SaaS Simplified: Addressing the Five Biggest Challenges in Modern Business Environments

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Saas is everywhere, having become a core component of virtually every company’s operations. By the end of 2024, it is predicted that 99% of companies will have at least one SaaS solution, with many enterprises having 364 on average. Despite this proliferation of SaaS, many organizations are unable to say for certain just what SaaS applications, who runs them, and what sensitive data they might contain. 

This article explores the top 5 common challenges organizations face with SaaS solutions and provides actionable steps to help regain control. 

Common Challenges

While SaaS platforms often advertise a “sign up and run” simplicity, the reality of implementing these solutions effectively is far more complex. The standard “Buy and Go” approach can leave organizations vulnerable, exposing them to many risks, including security breaches, data mismanagement, and integration issues. However, when implemented correctly, SaaS can offer tremendous benefits, enhancing operational efficiency, scalability, and flexibility. 

Before harnessing these advantages, organizations must first understand and address the inherent challenges of SaaS. This includes ensuring robust security measures, seamless integration with existing systems, and adherence to compliance standards. Only by overcoming these hurdles can businesses fully capitalize on the strategic value of their SaaS investments, turning potential pitfalls into opportunities for growth and innovation.

Challenge 1: Shadow IT

SaaS’s first challenge comes when business teams independently adopt SaaS solutions without oversight or notification. This Shadow IT is driven by the need for quick and specific solutions, causing departments to bypass IT protocols, leading to a proliferation of untracked and unmanaged applications. SaaS’s ease of access and deployment makes it all the easier for teams to start a new service without the need for IT support. It enables users to set up multiple accounts and use applications without standard authentication measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA). This bypasses organizational access management processes, making it complicated to tie users back to accounts and determine who has access to what, making auditing a complex, if not impossible, task. 

These unauthorized and unmonitored applications can create serious security vulnerabilities by deviating from established security standards, which exposes the organization to potential data breaches and compliance issues. 

Challenge 2: User Management

Even for known SaaS environments, user management is a complex challenge, primarily due to the intricacies involved in understanding who has access to what applications and ensuring that these permissions are correctly managed. The task extends beyond simply granting access; it encompasses a comprehensive approach to user provisioning and de-provisioning. As employees join, move within, or leave the company, managing their access to various SaaS applications becomes a critical yet error-prone operation. 

Inefficient or flawed processes can lead to unauthorized access or result in orphaned accounts—accounts that remain active after an employee has left the organization. Such oversights heighten SaaS security risk (e.g. security breaches and data leaks), as these dormant or improperly managed accounts could quickly become entry points for security threats. 

To further compound this is the issue of authentication and password management. Users are frequently required to juggle multiple usernames and passwords across various platforms. This reality often leads to the adoption of weak password practices, such as using easily guessed passwords or repeating the same password across multiple sites, enhancing the risk of security breaches, as attackers can exploit weak or reused passwords to gain unauthorized access to sensitive systems and data. Beyond this, poor password management opens the door to more sophisticated phishing attacks, where users are deceived into providing their credentials to malicious actors. 

Building on the complexities of password management is the challenge of refining access management. This includes defining and enforcing appropriate access levels based on user roles, which becomes even more pronounced in organizations with complex hierarchies or those experiencing rapid changes, such as scaling or restructuring. Inadequate access controls can lead to excessive access rights, where users have more permissions than necessary. Over-privileging not only endangers data security by increasing the potential for internal data breaches but also expands the attack surface for external threats. Conversely, overly restrictive access can stifle user productivity and innovation by preventing employees from accessing necessary tools and information. 

Challenge 3: Data Security Concerns

Data security remains one of the core concerns for organizations utilizing SaaS apps due to risks from data breaches due to inadequate data control mechanisms. This is due to organizations’ limited visibility over how SaaS providers handle and store sensitive data. This obscurity complicates efforts to enforce data security practices, leaving the data vulnerable to breaches. 

