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Let’s face it: tracking anything, whether a physical or intangible item, starts with a list. Think about services you pay for that get tracked - credit card transactions, phone bills, and even lawn care. Each month, you receive your bill along with a list of products or services, and all the associated details.

This is how vendors are tracking your transactions. And if you’re an IT hardware asset manager, you’re pretty familiar with this format. Employees need computers, keyboards, mice, and a whole host of other devices. You order them, receive the shipment, slap a number on the back, and record it in a list or database before issuing it to an employee.

You’re still doing that with physical devices. What about software? Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, software used to come in a box. The box contained a user manual, a CD for installation on each device, and a key. Remember that? With that software box, you could do the same thing: slap a number of the box, and record the software in your list.

Related: 7 Things Gartner Says Every IT Asset Manager Should Do


And now instead of software in boxes, we have Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). There’s no physical, tangible thing associated with your SaaS usage, other than a contract (if you choose to print it out). And thus your challenge is: how do you manage something you can’t touch?

Start by creating a SaaS product catalog.

If you already have an IT hardware tracking database, use that as your model for creating a SaaS product catalog. The inputs are going to be pretty similar, with a few differences that are specific to SaaS.

With hardware assets, you’re probably capturing the brand, the model name, the version number, the year it was released, what type of software it has on it, and which employee is using it now, and what their department is. And if you’re technically savvy, you might be able to collapse all the data to show how many devices per brand, how many of each type of device, and how many devices are requisitioned per department, and per employee.

For your SaaS assets, think about those defining characteristics. Start with the company name and the SaaS product name as two separate fields. In many cases they are the same, but it’s good to have a separate distinction for instances like Intuit’s Quickbooks Online. That way, if the contract is stored under the name Intuit, your inventory matches up to the contract.

Related: The Changing Role of SAM: On-Premise to the Cloud

At the roll-up level, include the total number of licenses for that brand and product, and what types of licenses you have. What’s the total cost of that SaaS product, or broken down to the per-license cost if you prefer. When did your contract start, and when does it end. These inputs are not specific to the product catalog, but they’ll provide key decision-making data during the duration of the SaaS relationship.

For each SaaS product, the data inputs are pretty similar to hardware assets. Include the brand name and the SaaS product name, and the license count and type if there is one. For example, is it a full or limited license, or a shared license used for API purposes? The first and last names of the person using the license, their department, and when they received the license are all critical inputs. And if you’re really sophisticated, you might pull in the most recent login date from the SaaS provider, so you can flag those that haven’t used a license in a certain number of days.
If you haven’t been tracking SaaS in this way yet, it may seem like a lot of work. But think of it this way: someone has to have oversight in order to control spend, manage licenses, and onboard and offboard employees. Leaving it up to each SaaS vendor gives you no visibility, and zero opportunities to take action. And there’s more.

The bigger companies get, the more silo’ed they become.

IT can be organized in so many different ways. Sometimes IT is its’ own department, its’ own business unit, or even aligned with specific products. You and I could both be in IT, but in different departments. We need a centralized way to access all the tools available to support our specific teams. Otherwise we end up with multiple instances of the same SaaS platform, causing redundant fees and administration.

The employee request process for SaaS must be straightforward, or they won’t use it.

IT always held the upper hand when it came to hardware assets. As an employee, if you didn’t go toIncrease Visibility by Creating a SaaS Product Catalog IT (and go through their processes), you didn’t get your device. Now, employees can go out and sign up for free trials of SaaS, and subsequently charge subscriptions to a corporate card with no oversight. That means no IT controls of software products. By collecting SaaS product catalog data in one place, you make it easier for all IT teams to fulfill requests quickly and easily.

Employee offboarding is fraught with risks. Minimize them with proper tracking.

As employees leave the business, turning in all their devices is pretty standard protocol. There’s a physical thing they can walk over to IT. But without proper tracking of SaaS licenses, employees can keep access for weeks if not months. Whether they’re doing it or not, employees have access to confidential corporate data well after their last day.

This creates a huge compliance hole, and that’s not even counting the fact that someone else could be using the license as soon as the employee leaves. Creating and maintaining a product catalog offers an easy way to plug into to your existing offboarding processes. When the employee leaves, IT staff can easily look up both hardware and SaaS assets to be returned to the corporate pool.

Related: Think Your Offboarding Steps Are Solid? What Might You Be Missing?

The introduction of SaaS into the corporate world has definitely changed the game. In order to maintain control, treat SaaS assets much the same way you do hardware assets. By listing out each SaaS product with associated licenses, you’ll be better able to support your business by providing transparency and access, and minimizing risks at the source.

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