10 Best Practices for Effective SaaS: A Wise Governance Handbook

KEY TAKEAWAYS

SaaS is powerful — but to use it wisely, you need to understand SaaS governance: That includes protecting your valuable data, maximizing SaaS investments, and aligning with business objectives. Discover the ten best practices for effective SaaS governance.

SaaS, or Software as a Service, has become an integral part of modern business operations, with the average SaaS portfolio now comprising 315 apps. With its ability to solve a wide range of business problems, it’s no wonder that SaaS portfolios are growing exponentially.

The Software as a Service (SaaS) market is expected to skyrocket over the next decade.

With a projected growth rate of 18.7% per year, it is estimated to reach a massive $908.21 billion by 2030, up from $273.55 billion in 2023.

This increase highlights the increasing reliance on cloud-based solutions and the immense potential for businesses in the SaaS industry.

With its numerous benefits, including cost savings, scalability, and ease of implementation, businesses increasingly rely on SaaS solutions to streamline their operations and drive growth.

However, shifting to a SaaS-only footprint raises important questions about governance — and establish clear guidelines and policies to ensure data security, privacy, and compliance.

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Effective governance frameworks will help businesses maintain control and oversight over their SaaS environments, mitigating risks and ensuring a smooth transition to a SaaS-only model.

The SaaS Opportunity and Why Governance Is Important

Implementing a bell-and-whistles SaaS app is all well and good. Getting all excited about the application’s capabilities that will revolutionize your business is to be expected, such as the seamless collaboration, streamlined workflows, and the opportunities it will provide.

But don’t forget, it’s about the data, the lifeblood of your business.

Every byte of an organization’s data, from customer information to financial records, is valuable. SaaS governance ensures you’re doing everything possible to keep your data secure.

10 Best Practices for Effective SaaS Governance

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) has identified ten areas for effective SaaS governance.

1. Information Security Policies: By implementing comprehensive policies, manage and protect your sensitive data. These policies outline clear guidelines and procedures, ensuring that everyone within your organization understands their responsibilities regarding data security.

2. Organization of Information Security: Defining clear roles and responsibilities is crucial. By assigning roles, you distribute accountability and create a sense of ownership. Team members should have a clearly defined set of responsibilities and tasks related to security.

3. Asset Management: Effective asset management is the key to safeguarding your digital resources and ensuring the utmost protection for your valuable data.

4. Access Control: Implementing robust access control measures is crucial for controlling user access to your Software as a Service (SaaS) applications and information assets.

5. Encryption and Key Management: Encryption makes your information unreadable to unauthorized individuals. Meanwhile, key management ensures that only trusted parties possess the keys to unlock and access the encrypted data.

6. Operations Security: Operations Security is crucial to ensuring the security of SaaS (Software as a Service) operations. It involves monitoring and incident response to mitigate potential security threats.

7. Network Security Management: Implementing measures to secure network infrastructure and prevent unauthorized access. Network security is not just a necessity but a proactive step toward ensuring the longevity and success of your business

8. Supplier Relationships: By conducting thorough due diligence, establishing robust SLAs, monitoring security measures, ensuring compliance, and preparing for incidents, businesses can confidently safeguard their data and operations.

9. Incident Response: Establishing a robust incident response process for promptly detecting, responding to, and resolving security incidents.

10. Compliance: Factors such as the number of at-risk records, the level of organizational dependence, and the need for continuity play a significant role in determining data safety and compliance.

By examining all the areas mentioned above using a SaaS governance approach, your organization can effectively address any potential concerns that may impact your business operations.

Understanding the Concept of SaaS Governance

SaaS Governance is about creating rules and guidelines to ensure your organization uses Software as a Service effectively, securely, and appropriately. It covers everything from how these applications are acquired and implemented to how they are used and eventually phased out.

Stages of a SaaS Lifecycle:

  • Evaluation: This is an opportunity for a business to trial the product to establish a proof of concept (POC).
  • Adoption: A project initially begins implementing the SaaS application to a pilot group or department.
  • Usage: The service is now fully utilized by the business. Support systems and standard operating procedures (SOP) are in place.
  • Termination: The SaaS application is no longer required and will be decommissioned.

