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Why 2020 is the Year of SaaS Management

It is no secret to savvy IT pros that SaaS adoption is surging, both IT-approved, paid for and managed, and the far larger world of uncontrolled Shadow IT applications.

By next year, worldwide SaaS revenue will hit a $113.1 billion, representing 45% of overall software spend, says analyst powerhouse Gartner. It is no wonder that SaaS software and SaaS vendor management have emerged as a huge priority for IT executives.

What we know does not work is applying traditional on-premises software and software asset management best practices and solutions to SaaS management. A superior approach, in fact the only reasonable approach, is to use SaaS management solutions, or what Gartner now calls a SaaS Management Platform (SMP).

In fact, Gartner detailed this idea in its Market Guide for SaaS Management Platforms (SMPs) report in November of 2018. SMPs are third party solutions that help customers streamline their management for cloud-based offerings such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite. “SaaS management platforms (SMPs) allow IT operations administrators to manage the day-to-day operations for Microsoft Office 365, Google G Suite and other frequently used SaaS applications. SMPs allow IT administrators to manage application policies, take corrective action, track application usage and automate IT administrative tasks,” Gartner explained.

Meanwhile, research house IT Intelligence Markets, in its Global SaaS Management Software Market research report, offers a broader definition embracing the concept of a SaaS management solution controlling multiple applications. “SaaS management is the business practice of proactively monitoring and managing the purchase, integration, licensing, renewal and off boarding of all software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications within a company’s technology portfolio. SaaS management aims to reduce the risk of unmanaged tools or technologies, add value to purchased software, and increase the effectiveness of the users who deploy SaaS applications,” the company said.

As these definitions indicate, there are two styles of SMP, one dedicated to a single solution, such as a SMP for Office 365, and those aimed at managing a broader set of SaaS applications.

In the case of SMPs for a single SaaS such as Office 365, these arose because the native admin tools provided by SaaS vendors have serious limitations. As Gartner explained, “… many of the SaaS application vendors have focused more on application functionality and less on the needs of IT operations. This can lead to limitations in the native SaaS administrative consoles, including insufficient reporting, coarse IT permissions and burdensome administrative tasks that require significant manual effort.”

SaaS vendors like Microsoft spend the majority of their time and effort putting additional functionality inside their cloud environment. They are focused on providing valuable feature incentives for organizations to migrate to their SaaS offering. That leaves a smaller investment available to develop administration tools. Organizations that want to streamline operations and automate admin tasks will need to find a SMP solution that does what native SaaS admin tools cannot.

Broad SaaS Management

A huge issue for SaaS management at large is the explosion of Shadow IT. “Some software, such as Office 365, typically has the CIO’s full knowledge and support. However, in other cases, SaaS may be completely off the corporate radar. A few years ago Cisco reported that large enterprises were using 15 times more cloud services than their CIOs were aware of, or had authorized,” a Computerworld article argued. “The problem with ‘Secret SaaS’ is straightforward: You cannot manage what you cannot directly observe.”

That is why SaaS discovery is so important. In fact, SaaS represents massive overspend for cloud applications. IT leaders repeatedly underestimate their total SaaS costs, by huge margins. Meanwhile, a broad SMP does for a range of cloud apps what a dedicated SMP does for, say, Office 365. This includes:

  • Managing costs and renewals
  • Increasing security and compliance, and 
  • IT Automation through workflows

Bring Unmanageable Shadow IT Spend And and Usage Under Control

In terms of reducing cost of all your SaaS solutions, the first aim is discovering unwanted Shadow IT and eliminating those costs. Here, having deep cost reporting, a renewal calendar, and license management features help cut costs and master subscriptions.

Security and compliance are handled by seeing how users expose sensitive corporate data, and blacklisting risky apps. You should also:

  • Identify data leakage from emails and file sharing.
  • Get alerted to security breaches, with mitigation instruction.
  • See what users are actually doing: which apps are they using, when, and how?
  • And tap into a database of SaaS vendor compliance with certifications and regulations, thus saving time on audits and reports.

Employee onboarding and off boarding for approved SaaS apps is a constant activity, and prone to error. With event notifications and reporting, you are alerted when actions need to be taken.

Lastly, a proper broad-based SMP knows what applications you have, as well as houses renewals, payments, owners, contracts, and other information.

Four Areas Where SMPs Add Value

1. IT Administration

To gain full visibility, enterprises require detailed reporting on all the activities and usage for their SaaS environment. By leveraging built-in reporting from a SMP tool, IT admin teams can successfully monitor and report on their SaaS deployment. Without those SMP capabilities, they would spend hours and hours each week writing custom PowerShell scripts and formatting spreadsheets to view usage, track licensing costs and manage governance.

Next comes the automation of admin tasks. Every IT support organization is searching for new ways to be more efficient through automation. SMP tools that provide automated workflow processing will remove the burden of manual effort for common tasks. That is an extremely valuable proposition to an IT support team. In addition, by automating common administration activities there is a proven reduction in human error

2. User Adoption

To realize the benefits of a SaaS platform, organizations must foster the usage adoption for the majority of the workloads matching their deployment. SMP solutions should provide built-in methods to monitor and report on the ongoing adoption status across the organization. Based on this information, these same tools should assist with driving targeted campaigns to the specific user groups who need additional training or incentives to change their behavior and adopt the new cloud-based capabilities. End user adoption of cloud-based software should be a high priority for any IT organization. It is important for IT departments to move beyond the initial deployment and focus on ROI by increasing end user adoption.

