How to Control Potential Cloud Chaos: Five Tips for Holistic SaaS Management

BrandPost By Lisbi Abraham
Jun 13, 2018
Technology Industry

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Credit: Shutterstock

From SMBs to large enterprises, across medicine, agriculture, education and banking – our society and economy is being transformed by computing technology. As a result, major players are hedging their bets on developers being the future of innovation. Microsoft recently announced its acquisition of Github for $7.5 billion, while Google, IBM, Salesforce and others in the cloud marketplace are competing to lure software engineers to use their cloud tools and services.

As a global technology startup comprised of over 700 developers, Andela relies on cloud tools like Slack, Trello and Github, among others, to power our work. With employees in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and the U.S., SaaS products allow us to collaborate across continents and help us streamline workflows and business processes across the organization. That’s why SaaS tools have become increasingly integral to all functions, not just the IT department — in the past eight years, non-engineering SaaS spend has risen from about 10% in 2010 to over 80% today.

As SaaS proliferates across all business functions, it has become difficult to distinguish between authorized and unauthorized usage as management of these subscriptions has increasingly moved outside of IT’s control. In fact, 1 in 7 employees are listed as the billing owner for one of their organization’s SaaS subscriptions. In this environment, holistic SaaS management becomes increasingly important to monitor for applications that increase software spend and may not meet compliance requirements. For CIOs, keeping track of all SaaS applications attached to your organization can be a logistical challenge. Below are some best practices for effective cloud app management across your organization:

1. Conduct audits periodically to review authorized apps and disable accounts appropriately. Frequent audits also provide the opportunity to test competing products and ensure you are working with the best in the market for your team. During a periodic audit at our company, we decided to keep the productivity and collaborative G Suite apps but adopted video conference app Zoom instead of Google Hangouts because it better met our needs.

2. Use tools like Blissfully and Siftery which attempt to capture company-wide SaaS usage by searching for corporate ID logins, combing through invoices and monitoring expense reimbursement. These services act as a starting place to identify usage, new SaaS systems, and non-compliance. However, the data can be noisy and requires additional maintenance to distinguish violations of corporate policy and personal software use. In another attempt to streamline our processes, we have implemented Coupa, the business spend management app that requires employees to request approval to purchase new software and hardware.

3. Automate onboarding and offboarding as much as possible to build standard workflows. Work with SaaS reps and your internal HR team to create a system that provides new hires access to main systems and SaaS applications specific to their role. Ie. a new sales hire is added to sales-specific Slack channels and provided a Salesforce login during onboarding and automatically removed when offboarding. We opted to implement BetterCloud to solve for this.

4. Implement single-sign on to provide more control of access and limit the need for employees to remember different passwords.

5. Communicate the SaaS corporate standard in a way that all employees understand, even those who are not technical. Do all employees have a general understanding of what applications are safe versus unsafe, and why? Of course, it won’t eliminate all unauthorized app usage, but it will create a sense of a shared responsibility for minimizing company-wide cybersecurity risks.

Overall, pushing SaaS ownership throughout the organization and empowering employees to manage their products can lead to better purchasing decisions. The increasing focus on SaaS customer service also reduces the support costs on internal IT teams. However, if not managed effectively, this workflow can create chaos, security risks and financial waste. In order to maximize the power of SaaS products, it’s absolutely critical that IT teams work to implement a holistic management strategy that spans all departments and teams.

Lisbi Abraham is the CIO of Andela.