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Image: Keeping an Eye on Redundant Applications

Gaining control over the SaaS ecosystem and spend is not an easy task. Companies must follow a process to avoid redundancy. Redundancy means wasted costs and increased risk. With all of the many concerns and to-dos that come with digital transformation, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of, “I’ll get to that later.” At first glance, consolidating SaaS apps seems like the last thing an IT department would need to tackle. This would be a costly mistake

A 2018 Gartner survey says that cloud is growing faster than IT spend as a whole, and in fact it’s growing 7x faster.  From our experience working with customers – and industry analyst data also supports it – companies are wasting 30-35 percent of their cloud and software spend. License costs are wasted on insufficient management, such as allowing redundant applications to infiltrate the environment. Duplication, or redundant apps, make up a significant portion of this waste.

Related: Technology Spend Optimization for Software, SaaS and Cloud. How to succeed in 2019.

So how do companies start to take control and identify redundant applications? First and foremost, you need visibility into your SaaS estate. You can’t manage or control what you can’t see. You must invest in the right technology to ensure you have complete and total transparency across every division, department, and team, down to the individual employees who use the SaaS Applications.

There will most definitely be redundancy, along with underutilized apps, underutilized licenses and underutilized features.

Here are FOUR questions to ask yourself to get you started

1. Which SaaS apps will be used and what is their purpose?

Every department and perhaps, every team or even employee, may want to use their own SaaS application for similar purposes, i.e. project collaboration, storage. Alternatively, there will be plenty of corporate SaaS applications that will be standardized on. Who is using what, and why? You want to avoid different applications being used for the same purpose. Why pay for three project collaboration applications when the company would likely need one?

Determining which SaaS apps have been authorized is essential. These applications will be managed by IT. Be sure not to miss the Shadow SaaS, a.k.a. Rogue SaaS. It is rare for any company not to have Shadow SaaS lurking somewhere.

Related: Managing SaaS Sprawl and Driving New Procurement Strategies

2. How many subscriptions do you have?

You will need to review your SaaS contracts and the number of subscriptions purchased. Be sure the number of subscriptions purchased align with the new number of users. In some cases, it is likely that the contract will either need to be renegotiated or expanded to include new users. Before you get to that point, however, carefully analyze application usage. Frequently, there are unused subscriptions that can be extended to new users.

This may sound cut and dry, but there is another level to consider. Even when it appears there are no more subscriptions to go around, look a little deeper. Is every SaaS subscription being fully utilized or can any be reallocated to someone who would use it to its potential? Segway into…

3. Are all of the SaaS subscriptions being fully utilized?

Once you know the number of licenses, it’s time to consider whether or not every license is being fully utilized. Some companies rely on single sign on to see which SaaS apps are being logged into, but this doesn’t tell the whole story.

If employees are considered “users” simply because they are automatically logged into an app when they sign in for the day, IT doesn’t really get a good picture of whether or not that employee is actually using the app. Logins don’t always equal utilization.

You need visibility and data to see which users are actually using the app. How long are they in the app and what are they doing while they are there? Is there real activity? Which features are they using? Information like this will help IT determine if an app is being fully utilized – per user. All of those apps that aren’t can either have their licenses reallocated or the apps may be eliminated completely from the platform. Either way, the company is going to save money.

4. Keeping an up-to-date Inventory

The best way to track all of this data is to create a SaaS catalog that would help manage redundant technology. You can piggyback off of your IT hardware tracking database. Think of every descriptor, such as vendor name, product name, version, license count, license type, names of users and their department. Then you’re going to want to know login dates, duration and usage for each employee. It may appear to be a bit overboard, but this is where some companies drop the ball.

Understanding who is using what is critical. If a user, who the company has purchased a license for, is no longer or rarely using the SaaS app, that’s a wasted license that costs the company money to maintain. Multiply this across the entire employee base and you can see where Gartner gets its staggering numbers.

A SaaS catalog must be in real time. A merger is disruptive with plenty of changes. A spreadsheet is grossly insufficient and unmanageable, nore is it real-time. It simply cannot give you the visibility you need to eliminate redundant SaaS apps and manage them effectively. The more you automate SaaS management, the greater the transparency.

An automated system will make your catalog simple, flagging potential threats as well as opportunities. Say, for instance, there is a SaaS app that was being used in the past but hasn’t had activity in months. An automated system will flag this app to bring it to your attention. You can then view who was the last person to use it and how it was used. You can also scan the catalog to see if there was a similar application brought onto the platform that took its place. Retiring unused applications is a great way to lower costs and keep the platform optimized.

As you work through all of the side effects of an expanding SaaS portfolio, be sure to keep your eyes on redundancy. With the right SaaS Management tool you can spot duplicate applications quickly and make the proper adjustments to keep your platform optimized.