complexity of the business and the functionality of its existing tech stack. 

A well-rounded SaaS operations strategy should address the three domains or levels of SaaS management:

  1. Infrastructure Management: Organizing and optimizing a company’s entire tech infrastructure, including server setup and configuration, patches and updates, and so on. With a solid system for infrastructure management, identifying opportunities to further optimize or streamline operations becomes much easier. 
  1. Application Management: Monitoring and managing individual SaaS applications, including features utilized, active subscriptions, integrations, support/troubleshooting, and more.
  1. User Management: Configuring users, access controls, and other account-based configuration elements.

What Is a SaaS Management System?

A SaaS management system is an organization’s internal methodology for managing its various SaaS applications. Think of it like this: your SaaS operation’s strategy is like setting your objectives and a SaaS management system refers to the process for achieving those objectives.

An effective SaaS management system helps to not only ensure that each application a company considers using is worth the investment, but also oversees the process of purchasing, configuring, implementing, and managing each application. As the number of available (and in-use) apps continues to grow, the importance of a thorough and repeatable SaaS management system or framework becomes especially important.

What Does a SaaS Operations Team Do?

A SaaS operations team is responsible for managing the various systems and applications an organization utilizes, an especially important consideration for companies that use a wide range of different software. The exact SaaS operations team structure depends on the company’s size and priorities. 

Especially when an organization has dozens (or more) applications it actively uses, a SaaS operations team helps to ensure that everything works well together, while also prioritizing things like:

  • Managing user- and team-based access controls on an app-by-app basis.
  • Taking a proactive approach to the security of key data and systems.
  • Maintaining legal and regulatory compliance (as applicable).
  • Configuring custom integrations to ensure that applications work properly.
  • Considering when it makes sense to streamline the overall tech infrastructure and/or consolidate vendors.

As the number of SaaS applications continues to grow, so too do the potential challenges of adopting and implementing the best solutions for the business. After all, it was one thing when SaaS was relatively new—but it’s a different beast altogether when you consider the sheer number of new applications hitting the market every day. 

Take a moment and consider why your tech stack has expanded—each department likely has employees using hyperspecialized SaaS products and cobbling together different solutions to fit their workflows or solve specific needs—and that’s not to mention the prevalence of Shadow IT. Employees may be signing up for apps without the oversight of your IT team, leading to redundant applications and increased security risks.

As mentioned earlier, each new application—regardless of the value it provides—must be carefully evaluated, as not to introduce security concerns or other difficulties into the tech ecosystem. 

What Is SaaS Management Software?

A SaaS management platform is an application that enables businesses to centralize the management of the various SaaS apps it uses. Rather than having to manage each application separately, which can be tedious and time-consuming, SaaS management software brings them all together. That way, instead of having to manage one solution for SaaS spend management, another for SaaS license management, and so on, companies can centralize these functions within a single location.

Using a platform for SaaS management not only helps to save time, it enables companies to take an efficient and proactive approach to integrations, security, and other considerations rather than always being in a reactive posture. It’s like the difference between installing a fire-detecting sprinkler system in a building, rather than waiting for a fire alarm to go off and then scrambling to keep assets and people safe.

A SaaS management platform can also provide key insights that would be difficult, if not borderline impossible, to gain otherwise. It makes it easier for IT leaders to gain a better and more holistic understanding of which apps are being used and delivering value (and which aren’t), as well as each app’s usage statistics, security information, and so on. 

Ultimately, any platform you choose should be one that aligns well with your most-pressing SaaS management objectives. For many companies, this includes determining things like:

  • Which SaaS applications the organization is using (vs. not using, or using infrequently).
  • How well the organization and its various applications comply with data security standards and similar considerations.
  • Where the organization’s existing toolset has duplicative solutions or functional gaps.
  • Understanding the unique needs of the IT team, and identifying ways to support them.

What Should You Look for in a SaaS Management Platform?

