TBMC20 Recap: Apptio & SaaS Insights Custom are Better Together

Some of my favorite things are just better together: chocolate and caramel, snowy days and hot chocolate, birthdays and chocolate cake. Oh wow – did I just say chocolate three times? Apptio is a lot like chocolate in this story. On its own, Apptio is a very powerful tool, but when combined with other great tools, the possibilities are endless.

In the TBMC20 session, SaaS Insights Custom: Utilizing built-in functionality to add value to customers, Devon Bilsing answers the question, “How can the TBM team leverage the current implementation of SaaS insights, in this case Salesforce, to create a more accurate view of SaaS licenses?”

Bilsing is the TBM analyst at ExxonMobil. He’s a return speaker from previous TBM conferences and is very active in the TBM community. In his session, he describes how you can use some basic functionality in Apptio to really enhance the SaaS insights reporting that comes with the system.

The thinking behind ‘better together’

Bilsing created Devon Co., a fictional business, to help illustrate his “better together” story. Devon Co. has an East, West, and a central branch. And, just as in many companies, the three branches of Devon Co. don’t operate exactly the same. For example, Devon West is a holding branch, it’s not going to pay for any of the licenses its using. It’s the TBM team’s job to figure out how to allocate those costs to all the other branches.

Normally, SaaS licenses are attached to users, but there may also be instances where the SaaS licensing fee is a calculated rate. So, in his example, instead of saying one user buys one license for $100, Bilsing decided to give Devon West a sandbox where they can develop all of their needs for the SaaS tool. The sandbox will cost Devon West 10% of their total spend on licenses. “But how do I figure out that 10%, and then how do I allocate that, and how do I report on that and explain it to the customer after I’ve done all my TBM work?” asks Bilsing. “How can we provide a more accurate and more detailed view of the total value of this kind of service-level agreement?”

Bilsing and his team broke out the various line items to show how they’re adding to the value of the SaaS insights, in this case in the Salesforce instance. He says they did some simple math and applied some straightforward formulas to get to the finer allocations. In his session, he provides a step-by-step walkthrough of his solution, including a data flow chart, the formulas, and some of the functions. Once you see his logic, you’ll have a roadmap for replicating this in your own company. “We didn’t do anything super technical or super out-of-left-field,” says Bilsing. “It was just some SUMIF, some search functions, and some percentages in the right places, and we created all of these allocations and all of this value for the customer.”

In his on-demand video, he’ll walk you through all of the details, so I won’t do that here. However, I want to share his very sage advice for a successful reporting project.

Build a close partnership with your customer. “It’s important to have close communication with whoever is managing the service license agreement so you can understand what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Listen and learn. “After you start working with these customers and the people who are using your report, you start to discover that the things they need aren’t all that complicated … You can change something that’s out of the box to something that adds a ton of value to the customer.”

Surround yourself with the right people. Right away, “figure out who the stakeholders are – [those people] who are managing the SaaS licenses and who could benefit from some out-of-the-box or standard reporting that you have already developed.”

Be open minded. “Find out what they are doing already. Find out what’s working well for them in their system and then find out what’s not working. What do they hope to improve and how do they hope to get there?”

Be flexible. When you are having these conversations, don’t be afraid to start slipping in some of your thinking. “If they like it, that’s great. If they don’t, then maybe you need to find a different angle in which to help them accomplish their work.”

Deliver. “It’s really important to set clear deadlines and deliverables at the outset.”

Get feedback early and often. “It’s better to show off what you’ve done early and get some immediate feedback from it, rather than to build the whole thing and find out you’ve done it wrong.”

Those tips alone are as good as chocolate, now go watch his entire session to get the connection of Apptio and Salesforce. That’s the chocolate and caramel goodness. There are many other great takeaways in Bilsing’s session. Watch it on-demand to get his formulas and logic steps. Register today for TBMC20 and get Bilsing’s and 100 other great sessions. And stay tuned for more leadership and success recaps here.

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