SaaS Spend Management: Maximizing Value in Subscription Investments

Written by Hatice Ozsahan and Kate Lake on October 19, 2023

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In today’s digitally-driven corporate landscape, software subscriptions have become integral to operations. However, as organizations expand, efficiently managing these subscriptions becomes an increasingly intricate task. Overlooking or mismanaging these resources can lead to significant financial and operational inefficiencies.

This is where SaaS Spend Management steps in, offering a strategic approach to oversee, optimize, and ensure maximum return on every software investment. In this guide, we will explore the nuances of SaaS Spend Management and how it can streamline operations and enhance financial prudence for businesses.

Companies are using 130 SaaS apps on average.

Key Takeaways

With a SaaS Spend Management system, you can:

  • Consolidate your app subscriptions and their related agreements in one place.
  • Grasp the complete financial footprint of each software tool.
  • Pinpoint licenses that aren’t pulling their weight—whether they’re rarely used or completely untouched.
  • Weed out duplicate or overlapping apps, ensuring a streamlined and cost-effective software suite.

What is SaaS Spend Management?

SaaS Spend Management refers to the process, policies, and tools employed by organizations to monitor, control, and optimize their expenditures on SaaS subscriptions. It encompasses everything from the initial procurement of a SaaS tool to its renewal or cancellation, ensuring that businesses derive maximum value from their investments while minimizing unnecessary costs.

SaaS Overspending Example:

Imagine a mid-sized company, “TechFlow Inc.,” that uses multiple SaaS products: a CRM tool, a marketing automation platform, project management software, and a team communication app. Over time, without proper oversight, they start facing the following challenges:

The sales team procures an additional, specialized CRM for a niche need, leading to an overlap in features with the existing CRM.

The marketing team forgets to cancel a free trial of a graphic design tool, which turns into a paid subscription.

Some departments continue to pay and use the team communication app even after the company adopts a company-wide unified communication tool.

Auto-renewals of tools that are no longer in use, because the teams that initially procured them have shifted to newer tools or changed their processes.

7 Ways SaaS Overspending Creeps in

Rising Number of Duplicate Applications

As companies expand and diversify, they often inadvertently accumulate multiple SaaS tools with similar functionalities. This proliferation of duplicate applications not only results in redundant spending but also leads to resource wastage in training and integrations, inefficiencies from scattered data, and increased complexities in software management. Consequently, instead of harnessing the full potential of a singular, robust application, organizations dilute their investments across multiple overlapping tools, driving up costs and diminishing overall return on investment. Here’s how:

  • Decentralized Purchasing: Different departments or teams might independently buy SaaS tools without a unified approval or procurement process, leading to unintended multiple purchases of similar software.
  • Lack of Inter-departmental Communication: Without regular communication between teams regarding their software needs and acquisitions, overlaps in SaaS subscriptions become inevitable.
  • Absence of Centralized Software Inventory: Without a clear overview or database of all active subscriptions, it’s easy to lose track and oversight of the tools in use, exacerbating the issue of duplicate subscriptions.

Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to IT systems, solutions, and procedures that are used within an organization without the explicit knowledge or approval of the IT department. This phenomenon can significantly contribute to SaaS overspending, and here’s why:

  • Bypassing Standard Procurement Processes: Employees or departments might independently subscribe to SaaS tools without going through the standard vetting and approval processes, leading to redundant purchases that overlap with existing, approved tools.
  • Lack of Visibility and Tracking: With tools being procured outside of the official channels, there’s a high likelihood that the organization lacks a centralized view of all active SaaS subscriptions, making it difficult to manage and optimize costs effectively.
  • Inefficient Use of Resources: Without official IT support, employees might utilize a patchwork of solutions, leading to inefficiencies. The time and resources spent managing, troubleshooting, or even training for these unauthorized tools can accumulate significant costs over time.
  • Contractual Mismanagement: Shadow IT often means there’s no formalized process for reviewing and managing the contractual terms of a SaaS product. This can lead to unfavorable terms, missed opportunities for volume discounts, or unnoticed auto-renewals, further driving up costs.

Unrevoked Access to Applications

When employees leave a company or transition between roles, their access to certain SaaS applications should ideally be reassessed and, if necessary, revoked. Failing to do so can drive up SaaS expenses in several ways:

  • Potential Data Breaches: Former employees or those who’ve changed roles retaining access can inadvertently or intentionally misuse sensitive data. This could lead to leaks or breaches, jeopardizing the company’s reputation and possibly resulting in legal repercussions.
  • Operational Disruptions: Those with unnecessary access might make unintentional changes, causing disruptions. For instance, a former project manager still having access to a project management tool might mistakenly modify or delete critical project timelines.
  • Compliance Violations: In sectors with strict regulatory standards, unauthorized access can lead to violations. These might stem from data access or modifications that do not adhere to specific protocols, possibly resulting in penalties.
  • Reduced System Security: Every additional access point is a potential vulnerability. If login credentials of inactive users get compromised, it provides an avenue for malicious activities.
  • Inflated User Metrics: When measuring software utilization, inactive users still having access can distort metrics, making it seem like the software is more widely used than it actually is.

Unrevoked Licenses

While software licenses are pivotal to operations, they can also silently bleed company finances when left unchecked. Unrevoked licenses, those that remain active and billed even without a corresponding active user, are a financial pitfall. Imagine paying rent for an office space that’s left empty. Beyond the direct monetary loss, these unused licenses can skew analytics on software utilization, leading to inaccurate business decisions.

Auto Renewals

While automatic renewals of SaaS subscriptions promise the convenience of uninterrupted service, they can stealthily inflate costs for the unprepared. Here’s why:

For starters, companies may inadvertently continue paying for tools that have fallen out of use. It’s much like those recurring charges for online streaming services one forgets about but no longer watches.