When it comes to what you should look for in a SaaS management platform, Gartner emphasizes the importance of seven core capabilities, including the ability to…

  1. Discover actionable insights related to SaaS applications’ usage vs their cost.
  1. Manage all SaaS app configurations and policies by centralizing them within a single console.
  1. Optimize processes related to the analysis and evaluation of individual apps and licenses in order to maximize their ROI.
  1. Automate app configuration and user provisioning processes to save time and provide a successful, repeatable template for SaaS adoption, implementation, and maintenance.
  1. Protect the organization’s data, applications, and systems from unauthorized usage and against a wide range of security considerations.
  1. Govern the processes of SaaS management through the use of reporting, alerting, and measuring apps’ utility and value.
  1. Enable users, teams, and organizations to better understand the SaaS ecosystem and to more efficiently collaborate and communicate.

You can learn more about these recommendations by checking out the Gartner Market Guide for SaaS Management Platforms (account required).

How Do I Find the Best SaaS Management Platform for My Business? A Buyer’s Guide

Much like you perform your due diligence before investing in any SaaS solution (to ensure value), you should do the same when evaluating SaaS operations software. That being said, it can be difficult to weigh one platform against another—but it becomes much easier if you first define your objectives and priorities.

When organizations choose a solution like Lumos, they usually do so because they’re looking to do one or more of the following:

  • Automate repetitive tasks. A platform like Lumos enables you to drastically reduce the amount of time spent on simple tasks like granting users access to certain applications.
  • Centralize your data. Keeping data tidy, organized, and secure is of vital importance. The best SaaS management platforms (like Lumos) make it easy to centralize data from across all your apps, making actionable insights closer than ever.
  • Protect sensitive information. Not only do platforms like Lumos promise exceptional security, key features help to ensure that there are no vulnerabilities within the organization. For example, with Lumos you can…
  • Assign specific managers, admins, or groups as approvers for apps and permissions.
  • Set pre-approval for certain employees depending on their job function or other criteria.
  • Add multiple layers of approvals for the most protected data.
  • Allow access for only a certain period of time and automatically deprovision access.
  • Integrate multiple SaaS applications. The ability to integrate with a wide range of SaaS application types is a must-have feature for any SaaS operations team. Lumos offers hundreds of integrations, meaning you can easily connect it with other tools, like IT service management apps, single sign-on providers, and more. 
  • Streamline audits. A SaaS management platform will also prepare you for audits, whenever they may occur. Within seconds of receiving an audit request, you can use Lumos’s one-click functionality to generate an organized report.
  • Uncover (and banish) shadow IT. Shadow IT, defined as “any software, hardware or information technology (IT) resource used on an enterprise network without the IT department’s approval, knowledge or oversight,” presents countless challenges to an organization—including wasted costs and unnecessary security vulnerabilities. When you have total visibility and control over your techstack, you can begin to identify and remedy these problems.
  • Leverage robust analytics and reporting. While the idea that “knowledge is power” is nothing new, that’s only true if that knowledge is up-to-date, accurate, complete, and accessible. Lumos provides IT teams with the all-important visibility they need into their tech environment so that they can continue to optimize their processes over time.

When evaluating different SaaS management platforms, it’s also important to evaluate the SaaS management companies behind them. It’s important not only to evaluate the features and benefits of a SaaS management platform, but also the experience and reputation of the provider. 

In 2023, Lumos was named a “Leader” in G2’s Spring 2023 Grid Report for two distinct SaaS Management categories: SaaS Operations Management and SaaS Spend Management. Their rationale? As G2 makes a point to note, the Lumos platform “helps IT teams cut software costs, enforce least privilege, streamline compliance, and automate the IT help desk – all in one place.”

Lumos: Checks Every Box for SaaS Operations

At Lumos, we pride ourselves on empowering the world’s best security and IT teams with the intuitive tools they need to thrive. Our SaaS operations management software checks every box you’ll need for SaaS operations management and related functions. When you’re ready to see exactly what we’re talking about, don’t hesitate to book a demo!