Spend Management
How to keep track of and manage SaaS subscriptions

How to keep track of and manage SaaS subscriptions

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Most businesses rely on a wide range of software products to manage their processes. While software can make every facet of your operation easier and more efficient, it can also become a money pit that is often forgotten.

Many businesses suffer losses every month and focus first on increasing revenue and cutting expenses, but never look at the thousands spent on software as a service (SaaS) subscriptions that are billed monthly and are redundant or completely unused. Add in the stress of granting and revoking access to employees, onboarding, adopting new software services, and keeping your business secure—you need SaaS management.

If your business is in the beginning stages of building a tech stack, avoid some of these common pitfalls by learning important steps to choose the right software for your business.

What is subscription software?

Subscription software is any form of software access that requires a monthly or annual licensing purchased with user billing. Subscription software ranges from communication tools to financial analysis to HR platforms, and is usually provided on a monthly or annual billing basis.

Subscription software, or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) subscriptions are ubiquitous today, and you likely rely on a few for your work stack. G Suite, Amazon Web Services, Slack, Dropbox, Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, Canva, and Hubspot are a few of the most common SaaS subscriptions that are vital for your business operations and need ongoing management.

What is SaaS management?

SaaS management is keeping track of each and every software, cloud, and/or licensing subscription services, including how much you pay, when they expire, who uses them, how they’re used, and where they fit into your business process.  

Your SaaS subscriptions are billed monthly or annually (or some software platforms are free). Some subscriptions are a single fee for an organization, while others are paid per user. Different functions apply to specialized positions, and some may provide access to sensitive data and finances that need to be limited and quickly revoked when employees leave.

Managing business expenses, specifically your SaaS apps, could mean keeping track of a huge number of standalone products, or trying to integrate multiple products, to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently. SaaS management is often split between many stakeholders, such as a sales team using Salesforce, but it’s being managed by the executive team and paid for by finance.

All this to say—it’s complicated. And SaaS subscription management is critical for utilizing software that fits the needs of your business without overpaying or compromising on efficiency or security.

Components of SaaS management

All SaaS app subscriptions: How many software subscriptions do you have? Your company needs a master list of all software and cloud subscriptions. It’s easy to track company-wide services, such as Zoom or Slack, but different departments and even individual roles may have their own SaaS business subscriptions. A master list is necessary, because roles change and employees may come and go, all while a service is charging you monthly because no one knows to cancel.

Licenses: In addition to a master list, some important information you’ll need is the licensing agreement. Do you need an individual license for each user or is pricing based on a tier of active users? When do your licenses expire? Do they auto-renew? You may also need to consider different versions of the product, such as free, premium, and add-on features.

Vendors: SaaS vendors are nearly unlimited. You may find that consolidating your services with a vendor that offers multiple features can decrease cost and confusion. Alternatively, you may find that a few different free services could replace a single costly subscription. Stay up-to-date on your vendors and new providers.

Compliance: What legal contracts are you signing before using the product? How is your data used and protected? What happens in the event of a breach? Software might be important to your business functioning, but some services also interact with your client data. You need to understand how your SaaS vendors are managing security and privacy compliance.

Administration: Who is in charge of software subscriptions? Who has access to the master list and related data? From which budgets are subscriptions being paid? It is in the best interests of your business to have one person designated to manage subscriptions, but for access to be available for others as needs change.

Role access: It’s not likely that every single employee needs access to every single software service. For example, only a few people or a small team in marketing needs access to Marketo. You don’t want to pay for extra licenses that are unnecessary or unused. Determine which roles need which services, and what level of access within a service, then create workflows to provide appropriate access.

IT workflow: Inevitably it will fall to your IT department to incorporate, integrate, train, and troubleshoot when it comes to SaaS subscriptions. Proper SaaS management accounts for the processes IT will need to utilize and implement software within the company.

Challenges in SaaS subscription management

Companies who rely on multiple points of SaaS (which is everyone in 2021) are going to face challenges when it comes to managing their software use, from setting up recurring billing to understanding the revenue impacts of subscription software. We’ve identified a handful of sticking points that you might encounter when it comes to your software subscription management.

Increased complexity: As needs arise, technology zeroes in to meet those needs. As a result, new software is introduced almost daily that can meet even the smallest need in your process. The list of potentially useful SaaS adoptions is ever-growing, and each new addition isn’t guaranteed to play nicely with your existing software. The process can become more fragmented and less productive as you add in new services.

Security: Unfortunately there is no standard for security in software services at the current time. This means that some applications use multi-factor authentication or track unusual usage, but others may not. The more SaaS subscriptions you introduce, the higher the risk of compromised data, stolen passwords, and cyber attacks.

Confusion: Each department can find its own specialized tools, but not everyone will know and understand the need for each SaaS tool. Furthermore, the constant introduction of new SaaS products can splinter information and processes across old and new systems.

Redundancy: Video conferencing may be available through your email suite, but you may prefer the features of another service. You may prefer a partial feature from one service, but reject the other included features in favor of another service entirely. This can create chaos, paying for more than you need, and fatigue.

