Is SaaS Optimization Valuable? 

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)  has transformed the software industry. One cannot argue that SaaS has generally improved how software is used, accessed, managed, and paid for.  The cloud model of only paying for what you use has made access to previously expensive software more manageable for a much broader population of users.  At the same time, for the companies developing and maintaining software, this model has improved revenue by better limiting access to legitimate (i.e. paying) users while greatly increasing the user base. Check out SaaS vs Cloud- Is There Even a Difference? for a deeper understanding of the difference between SaaS and Cloud.

From an enterprise perspective, the downside of this change in the delivery model is SaaS sprawl.  Your CIO is typically responsible for and will try to control SaaS spending. The double-edged sword of cloud computing is the requirement of on-demand, self-service access to the cloud resource provided (i.e. the application in the case of SaaS). For your CIO, this ease of access and resulting sprawl is caused by a lack of visibility into how employees are interacting with SaaS. It can become challenging to determine license costs, having good insight into the renewal process, as well as, security and compliance considerations. As CIOs want to optimize spending based on what they believe is essential functionality, employees may not be able to access the SaaS they view as critical to maximizing their efficiency.

So how should you optimize your SaaS? 

To optimize your SaaS correctly, you first need to understand that there are two different types of  SaaS optimization. The first type focuses on enhancing application performance for employees, the user experience, for those with access to the application. The SaaS providers can monitor application performance to understand the relationship between their service level objectives (SLOs) and the service level agreements (SLAs) with their customers. 

The second type of SaaS optimization also looks at performance from the employee’s perspective and adds the intent to optimize the overall cost for the enterprise. This type of optimization aims at assuring optimal results from each license. While having a substantial overlap with the first SaaS optimization model, the differences in measuring optimization processes demand unique tools for each.

The Benefits of Applying Best Practices for SaaS Optimization 

While specifics will vary, optimization can be considered the delivery of highest productivity or value by an application along with the lowest possible spend to achieve that value.  Let’s look at several key target outcomes of implementing best practices to support application optimization:

  • Achieve Visibility: Implementing some form of metrics/monitoring service is a critical component of any SaaS optimization process. It can be challenging to solve issues within a SaaS application if there is no visibility into the specifics of its use and function. Lacking transparency of use can further result in security and compliance problems. While the particulars of metrics will vary by use case, keeping track of the number of licenses, specific user metrics about the frequency of use and feature use, and service level agreement (SLA) compliance are essential to consider.
  • Eliminate Redundancy – Eliminating applications with overlapping functionality reduces friction between applications and streamlines functionality. While it is worth taking time to initially evaluate alternatives before adoption, standardizing applications to eliminate redundancy enhances overall productivity by simplifying the on-boarding, management, and building proficiency within the enterprise.   
  • Plan for Expansion Costs: If you have application visibility, you can understand the actual value that a particular application provides to your enterprise. Knowing which apps are adding value and which are not allows you to appropriately scale application use, budget your costs, and predict future costs. 
  • Autonomous SaaS Ops: Many apps provide tiers with differing functionality that can provide value if scaled correctly.  The ability to automatically and granularly change the status of your license depending on different user needs will appropriately match needs with function (and cost).  Being able to define spending or license limits in conjunction with automated scaling ability will assure that app function meets your needs and does not unexpectedly result in cost overruns. 
  • Minimize Costs: It is common for enterprises to over-provision their licenses because the premier version must be the best solution, right?  Again, visibility is key to being able to understand actual use and appropriately scaling licenses up or down. Substantial cost savings can be realized by eliminating costly licenses for users that don’t demand deluxe features or even less costly licenses that are simply not being used.

The most effective way to reach SaaS optimization will require the necessary visibility (data) about actual application utilization, paired with autonomous operations.  As application options grow and it becomes more common to run interdependent SaaS apps, being able to automate the decision-making process is the most efficient way to discover and apply optimal functionality.

How to find the best SaaS Management Platform for you?

While we’ve listed several recommended practices to get the best value out of your applications, not all SaaS will be a good fit for your particular business. 

  • Overview: SaaS management platforms may provide some level of application visibility and integrations with, for example, enterprise financial systems. Understanding the depth and ease of integration with key business systems is in having a clear overview of SaaS function and costs. 
  • User Engagement data: Many SaaS platforms will provide a measure of user activity based on the user being logged in. This can artificially raise apparent use metrics and does not give you info about how users engage with the application. Ideally, a SaaS platform will provide data on actual activity and specific features being used.
  • Informed Renewal: A SaaS management platform should provide a clear understanding of your application licenses. This will allow you to take the next step in optimizing your application. Understanding how your enterprise is using the application over time, the specific suite of features that provide value, and the ability of the particular app license to meet your service level objectives (SLOs) is information that will best guide renewal decisions.
  • Autonomous operations: For a SaaS application, automation is the route to optimal performance and value. The ability to enable or delete applications automatically is the most efficient way to ensure the best fit of app availability and costs to business requirements. An ideal SaaS management platform will provide autonomous operations that can take use pattern metrics to match users with appropriate license types and the most cost-effective way to implement those licenses. 

A primary difficulty in achieving SaaS optimization is that many SaaS offerings do not come with an application management platform, or the management functionality only checks some of the essential features we’ve highlighted above. So what is the solution?

Continuous Optimization-as-a-Service

Opsani provides a secure SaaS offering that automates the process of optimizing performance and cost-effectiveness with artificial intelligence and machine learning, and that integrates with a wide range of application types.  If you are working with a cloud-enabled environment, whether you are running an IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS system, Opsani may be able to save you money and eliminate the manual labor involved in optimizing application performance. Opsani can:

  • Provide cost optimization
  • Tune your application to optimize performance
  • Improve application reliability 
  • Automatically adapt your application performance to handle changing load optimally
  • Keep costs within requirements
  • Integrate with popular metrics engines
  • Eliminate repetitive application optimization toil to allow your employees to focus on higher-value tasks.
  • Provide users a better experience at a lower cost

Learn how to enable continuous optimization for your applications at Opsani.com.