What is SaaS Operations (SaaS Ops)?

Written by Hatice Ozsahan and David Worthington on November 9, 2023

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SaaS Ops isn’t just another buzzword; it’s the glue that holds together the diverse set of tools your business relies on. It ensures that the right people have the right tools at the right time—and that they’re using them safely and efficiently.

On average, a typical organization utilizes 130 SaaS applications.

But let’s face it, even with the best IT team, managing all this can be a tough nut to crack. Think of SaaS Operations as mission control for all the software tools your company relies on. From streamlining subscription management to bolstering security protocols, SaaS Ops is crucial for keeping your operations running smoothly.

But why is SaaS Ops so important, and how do you get it right? This article aims to shed light on these questions. We’ll explore the core aspects of SaaS Ops, its significance in the modern business landscape, and the best practices for managing your SaaS toolkit effectively.

SaaS Operations (SaaS Ops) Definition

SaaS Operations, known simply as SaaS Ops, is the set of practices that ensure cloud-based software services are efficiently managed within an organization. This includes the selection, deployment, maintenance, and analysis of these services. SaaS Ops is vital because it helps companies keep up with the fast pace of SaaS tools, ensuring they get the most out of their investments while keeping everything secure and compliant.

At its core, SaaS Ops is about making sure that the right people have the right tools at the right time. It’s a balancing act between enabling employees with the best cloud software options available and maintaining control over who has access to what. SaaS Ops teams are in charge of understanding:

  • What each SaaS tool does
  • Who’s using it
  • How much it costs
  • How it benefits the organization

Think of SaaS Ops as the bridge between your cloud software and your business goals. It’s the discipline that aligns your SaaS ecosystem with your company’s needs, ensuring that you’re not only protected from risks but also poised to capitalize on the advantages that SaaS can offer.

Why is SaaS Operations Important?

In a world where businesses rely heavily on a variety of cloud-based tools for everything from communication to customer management, SaaS Operations plays a critical role. It’s the backbone that supports and streamlines the use of these online services, ensuring they deliver value without becoming a source of chaos or vulnerability.

Here’s why SaaS Ops is indispensable:

  • Cost Control: SaaS Ops helps businesses avoid unnecessary expenses by managing subscriptions and preventing overlap of services. It ensures you’re not paying for software you don’t use or need.
  • Security and Compliance: With the growing threat of cyber-attacks, particularly on cloud-based assets, SaaS Ops ensures that data is protected and access is monitored. It helps companies stay compliant with industry regulations and data protection laws.
  • Efficiency and Productivity: By making sure the right tools are in the right hands, SaaS Ops streamlines workflows. When employees have what they need to do their jobs effectively, productivity soars.
  • Vendor Management: SaaS Ops involves managing relationships with multiple vendors, ensuring service levels are met and that you’re getting the best terms and support.
  • Visibility and Decision-Making: It provides a clear view of what software is in use and how it’s performing, offering insights that drive smarter decision-making around technology investments.
  • Adaptability: In a fast-changing tech environment, SaaS Ops provides the agility for businesses to adopt new tools quickly and effectively, keeping them competitive.

SaaS Ops vs. Traditional IT Ops

The shift from traditional IT operations to SaaS Ops reflects the changing landscape of business technology. While both disciplines share the goal of ensuring effective use of technology, there are key differences worth noting.

Traditional IT Ops focuses on managing and maintaining internal IT infrastructure. This includes servers, networks, and on-premises software applications. The approach is hands-on, with a heavy emphasis on hardware and long-term software licenses. Here, control is centralized, and changes are typically slower and more deliberate.

SaaS Ops, on the other hand, has emerged as businesses increasingly adopt cloud-based applications. This realm is less about maintaining physical infrastructure and more about managing a suite of services that are hosted off-site by third-party vendors. It’s characterized by:

  • Subscription Models: Unlike one-time purchases or licenses, SaaS uses ongoing subscriptions, which require regular evaluation and management.
  • Rapid Deployment and Updates: SaaS tools can be quickly rolled out and updated, necessitating a more agile management approach.
  • Vendor Relations: SaaS Ops must handle relationships with multiple vendors to ensure that service agreements are honored and that the business is leveraging the best possible tools.
  • Decentralization: SaaS tools can be accessed from anywhere and often involve various departments making their own software choices, leading to a more decentralized approach to software management.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: SaaS Ops must be adept at scaling services up or down based on the organization’s needs and can quickly pivot as those needs change.

Key Responsibilities in SaaS Ops

In a nutshell, SaaS Ops is about keeping the company’s SaaS ecosystem healthy, cost-effective, and aligned with business objectives. It’s a critical function that touches nearly every aspect of how modern businesses operate.

  • Subscription Management: Keeping track of all the SaaS tools the company is subscribed to is a big task. SaaS Ops takes charge of renewals, negotiating contracts, and managing licenses to make sure you only pay for what you need.
  • Access Control: With great power comes great responsibility. SaaS Ops ensures that only the right people have access to the right tools, safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining operational security.
  • Performance Monitoring: It’s not enough to have the tools; they need to work well. SaaS Ops continuously monitors the performance of SaaS applications to ensure they are up to the mark and deliver the required productivity gains.
  • Integration Management: SaaS Ops plays a pivotal role in integrating various SaaS applications to work seamlessly together, enhancing the flow of data and processes across the organization.
  • Cost Optimization: SaaS Ops is all about getting the most bang for your buck. By regularly analyzing usage and spending, it helps the company avoid wastage and optimize software investments.
  • Security Compliance: SaaS Ops teams work tirelessly to ensure that all SaaS applications comply with relevant data protection laws and security standards, thus protecting the company from potential legal and reputational damage.
  • SaaS Vendor Relations: A good relationship with vendors can go a long way. SaaS Ops manages these relationships, ensuring that the company benefits from quality support and service.
  • User Training and Support: To maximize the benefits of SaaS tools, users need to know how to use them effectively. SaaS Ops often includes setting up training programs and providing ongoing support to users.
  • Disaster Recovery and Backup: Because accidents happen, SaaS Ops ensures that there’s a solid backup and recovery plan in place for all SaaS applications, protecting data and maintaining business continuity.