Cost: Certainly there is the cost of each SaaS subscription, but you also need to understand the cost to your organization when you hire a new engineer versus a new sales manager. Certain roles will mean a higher cost in software access licenses and the more your company grows, the greater the need for subscription management software to manage the recurring SaaS billing for all of those tools.

Billing: Often the responsible party for subscription billing is not the stakeholder using the SaaS application. Recurring subscription billing means that your finance team could be paying for a subscription you thought you cancelled, or that the service upgraded to an expensive plan without notice. How will you know if a SaaS vendor is compromised and your corporate card data has been exposed? Paying for SaaS subscriptions can get messy.

5 steps to improve your SaaS subscription management

Whether you manage 20 or 200 SaaS subscriptions, it’s critical that you audit your subscriptions today. Far too many companies find that they know little or nothing about the costs and challenges of their software use, even while software subscriptions are draining bank accounts and productivity. Here’s how you can take control of your SaaS subscriptions, so they don’t control you.

1. Manage subscription payments

No more setting your SaaS subscriptions on the company credit card on autopay. You can lose thousands (if not millions) when subscriptions auto-pay and auto-renew, especially if you’re paying for more users than are actually using the product with your current subscription pricing. Set up your recurring billing for your SaaS subscriptions on a virtual card that keeps tabs on the expected subscription payment total (and even the payment gateway). Set reminders for recurring payments, price increases, or tier upgrades so you don’t bleed money you’re not expecting. (BILL is the perfect billing solution for every SaaS company and every pricing model, just ask any customer.)

If you're looking at purchasing a new subscription, consider asking these 7 questions first.

2. Manage vendors

It is critical to keep a master list of all subscriptions and vendors. However, the list alone doesn’t do much. Improve your SaaS management by tracking exactly what each service offers, and how many people in your organization are using it. You might be surprised at how much you’re paying for a service that no one uses, or that upgrading an existing vendor account could allow you to drop other services for added convenience. As the time for renewal approaches, determine if you’d like to renew or try another service—and allow teams adequate time to replace the software.

3. Compute ROI

Part of your vendor management will include tracking use and cost. With that data you can begin to assess the return on investment. Essentially, you can manage your SaaS applications by deducing which services give you the biggest bang for your buck. Stop paying for expensive programs that provide little reward, and instead invest in the software that truly pays you back in increased productivity and returned time.

4. Strengthen security

Carefully select software services that allow for secure use and user tracking. In the event of a security breach, you’ll need to find data for auditing and repair purposes. Limit access to SaaS and sensitive data only to employees on a need-to-use basis, and monitor regularly for weaknesses or misuse.

5. Onboard & offboard better

Automating the onboarding process with detailed instructions and tutorials can minimize human error and delay. Proper offboarding is even more critical. As the need to offboard employees arises, you’ll need a comprehensive list of the services used by the individual so that access can be immediately and effectively removed to protect the company and decrease extra expense. Create a workflow that allows for speedy offboarding without confusion or delay.

Subscription management systems

A subscription management system can provide the structure you need to keep track of all your subscriptions and their related components listed above. A complex ecosystem of SaaS might benefit from this added organization, and there are several subscription management software choices.

If you rely heavily on your mobile devices for your subscription access, first you’ll want to get familiar with the App Store or Google Play so you can prevent subscription management issues before they crop up. In your settings you can add subscriptions, cancel unused or unwanted subscriptions, manage payments, and cancel auto-renewal.

When you’re juggling a wide range of SaaS subscriptions for your business, it may be time to invest in a dedicated subscription management software choice to manage subscriptions and we’ve found the best ones for you here:

Apps to manage subscriptions

  • Zylo: helps businesses manage all SaaS subscriptions, prevent redundancies, and adjust licensing to match actual users
  • BetterCloud: pledges to pick up where Okta leaves off for managing SaaS assets
  • Blissfully: provides records, automations, and collaboration between all of your chosen software platforms
  • Truebill: pulls in bank account information and gathers recurring payments into an easy, actionable dashboard
  • Bobby: allows you to manually enter your subscriptions without having to link to bank accounts or other payment information
  • Track My Subs: website that allows free management of up to 10 subscriptions with paid upgrades
  • Subscro: a user-friendly subscription management that relies on visuals to help you see and take action for all subscriptions
  • Trim: designed to show you areas of overspending or overcharging in various categories

BILL makes SaaS subscriptions safer

We can’t tell you every SaaS solution your business needs, but we can offer you greater control and visibility into your SaaS spending. BILL makes your subscription management a breeze through a few key features:

  • Virtual cards can be generated for each vendor, isolating fraud opportunities
  • SaaS applications can be nested into budgets, so you know exactly who is paying for what and where the money is coming from
  • Budgets allow you to set a total for the month (or year) that cannot be exceeded, so subscription services can never overcharge
  • Set an expiration on the virtual card and budget, so auto-renewals can’t fly under the radar
  • Total visibility allows you to see software billing immediately

Don’t let your software subscriptions inch their way into your budgets with uncontrolled spend. Manage your SaaS with these tips for a more effective and efficient modern business.

BILL Spend & Expense provides expense management, virtual cards, enforceable budgets, and subscription management that works. See what we can do for you.

The information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. The content is provided "as-is"; no representations are made that the content is error free.