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How integration can eliminate SaaS sprawl: the dirty little secret cloud vendors love

cloud digital transformation
(Image credit: Shutterstock / issaro prakalung)

Before the cloud computing revolution, the IT department was very much in control of which software employees had access to. Strategic decisions were made with a cohort of chosen vendors before contracts were negotiated and applications rolled out department-wide. 

However, long before Covid, the modern working office went through drastic change and became the digital workplace.

Global business meant being tied to a PC at company headquarters wasn’t going to cut it anymore. This paved the way for SaaS, which took traditional software online. Monthly subscriptions replaced one-time purchases to provide greater flexibility and affordability, web browser access allowed users to log in from anywhere, and regular updates (with automatic downloads) meant the software kept up with the world around it.

Today’s office is one that relies on this diverse range of software and systems which, together, create the unique ecosystem that your business needs. Slack for your comms, Bamboo for your HR, Okta for your security. It’s estimated that most companies use around 80 SaaS apps on average – 10 x more than in 2015. This is backed up by Gartner who confirm that Cloud office adoption, consolidation and separation have accelerated.

What initially seemed like improvements to convenience and productivity actually ushered in an entirely new way of working, and an entirely new modern office, where employees can utilize SaaS apps as they choose. This is where the term SaaS sprawl comes in. That is the amalgamation of all of these unwieldy SaaS apps spread across multiple browsers throughout your organization, many of which IT don’t even know about. 

SaaS sprawl is just one consequence of the assiduously named ‘Shadow IT’ challenge which is part of every modern office.

It relates to the use of any company IT (including systems, software, hardware, and services) without the express permission of the IT department. When you consider how common cloud-based access and SaaS apps have become, it’s easy to imagine how many people are using them unbeknownst to the budget holders or security leaders.

Innovation without bottlenecks

While on one hand Shadow IT can mean better efficiency and productivity, this freedom also brings with it a new set of challenges for the IT department when looking at SaaS usage specifically. 

How do you keep up with all of these applications? Do your staff know how to use them properly? How do you make sure you don’t lose track of license costs and renewal dates? And how do you avoid data leaks, dilapidated access controls, or compliance breaches? These are problems businesses all over the world are facing – so don’t worry, you’re not alone! It’s knowing how to get the sprawl back under control that’s the important part. 

So how do we give our employees the chance to be innovative and efficient without tying them up in the bureaucracy of access bottlenecks? Enter the cocktail for success: creating something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. 

You bring all of your critical SaaS applications together into one place, in the right measures, without any wastage, and the result is much better than a collection of individual apps. Or an olive next to some spilled vermouth. It’s. Just. Better.

According to Gartner’s 2021 Market Guides for both SaaS Management Platforms (SMPs) and Cloud Office Migration Tools, it is predicted that by 2026, 50 percent of organizations using multiple SaaS applications will centralize management using a SaaS Management Platform (SMP) tool, an increase from less than 20 percent in 2021.

By integrating all of your SaaS through one platform as Gartner predicts, you create the ultimate digital workplace which saves you time, money, and keeps a golden record of all licenses.

There are 3 main ways to integrate SaaS into most internal systems: APIs, Webhooks, and Connectors. Knowing which route to go down depends on your businesses’ requirements. 

Integration is key

A key aspect of the continuing growth of SaaS products is the prevalence of systems offering API's directly to customers. Having this programmatic interface allows for custom solutions to be created to promote easy integration and drive automation with other systems in a business. When implemented effectively the functionality of these systems can essentially become a deeply integrated invisible part of a wider business system

Webhooks and event driven notification systems are helping customers drive similar integrations without the heavy overhead of having to develop customer applications. Using configuration available within the interface of the product, a customer with little technical expertise can easily create an automated process. Triggered by an event in one platform, data can be passed or actions performed in another product can help to automate what would have previously required sharing of data via a manual process.

Finally, Connectors can be used for simpler integrations and offer one-way information subscription for custom updates and alerts. They work with external apps to revoke user access if they have been offboarded within your system so there’s no need to head to individual apps and revoke access manually. 

Integration is key whether you’re migrating your data into a new platform and don’t want to leave your SaaS behind, or you’ve just had enough of switching between a hundred different windows, integrating will change the way your business runs day-to-day. 

The benefits of integration are endless. No scattered desktops, wasted apps, unused licences, or unsecure data. Instead, you can enjoy a simple and effective SaaS management platform that saves you time, money, and worry.

Gary Bennion, Managing Director, CloudM

Gary has been at the forefront of the digital transformation revolution for the last three years, leading CloudM’s business and product vision, having previously been responsible for innovation and development for industry giants such as Siemens, BT and AO.com.