3. User Training

In a rapidly changing business environment where new technology is deployed regularly, staying on top of training can be a mountainous task. Rather than having employees take time away from work to sit through traditional classroom courses or sit in front of their computers for structured e-Learning paths from 1 to 2 hours (or even longer), many companies are using technology-based, search-enabled, self-help tutorials and short, task-based videos that are part of their SaaS Management Platform. These built-in SMP learning solutions allow users to focus on nuggets of information as needed to perform specific tasks and solve problems as they crop up. It focuses on the most efficient, least obtrusive ways to impart knowledge, while increasing productivity at the same time.

4. Security Compliance

SMPs should also help with security compliance. Common activities for IT administrators are incident audits, which can take days to complete. These include investigations into possible security breaches, data loss tracing, or suspicious sign-ins by hackers. By leveraging powerful SMP tools to search and filter the aggregated log file information these incident audits can be completed successfully in minutes.

In addition, SMP toolkits can be used for real-time alerting when security compliance issues are identified. IT administrators can configure automated alerts for a myriad of possible security issues and ensure they remediate a problem before it becomes an issue.

What Customers Say About the CoreView O365 SMP

One customer, a practice leader in the Services industry, posted this on Gartner Peer Insights. “CoreView is great for quickly and continually providing insights into our Office 365 tenant. Having the ability to quickly pull reports, schedule reports and drill down on user information is a big time saver and boon to administrator efficiencies.”

Meanwhile, user review website G2 is chock full of comments about the CoreView SMP, and how it supports SaaS management. Here are some excerpts:

“More than 10 administrators are using the CoreView portal and everybody is very happy about that. You can find everything you need to manage properly your O365 accounts (mailboxes, shared, groups, rooms, calendars, OneDrive, Teams, etc.),” one customer noted. “Everyone has different permissions based on their location. Only global admin can have access to the whole platform. This is just amazing. We are able to support our users in a new fashion way. Everything is done very quickly and synced in real time (almost) with AAD.”

The CoreView SMP means more people can control O365. “Before only a few people could work on O365 admin center, now with delegating the right permissions we can have anyone working on it,” the customer concluded.

Another customer likewise liked the distribution of O365 admin power. “We use it to distribute the Office 365 roles to the lowest level. We have 100’s of support technicians, this allows us to give them access to data without impacting tenant operations,” the customer said.

License management is another CoreView plus. “Number 1 reason we used CoreView is their Virtual Licensing feature. CoreView offer Virtual tenant function, which we can group each companies/ users into different ‘V-Tenants’, and then we can assign the needed license for them. Virtual tenant can also be managed by respective operators which shorten the time global admin needs to manage the separate V tenant,” the customer explained. “Admin rights for users can also be limited so that each operator can have limited permission either to their virtual tenant, or to a groups of users only.”

SaaS reporting is also a critical part of an SMP. “Reporting function in CoreView is 1 of the best we have seen. You can generate the audit log by administrator, audit log in O365 tenant, licensing information, license calculator by just clicking onto the built-in function. What’s more is we can have the report to be sent to us automatically by scheduling it,” the user noted. “We can also use the Cost calculator in CoreView to charge back the licensing cost to each ‘Virtual tenant’ owner. Virtual tenant is one of the main challenges we faced and with CoreView. This issue is easily solved. All administrator can manage their user’s permission via CoreView!”

A third customer also benefits from delegated SaaS admin permissions. “Thanks to CoreView we are able to delegate all the O365 permissions to the right group of IT administrators. Each office can manage their end user mailboxes without contacting the headquarter. In this way we are saving a lot of time and resources, issues are solved quicker and our end users are happy with us,” the customer explained.

How CoreView Helps

There are six major functional categories outlined in the Gartner SMP classification. Today, CoreSuite is the only SMP solution for Office 365 that covers all six functional categories to help organizations stay in complete control over their cloud environment. 

Read the full white paper The SMP: A ‘Single Pane of Glass’ to Make SaaS Management More Secure, Streamlined & Cost-Effective here.

Get your O365 security profile FREE with our new CoreDiscovery solution. You can get your free software now at the CoreDiscovery sign up page: https://www.coreview.com/core-discovery-sign-up/

CoreView Bought Alpin to Solve Shadow IT Problem

Last year, CoreView bought Alpin for its broad SaaS management and discovery ability. Alpin tracks more than 40,000 SaaS apps, using 13 discovery methods, giving IT a full picture of their SaaS environment. With Alpin discovery, you will:

  • Gain visibility – view all SaaS applications in one dashboard, along with all their users.
  • Work with the business – help business users choose the best solutions and use those apps to their full potential.
  • Spot trends – see app growth among teams, departments, geographies and across the company.

With the acquisition, CoreView now offers granular user-specific and application-specific controls that identify all SaaS applications in use, monitor activity, and offer additional features such as “Blacklisting” (blocking admin-selected SaaS applications from use), “Lockdown” (blacklisting every existing and/or new SaaS application in emergency situations), highlighting file and email data leakage, showing vendor security certifications, and more.

Explore the Alpin solution —Alpin Co-Founder’s Magical Mystery SaaS Management Tour

Dive into our white paper — 1+1=3: CoreView and Alpin are the New SaaS Management Platform (SMP) Powerhouse

Learn more about Shadow IT and SaaS management with an Alpin demo, or visit the CoreView/Alpin web page.


Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.