Improving SaaS Visibility: 3 Ways to Provide Guardrails Not Gates

Learn how IT teams are shifting the way they work to accommodate growing SaaS usage while reducing the risks of shadow SaaS.

New hybrid work models are continuing to cause significant shifts both in where employees work and in how organizations procure technology. With the new year right around the corner, public cloud spending is booming and public cloud services will likely continue to grow with software as a service (SaaS) as the largest market segment.

With increased SaaS reliance comes new risk, and organizations are scrambling to shore up security and compliance threats for a more secure future of work.

According to the Snow 2022 IT Priorities Report, 69% of organizations surveyed increased their investment in SaaS applications over the past 12 months. 86% of IT leaders said most businesses are procuring far more cloud and SaaS than IT knows about and this is a distinct stressor. The reason for this is availability and access to unknown applications create many risks.

Uncontrolled access is an open invitation to data security risks, possible compliance failures with regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI and others, not to mention costly application sprawl. Adding fuel to this fire is shadow SaaS, when employees use and/or purchase SaaS software outside of standard processes.

Risks of shadow SaaS 

Three guardrails that reduce risk

Now, end users with access to the internet can sign up for any SaaS application. To reduce risk, but avoid impacting productivity, you should consider implementing guardrails for your organization.

1. Make it easy for employees to get what they need.

Self-service is the name of the game, now more than ever before. Users are used to going to a central place like the App Store to get what’s needed for their phones. Provide a similar experience for employees to make it easy for them to search for what they need and request a subscription approved by your organization. By offering employees a place to get their applications, you are removing the risk of redundant software in your environment. Self-service app stores also provide a level of automation to manage licenses. When assigning a license, you can indicate if it goes unused, and the license will be automatically reclaimed.

2. Leverage technology to discover applications in use.

It’s impossible to determine if all the application providers used by your organization have the right level of security controls in place if you don’t have visibility into all the technologies used across the organization. Leveraging browser extensions on the user device can help you assess all SaaS applications in use, by the department, and by potential risk. Remember that not all software requires a license and using financial data for software inventory will not capture free application usage. If you are unable to obtain a discovery technology to uncover shadow SaaS, assess who has access to sensitive data (engineering teams, analytics, sales and marketing operations, finance) and talk to some of those users to find out what applications they are using. This information is often found in departmental onboarding documents.

3. Educate and collaborate.

Once you know what applications employees are using, you can take a targeted approach to have conversations about why going outside of policy to use free or licensed applications is risky for the business. In having these conversations, you will also learn about the departments or user’s application requirements and will be better equipped to partner with them on identifying a safe solution to help them be productive.

SaaS use is powering an entirely new style of work, but a failure to proactively govern its use will spin up many new challenges. In response, IT teams need to shift how they work to maximize growing SaaS use while reducing the risks that shadow SaaS brings.

Learn more about discovering SaaS application usage in your organization and see how Snow can help.