Unused and abandoned SaaS and cloud systems can haunt your budget. Get rid of them.

ghosts and zombies in and office

Undead SaaS tools are haunting your operations

I read a story in a TechCrunch newsletter about a startup called Vertice that just raised $25 million to develop AI tools that help companies find ways to trim their cloud and SaaS software spending.

From the TechCrunch story:

“Put simply, the growth of what is available to purchase and use in the cloud has outpaced the tools to track how those products are procured, used, managed, and planned. It results in a lot of overlap and often products that are not actually being used in an optimized way.”

Amen to that.

Vertice’s target customers appear to be CIOs and CFOs in mid-sized and larger organizations where SaaS sprawl is common and unnecessary spending can easily go unnoticed. Given the complexities of managing software licenses and cloud subscriptions that can number in the hundreds or thousands, I bet a tool like Vertice’s offers real value for these companies.

For the smaller business, products like Vertice’s are probably too pricey and overkill, but similar problems still exist. I know because as a marketer specializing in small-to-medium businesses (SMBs), I see money wasted on a lot of things. One of the stealthiest money-sucks has to be neglected, forgotten, and abandoned SaaS and cloud services. They’re literally everywhere.

These zombied systems usually fall into a category I call “limited-use solutions” – tools used to perform a specific set of tasks within the broader scope of a whole job. In my line of work these are things like email management, marketing automation, SEO, PR distribution, social media management, etc. If you’re not in marketing, I’m sure you can think of several examples that apply to your own business discipline.

Limited-use solutions aren’t doing anything that can’t be done manually or with general purpose tools like office software, so they’re not critical. The real appeal is they’re supposed to make the task easier, more efficient, more effective, and so on, for comparatively little cost.

Marketers (me included) are the sort that love the convenient “hacks”, shortcuts and shiny tools that promise to revolutionize their work with little effort, risk, or skill. Couple it with a “free” (credit card required) trial, low introductory rate, or “satisfaction guaranteed or your money back” promise, and it’s basically an irresistible offer. Signing up is a no-brainer.

Like any new romance, those first few days or weeks with the new tool are magic. Then, like any not-as-new romance, the luster starts to wear off. The tool turns out to be confusing or hard to work with. The results are disappointing. Other, more pressing issues take priority. Whatever the reason, the infatuation fades, the solution gets put aside, and the marketer moves on (or, more often, goes back) to something else.

Over time, people forget, personnel change, shiny new tools that sound different (but really aren’t) get added, and a new romance begins. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile, the vendors of those now ghosted solutions go on quietly collecting fees. After a while there’s an army of walking dead software draining the life from the marketing budget one month at a time.

Small companies are always short on time and people, so this can go on for years. It usually takes an outsider like me to come along and ask: “why are you spending 20% of your marketing budget on subscriptions for eight marketing systems when you’re barely using one?”

Usually, the reaction to that question is surprise and disbelief. “20%? No way.”

But then we tally all the various services and systems – many of which often overlap in features or offer solutions from problems they don’t have (e.g., you don’t need ecommerce SEO if you don’t do ecommerce) – and “no way” becomes “holy crap, look at all this stuff.”

After that it’s just a matter of going through and exorcizing (and occasionally, resurrecting) the undead software subscriptions haunting the department. Viola! Ghost and zombie software problem solved.

Sometimes the results are so remarkable that other departments are inspired to do it as well (Sales, Customer service, cough, cough…)

If you haven’t lately, try a SaaS exorcism in your own organization. I’ll bet you’ll like the results.