Such breaches are common and can be attributed to various factors, including software vulnerabilities, insecure APIs, and human error. When breaches occur, the repercussions are severe—ranging from substantial financial losses and legal penalties to irreparable damage to the organization’s reputation. This is particularly critical when customer data is involved, as broken trust can be exceedingly difficult to restore. 

Challenge 4: Compliance and Regulatory Challenges

SaaS apps also come with compliance and regulatory challenges. Some of these come from storing data across different geographic locations, and others involve types of data such as health information or data belonging to a citizen of a particular region. Depending on these factors, there will be a need to comply with GDPR in the European Union, HIPAA in the United States, and CCPA in California. Each has stringent requirements and hefty penalties for non-compliance, yet all must be adhered to. The complexity of complying with multiple regulations not only demands extensive resources but also requires a strategic approach to ensure that all regional and sector-specific legal standards are consistently met. 

Organizations need audit trails and documentation to show proof of compliance, further growing the complexity of this effort. Regulatory bodies often require detailed records of all data handling and processing activities, including precise logs of who accessed what data and when. SaaS environments may have limited tools and processes to capture and store this information natively, making producing the necessary documentation for an audit virtually impossible without a secondary solution.  

Challenge 5: Integration Complexity

Many SaaS apps are designed to operate independently yet can integrate with existing organizational technologies. Failing to incorporate these technologies when possible can create data silos where information is categorized within different departments. In these silos, data access may be limited, making it more challenging to share data between systems and teams, adding friction to operations and impeding rapid decision-making. 

A lack of integration also makes it more challenging to manage user access. Integrating existing authentication mechanisms such as LDAP or ActiveDirectory (AD) makes it easier for organizations to oversee who has access and scope it appropriately. Without this integration, organizations must manage each SaaS environment independently, adding friction to operations and creating SaaS security risk as users leave the organization and may not necessarily be updated in every SaaS application. 

Managing Challenges

Successfully managing the challenges of SaaS demands a strategic and holistic approach spanning integration, security, and compliance to ensure operational continuity and safeguard sensitive data. This approach must be implemented seamlessly, without adding friction for users, to maintain the inherent benefits of SaaS products, such as accessibility, efficiency, and user-friendliness. If the management strategies are implemented in a scattershot or piecemeal fashion, they leave gaps in the system—exposures attackers can easily leverage.  

Achieving Visibility

One of the first steps to managing SaaS is to gain visibility into what products are used across the organization. By utilizing advanced discovery tools, companies can identify and catalog every SaaS app, significantly reducing the risks associated with shadow IT—where unauthorized software usage goes undetected. These tools help pinpoint the presence of all SaaS applications and aid in monitoring their integration and usage within the existing IT infrastructure. Deploying usage analytics plays a crucial role in understanding how these applications are used by employees, providing insights into user behavior, which can highlight issues of over-licensing or under-utilization, thereby facilitating more informed decisions on software spending and deployment. 

Adding Oversight

Once an organization understands what SaaS is in use, the next step is to add oversight over the entire SaaS ecosystem. Doing this helps to ensure that these applications comply with company policies and regulatory requirements. This oversight may ensure that multi-factor authentication (MFA) is in place to reduce the risk of credential theft, making it harder for attackers to use stolen credentials. It may also include changes to access management by adding role-based access controls (RBAC) to scope employee access to only what is appropriate for their job requirements. 

Beyond the access limiting controls, oversight includes monitoring and reviewing SaaS apps for compliance. This may be done through regular audits or compliance checks, verifying their configurations against the necessary standards and regulations governing company operations. 

Combatting SaaS Challenges With Savvy

Savvy helps organizations overcome the challenges of managing their SaaS environments. Savvy uses a sophisticated, identity-first approach, helping organizations discover and understand their SaaS landscape and operations. With Savvy, organizations can evaluate toxic access combinations, uncover hidden Business-led IT resources, and streamline compliance processes. 

Take control over SaaS security, making it part of your overall IT organization rather than an exception. Schedule a demo to see Savvy in action.