Common SaaS Ops Challenges for IT Teams

As pivotal as SaaS Ops is, it doesn’t come without its hurdles. IT teams face a variety of challenges when managing SaaS tools:

  • Visibility: With SaaS tools acquired and used across different departments, achieving complete visibility into what’s being used, and how, is challenging. This can lead to redundant apps and unmonitored subscriptions.
  • Data Security: The nature of SaaS applications, often accessed from multiple devices and locations, can create security gaps. Ensuring consistent and robust security measures across all tools is a complex task.
  • Overlapping Features: Many SaaS products have similar features, leading to confusion and redundancy. IT teams must delineate clear usage policies to prevent overlap.
  • Cost Management: Without careful management, SaaS subscriptions can spiral out of control. Keeping costs in check while ensuring that the organization has the tools it needs is a delicate balance.
  • User Adoption and Training: Convincing users to embrace new tools and use them properly requires effective training programs, which can be resource-intensive to develop and implement. 48% of organizations consider tracking third-party compliance challenging.

SaaS Operations Best Practices for IT Leaders

In the dynamic field of SaaS Ops, IT leaders are tasked with ensuring that their organizations are making the most of their cloud software investments while mitigating risks and maintaining compliance. Here are some best practices to achieve these goals:

Centralize SaaS Management

Centralizing SaaS management is vital. Using a single, comprehensive management platform can provide a clear view of all SaaS subscriptions and services. For example, by centralizing, a company can track all active subscriptions, monitor usage, and manage renewals from one place, helping to uncover redundant subscriptions and manage costs more effectively.

Implement Strong Access Controls

One of the cornerstones of secure SaaS Ops is strong access control. This involves setting up precise user permissions to ensure that employees only have access to the applications and data they need to perform their jobs. Implementing a cloud directory that automates memberships with dynamic groups can streamline this process.

For instance, a finance department can be granted access to AWS in order to do some audit work simply by adding a new attribute rule for that group. A “nested” or parent/child group structure could create compliance, licensing, and security issues that would limit IT’s ability to support finance. Adding finance to the “AWS” group would also grant access to applications that members don’t really need or shouldn’t have access to for compliance purposes.

Educate and Train Users

Educating and training users on SaaS tools goes beyond mere instruction—it’s about empowering them to use technology in ways that are both secure and beneficial for the organization. When users understand the full capabilities of a tool, they are more likely to leverage its features to the fullest, increasing efficiency and productivity. Regular training ensures that users are up-to-date on the latest features and best practices, preventing the underutilization of expensive software investments.

Moreover, a well-trained user base can significantly reduce the risk of security incidents. By educating users on potential security threats, such as phishing attempts or improper data sharing, and training them on how to handle data within SaaS applications securely, organizations can create a strong first line of defense against breaches.

Monitor and Optimize SaaS Spend

Keeping a watchful eye on SaaS spending is crucial to prevent financial leaks in an organization’s budget. By routinely analyzing how much each SaaS tool is being used, companies can pinpoint services that are not fully utilized and may be scaled back or removed, leading to significant cost reductions.

Effective spend management also involves adjusting subscriptions to align with actual usage patterns, ensuring that funds are invested in tools that employees use and benefit from. This can mean upgrading services that enhance productivity or discontinuing ones that don’t deliver value.

Establishing a regular review cycle of SaaS spending encourages a culture of fiscal responsibility. It ensures that SaaS investments are always in sync with the organization’s goals and user needs, and allows for the renegotiation of contract terms to secure better deals.

Streamline Integrations

Effective integration of SaaS tools is a linchpin for achieving operational coherence. When applications communicate effortlessly and data flows unhindered between platforms, the entire organization runs more smoothly. This synergy not only eradicates data silos—pockets of information that are isolated and inaccessible to other systems—but also propels workflow efficiency to new heights. Identity and Access Management (IAM) helps organizations to streamline user provisioning and to achieve single sign-on to resources based on security rules.

To streamline integrations, it’s essential to adopt SaaS tools that offer compatibility with each other, preferably through native integrations or well-supported APIs. When different teams use different tools for CRM, sales, marketing, or project management, the ability for these systems to ‘talk’ to each other means that information is updated in real-time across the board.

For example, a sales team’s conversion can automatically trigger a project setup in the management platform, ensuring immediate action without manual intervention.

Learn About JumpCloud

JumpCloud provides customers a unified solution of SaaS, IT security, and asset management that empowers them to eliminate shadow IT and gain full visibility into all apps and cloud infrastructure in an all-in-one solution. JumpCloud’s help customers to deliver secure and streamlined user provisioning, access request management, and utilization monitoring.

Our customers tell us that asset management is also important for security and IT operations. JumpCloud is enhancing its platform to unify SaaS, IT security, and asset management.transactions.

You can try JumpCloud for free to determine if it’s right for your organization.

Hatice Ozsahan
David Worthington

I'm the JumpCloud Champion for Product, Security. JumpCloud and Microsoft certified, security analyst, a one-time tech journalist, and former IT director.

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