Unlocking the Power of SaaS Governance

SaaS governance aims to get the most out of your SaaS investments while reducing risks and aligning with your business objectives. It’s important because it helps you keep your data safe, protect sensitive information, and remain within risk appetite.

It’s important to understand that although your business may have a well-oiled governance framework for its current on-premise operations, SaaS governance demands a broader perspective.

SaaS governance encompasses the policies, procedures, and safeguards organizations implement to effectively and securely utilize Software as a Service.

Its primary goal is to establish guidelines for selecting, deploying, and managing SaaS applications while ensuring compliance with security, privacy, and regulatory standards.

By doing so, SaaS governance maximizes the value derived from SaaS investments, minimizes risks, and aligns with business objectives. It plays a vital role in maintaining data integrity, safeguarding sensitive information, and seamlessly integrating SaaS solutions into the broader IT ecosystem.

SaaS Governance Models Revealed

Centralized Governance Model: In this model, a dynamic IT or SaaS management team leads the way in deploying, managing, and governing SaaS applications. It’s a fantastic fit for big organizations, guaranteeing top-notch management of SaaS apps by tapping into the IT department’s knowledge and resources.

Decentralized Governance Model: This model provides a way to manage and control SaaS applications flexibly and efficiently. It gives each department or business unit the responsibility and ownership of their SaaS investments. This model is beneficial for smaller organizations or those with limited IT resources.

Hybrid Governance Model: The Hybrid Governance Model is like a mix of two different management styles: centralized and decentralized. It’s an excellent option for organizations that want to have some control from a central authority but also want to give departments the freedom to make their own decisions about SaaS applications.

This model lets organizations find the best approach for each application and allows departments to take ownership of their investments. It’s a smart way to balance control and independence in the business world.

Governance as a Service (GaaS) Model: The GaaS model is all about getting help from a third-party service provider (TPSP) to manage and govern SaaS applications.

It’s a great option for organizations that want to concentrate on their primary business activities and let the experts handle the SaaS applications.

The Benefits of Implementing SaaS Governance

I’ve talked about what governance is for, but what are the benefits of adhering to governance procedures? A business that has adopted proper SaaS governance has a firm grip on its day-to-day operations.

This means that a company can react quickly to changing market conditions, as it has a strong understanding of its resources and capabilities, such as:

The above areas will have been thoroughly investigated, documented, signed off, and reviewed regularly with a fully operational governance process.

Tools and Technologies to Support SaaS Governance

Various tools and technologies can assist you in effectively managing your SaaS governance responsibilities. It doesn’t have to be a complex and overwhelming task, as resources are available to simplify the process.

SaaS management platforms (SMPs) are powerful tools that offer a central admin console for managing and optimizing employees’ use of SaaS applications.

With an SMP, businesses can effortlessly discover, automate, and govern their SaaS usage, ensuring that identities and data are protected. SMPs provide a comprehensive suite of capabilities that no other tool can match.

The Bottom Line

Prioritizing the best governance practices is essential for protecting valuable data and applications and maintaining a competitive advantage.

By implementing robust security measures and embracing a comprehensive SaaS security framework, organizations can safeguard their digital assets and ensure that their SaaS offerings meet the highest security standards.

This proactive approach to SaaS governance is a prudent business decision that can significantly impact business operations and enable organizations to make informed decisions when choosing the right SaaS solution for their needs.

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John Meah

As a writer and freelance author, John has honed his skills in creating compelling content. But that's not all - he's also a certified security consultant with PCIP, CISSP and CCSK qualifications. He is a full member of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Information Security (CIIS). John currently works for an international offshore bank, responsible for security on all projects. But his expertise does not stop there - he has over two decades of experience in IT and information security in a variety of sectors, including banking, finance and logistics. He is distinguished by his ability to successfully implement PCI-DSS…