What is SaaS Operations?

SaaS Operations (SaaSOps) is a new field that's quickly becoming essential for companies of all sizes.
What is SaaS Operations?

With Software as a Service (SaaS) taking over everyone's workflows, you may have heard the term SaaSOps or SaaS Operations pop up recently.

So what is SaaSOps? Let's start with a quick definition:

SaaS Operations (SaaSOps) refers to the operational processes related to the discovery, purchasing, management, and cancelation of software in a business.

It's a relatively new field, but as companies onboard more software tools than ever, the management of SaaS stacks (aka SaaS Operations) is becoming increasingly important. Spotify opting to hire its very own SaaSOps Engineer is a case in point.

Those who manage SaaSOps are responsible for the end-to-end journey of software inside an organization – all the way from budgeting and approval, to onboarding and offboarding processes, security risk and compliance management, employee experience, and the automation of software-related administration.

It's a lot. But to put it simply, SaaSOps includes all the processes and systems companies need to empower teams to be successful users of SaaS. In reality, most companies don’t have a dedicated person to manage the lifecycle of SaaS within their organization – which means there are many different approaches out there, some better than others.

Ultimately, companies with a thriving SaaS Operations function have more efficient processes, happier employees, and better security. What's more, they have significantly lower software costs and their teams spend less time on repetitive software-related administration.

Why is SaaS Operations important?

Gartner predicts SaaS spending to grow by almost 20% to $208 billion in 2023.

Not only are companies using more SaaS, but many license-based software products are migrating to SaaS. Software-as-a-Service is fast becoming the main way a company delivers its business. But at the same time, it presents new challenges.

Traditional Software Asset Management processes and systems are no longer relevant as the challenges and risks faced by businesses using SaaS are different from those using “traditional” software.

SaaS tools facilitate (and encourage) bottom-up purchasing decisions – gone are the days when the IT team authorized and knew exactly which tools are being used company-wide. Now, simply understanding what software exists in an organization is a difficult task, never mind securing customer data and executing effective onboarding and offboarding processes.

In the words of Marc Andreessen: “Software is eating the world.”

That means companies need to tackle the challenge of SaaS Ops head-on.

Whether you work for a large company that can easily hire a dedicated SaaSOps professional, or if you’re part of a startup that just needs to get its software management under control, here are some key SaaSOps processes you should know about.

Key SaaS Operations Management processes

1. Support users in requesting software

Since most SaaS ops apps can now be downloaded at the click of a button, SaaS Ops processes should focus on helping users and teams onboard the software they need to increase employee productivity. That’s especially true in today’s fast-paced environment.

Setting up SaaS ops management software where users can request a new tool or pay for it with a virtual card enables companies to streamline software-related processes and minimize the burden software-related requests create on Finance and IT teams.

2. Establish a system of record

Crucial to the management of SaaS is actually knowing how many SaaS tools your company uses.

This is a challenge when SaaS is often bought by employees directly, without the involvement of IT or procurement. SaaS Management platforms offer an easy solution that enables those responsible for SaaS Ops to create a single source of truth for any information related to software.

This does away with time-consuming spreadsheets and frees up time for more strategic work to be done. 

3. Monitor, manage and optimize the SaaS budget to identify potential savings

Once you have a system of record for your company’s SaaS, you can use that data to identify forgotten, unused, and duplicate SaaS subscriptions and opportunities to consolidate products.

Finance teams can also use the data to understand and forecast the real software spend of your company, as well as the fully-loaded cost of a team member or the entire team. This leads to more accurate budgets and less unnecessary waste on software expenses.

This is critical for businesses, as up to 30% of software spend is wasted on forgotten, unused, and redundant applications.

4. Automate SaaS administration

With the rise of SaaS ops, companies use more software tools ever before, and the number of subscriptions just keeps growing – many companies add at least 5 new SaaS applications every quarter. That means managing 20 new subscriptions every year.

Every new SaaS product in a company adds extra administration every month. Chasing colleagues for invoices, reconciling those invoices to payments or expense reports, and completing the bookkeeping can take up many extra hours a week.

The extra hours associated with these manual tasks can make a 'cheap' SaaS operation management platform products relatively expensive.

SaaS Operations management entails finding ways to automate these mundane and slow manual tasks. That way, finance teams can get back to doing things that add value to the company, rather than spending endless time on SaaS bookkeeping.

5. Own SaaS Enablement

Having a large number of SaaS tools doesn't just make the finance team's life difficult – SaaS touches everyone in the company.

HR, for example, is massively affected by SaaS.

A large part of tasks related to onboarding new hires comes down to access to software tools. A job that's made especially difficult if HR doesn't know what SaaS is in the company or what software new joiners use.

Similarly, offboarding employees is no easy task when you don't know what SaaS the departing team member had access to.

Unlike onboarding, the risk related to offboarding isn't just lost time – it's risking a data breach and fines. Data security is probably the biggest risk arising from the Bring Your Own Software (BYOS) revolution and getting this right is not optional for most companies.

With this in mind, SaaSOps teams should strive to use systems and develop processes that help protect the company and customer data.

6. Establish SaaS Compliance Policies

Businesses that need to comply with SOC2, ISO27001, or EBA Outsourcing Guidelines need specific policies in place to manage vendor due diligence. This includes SaaS, approvals linked to business cases and risk assessments, ongoing monitoring of SaaS operations management, and regular reporting to stay compliant.

A SaaSOps process should take compliance into account. So, if they don't already exist, it's time to take the lead on introducing policies and systems to support them.

But this is a tricky task when many organizations report not knowing how many SaaS tools are being used in their organizations.

Each undocumented or unapproved SaaS tool can lead to a potential security breach, which is why organizations need a way to track and discover the software tools used in their operations.

The role of SaaS Management Platforms

Organizations that want to prioritize SaaSOps should seek a SaaS Management Platform that considers the entire SaaS lifecycle. Not only can a SaaS management platform facilitate most of the processes described above, it can also enable the automation of a lot of processes – potentially substituting the need for a dedicated SaaSOps professional in smaller organizations, or supporting their work in larger companies.

Yet, most platforms only help to keep an overview of your software stack, but don’t go as far as offering the ability to discover, buy, manage, and cancel software subscriptions all at once.

That’s where Cledara comes in as the all-in-one software management platform with an offering of virtual credit and debit cards. This makes it easy to pay for and track all of your software subscriptions in one centralized dashboard. What’s more, the added compliance and security features help ensure your software stack is secure and meets local regulatory requirements.

To learn more about Cledara, book a 15-min demo with our team today.

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Jenny Liu
Head of Finance @ Marshmallow