Then there’s the missed opportunity for renegotiation. As business needs change or as more cost-effective solutions emerge, auto-renewals can bypass the chance to reevaluate terms or shift to better pricing.

Unexpected budget hits are another concern. If companies aren’t keenly aware of upcoming renewal dates, they can be caught off guard by sudden expenses, throwing off budgetary planning.

Lastly, some SaaS contracts have clauses where prices increase upon renewal. If these renewals are automated and not meticulously reviewed, companies might unknowingly consent to these hikes.

Failure to Monitor Free Trials

The allure of free trials in the SaaS world is undeniable: they offer companies a risk-free way to test out software solutions and determine their fit. However, a lack of vigilance during these trial periods can quietly lead to overspending.

When the trial period ends, many SaaS platforms automatically transition the user to a paid plan, especially if payment details were provided upfront. Without timely intervention or a calendar reminder, companies can find themselves billed for a tool they were merely experimenting with and perhaps no longer need.

Furthermore, the transition from a free trial to a paid subscription might come with features or add-ons that the company doesn’t require but ends up paying for. Without a thorough review, these additional costs can accumulate.

Another potential pitfall is data integration. If a company invests time and resources to integrate the trial software into their operations and it transitions into a paid model without assessment, the company might feel compelled to continue the subscription just to avoid the hassle of disentangling their processes.

In essence, while free trials can be valuable in evaluating software, they can inadvertently contribute to SaaS overspending if not monitored closely. Like an appetizer that’s mistakenly added to the bill, it’s a small detail that can add up.

Not Leveraging Volume Discounts

Many SaaS providers offer discounts when companies purchase licenses or services in bulk. These volume discounts are a way for businesses to achieve significant savings as they scale. However, when companies fail to capitalize on these opportunities, they can end up overspending on their software needs.

If businesses simply keep adding individual licenses without periodically reviewing their total volume, they might miss the thresholds that qualify them for discounted rates. This oversight is akin to buying individual items when a bulk purchase would offer the same products at a reduced per-item cost.

Why is SaaS Spend Management Important?

SaaS Spend Management isn’t just about cost-saving; it’s about driving operational excellence, ensuring security, and making informed decisions that align with an organization’s strategic goals. As the SaaS industry continues to grow, the importance of effective spend management only becomes more pronounced.

1. Manages the Shift in SaaS Decision-Makers

In the past, IT departments held the reins, vetting every software solution before it reached the broader team. Today, the scenario has flipped. Individual employees now make decisions about software purchases, often bypassing IT’s review. For instance, if the marketing team prefers the user-friendliness of Slack over the IT-endorsed Microsoft Teams, they might shift without formal authorization. Such uncoordinated changes can lead to unforeseen expenses as organizations continue to fund the original software.

2. Mitigates Redundant SaaS Expenses

Optimizing your SaaS budget involves weeding out inefficiencies. Begin by assessing the software tools you currently hold. Are they truly indispensable? Do they enhance organizational productivity? It’s crucial to identify and eliminate instances of software overlap, forgotten tools, or software that’s seldom used, even if acquired with the best intentions.

3. Streamlines the SaaS Auditing Process

Imagine needing to inventory every SaaS tool your company pays for. Where would you even initiate the process? Many rely on spreadsheets, which are time-consuming to maintain and prone to human errors. Consider the risk of overlooking a recent software acquisition or failing to update the list in real-time. A specialized tool for this purpose isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity to save precious work hours and maintain accuracy.

How to Manage SaaS Spend Like a Pro

  1. Transition Beyond Spreadsheets: While spreadsheets might be suitable for startups or small teams, they’re not scalable for larger organizations with numerous SaaS applications. As your organization expands, the complexities of managing and monitoring SaaS usage intensify. Over-reliance on spreadsheets can result in missed details about new purchases or user patterns. Adopting dedicated SaaS Spend management solutions offers real-time, accurate tracking and ensures that IT teams are always in the loop.
  2. Harness the Power of User Engagement Analytics: Understanding how your employees interact with applications is essential. It’s not just about having a tool but ensuring its features are effectively utilized. By leveraging analytics tools, you can gauge the depth of interaction and extract insights about the actual value derived from the app. This critical data will indicate whether you’re truly reaping the benefits of your investment or need to make adjustments.
  3. Centralize Your Subscription Process: There’s hidden power in unity. By consolidating the software requirements of various departments, you can approach vendors with more significant bargaining power, often leading to substantial discounts. Moreover, a centralized procurement system ensures better inter-departmental coordination, streamlining the process of assessing and availing new tools.
  4. Proactively Handle Renewals: Auto-renewals can be a double-edged sword. While they ensure continuity, they can also trap you in cycles of unwanted costs, especially if the tool in question has become redundant or overlaps with another tool’s functionality. Effective SaaS management involves forward-thinking—anticipating renewals, assessing the tool’s current relevance, and seizing negotiation opportunities to ensure the best terms. Setting up timely reminders via management software can be a lifesaver.
  5. Beware of Vendor Traps: Vendors are getting smarter, often employing tactics to ensure customer retention. Elevated switching costs, intricate implementation processes, or even unexpected renewal pricing hikes can make migrating to a more suitable alternative seem daunting. By staying informed and vigilant, and regularly assessing the market landscape, you can avoid these traps, ensuring you always have the flexibility and autonomy to choose what’s best for your organization.

Manage Your SaaS Spend with JumpCloud

JumpCloud is a cloud-based directory that allows you to manage your identities, devices, and applications with one solution. With JumpCloud, you can eliminate the number of vendors you use by consolidating more services into one affordable and transparently priced platform. Better yet, you can try it free to see whether it’s right for your organization.

Hatice Ozsahan
Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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