What is Subscription Management?

Subscription management describes the processes and tools for overseeing and optimising subscriptions to improve retention and eliminate errors. 

Subscription customers represent the ideal buyer—a customer who is so committed to a business’ products or services that they are willing to pay an ongoing fee to access them. Every new subscriber carries with them the possibility and potential of creating a truly lifelong customer. As such, many businesses adopt subscription models in an effort to capture that Holy Grail of enterprise: predictable and sustainable growth.

Unfortunately, not every subscription business realises this promise. From governing accounts and correctly handling invoices, to securing payments and providing a satisfying customer experience, managing subscription bases is not always an easy prospect. And these issues only become more prominent as the subscription base grows. On the other side of the transaction, those organisations that purchase their own software subscriptions from multiple B2B vendors need tools to manage each of their various licences and ensure that their teams are using the subscriptions correctly.

In both cases, subscription management solutions are the answer.

For the customer clicking on the ‘sign up’ button, enrolling in a subscription service may feel like a major commitment. But the reality is that just signing up is different from fully committing.

With each renewal period comes the threat of customers choosing not to renew. Subscription management is designed to address this issue by empowering subscription businesses with improved governance over all aspects of products and services sold through time-based or usage-based pricing models.

With the right subscription management solution, organisations in all industries can build better, more satisfying customer experiences so that those who sign up once are more likely to renew again and again. And given that the success of these businesses depends directly on retaining customers over time, subscription management’s ability to continue to engage customers makes it absolutely vital to creating growth within a subscription-model business.

But subscription management does not stop with the end-customer. To effectively serve their buyers while optimising and supporting internal processes, many companies rely on third-party subscriptions, often in the form of as-a-service solutions (such as PaaS , SaaS, and IaaS). For these companies, juggling their various licences, compliance issues and usage is more than a full-time job. Subscription management helps these organisations more proactively manage multiple licences, prepare for subscription renewals and better understand how subscription services are being deployed.

For customer-serving businesses that rely on subscription management to optimise their customers’ experience, subscription management plays a key role throughout the subscription-customer lifecycle:
Graphic outlining the stages of subscription management


Before a customer can ever renew a subscription, they first need to finalise their initial sign-up. Subscription management can help encourage new customers to take the plunge by providing them with clear information about pricing models and their associated services.


Not every prospective customer fits neatly into the ‘ready to purchase’ and ‘not ready to purchase’ categories; those that are on the fence about the subscription may benefit from some added motivation. Subscription management tools can be used to identify reluctant customers and offer additional encouragement at precisely the right time—usually in the form of discounts, add-ons or other incentives.


When there are multiple subscription levels for a customer to choose from, there should be a process in place to guide current subscribers towards upgrading their subscriptions. Subscription management can improve this process, automatically calculating and applying eligible recent payments towards the price of the upgrade so that customers aren’t charged twice for the same service.


The true value in the subscription model lies in renewals. Subscription management streamlines the renewal process, reducing churn, providing subscription customers with the direction and encouragement they need to extend their contracts, and contributing to faster and more reliable renewals. Automated renewal processes help eliminate bottlenecks and ensure essential next steps. Upsell and cross-sell opportunities are automatically included, maximising the potential return for every renewing customer. Incentives (such as add-on and discounts) can also be introduced at key moments to further encourage hesitant subscribers or otherwise help bolster the customer’s commitment to buy.


Regardless of how effectively an organisation approaches the renewal process, some subscribers will choose not to renew. Subscription management can help mitigate these losses by automatically reaching out with customer satisfaction surveys, exclusive offers or other messaging to help keep the service top of mind. This helps ensure that when the customer again has a need for the subscription service, they know exactly what to do next.

Although “subscription management” may describe any aspect of the processes or strategies for managing subscription services and encouraging renewals, the term most often refers to subscription management software.

Subscription management software is a category of sales-enablement tools that help automate and optimise subscription billing processes while also streamlining and managing various other aspects of subscriptions and renewals. 

For businesses that must manage their own vendor subscription, similar tools can be applied to help track usage, organise licences and ensure compliance while working with third-party B2B software providers within a subscription pricing model.

Although every subscription management tool is different, most subscription management options provide a similar set of features and functionality. The following are among the most common subscription management features:

  • Deal management
    Automated features may be extremely powerful, but sometimes a human presence can make a major difference. When deals stall, deal management automatically notifies sales representatives so that they can step in and take over.

  • Trial management
    For subscriptions that offer free trials, trial management features ensure that signing up is a painless and intuitive process, and that trial customers can quickly and easily move on to paid plans once the trial period ends.

  • Comprehensive dashboard
    Having a clear, comprehensive overview of customer subscriptions allows businesses to better understand how their progress aligns with their established metrics and goals. Subscription management software dashboards provide a visual representation of real-time data so that managers can more easily extract and act upon big-picture insights.

  • Self-service buying
    Allowing users to manage their subscriptions not only frees up in-house resources; it also creates a more satisfying customer experience. Self-service buying options ensure that every customer-led transaction is automatically supported on the backend.

  • Automatic invoice creation 
    Manually creating invoices for customer subscription plans is time consuming, inefficient and prone to human error. Subscription management automates this process, so every sign up automatically generates an accurate invoice for immediate review.

  • Automated reporting
    By tracking subscription data in real time, subscription management software simplifies the reporting process. Reports can be generated and reviewed at the push of a button.

  • Automated payment options
    Loyal subscribers who intend to renew should not have to wait. Automated payment options in subscription management software eliminate the threat of service interruption while also providing a low-effort path to renewal.

  • Loyalty programme management
    Top customers deserve special attention. Subscription management tools can be configured to offer unique benefits, discounts and other rewards to those subscribers who have demonstrated their loyalty.

  • Cancellation and suspension management
    When customers cancel their subscriptions or fail to make payments on time, businesses need a way to ensure that they don’t continue to have access to the service. Automated cancellation and suspension stop service to those who are not paying for it.

  • Artificial intelligence
    The best subscription management software is capable of more than simply analysing, reporting and automating. AI-enhanced solutions review data and make reliable predictions regarding customers’ actions and upcoming opportunities.

For businesses that rely on subscriptions to third-party tools, subscription spend management may be a necessity. Subscription spend management is an approach that attempts to improve subscription visibility and control and establish a clear process for managing subscriptions—including regular audits and evaluations of subscription services to ensure that they are still needed and providing value.

Used effectively, subscription spend management helps organisations improve cost optimisation and identify and support those subscription services that provide real value to the enterprise. That said, this approach requires a commitment to establishing clear processes, centralising subscription management within the business, analysing subscription spend data and working with key stakeholders to ensure that subscription spend is within budget.

As previously addressed, end-customers are not the only ones who need their subscriptions managed; businesses also use subscription models to access third-party software solutions.  

Each of these solutions brings with it its own licences, capacity limits and compliance requirements. And, as organisations grow and their software needs expand, managing many third-party subscriptions can become prohibitively difficult. To ensure that their software subscriptions are being used effectively and represent the most streamlined options, organisations use licence management.

Licence management is a form of subscription management that focuses on optimising vendor software subscriptions. Without a clear understanding of their subscription applications and how they are being utilised within their teams, organisations risk wasting resources—software subscriptions that automatically renew can represent unaccounted for costs, particularly when the subscription is no longer needed. Conversely, companies may overuse subscription applications if there is not enough user access or the subscription is not scaled properly, potentially violating the subscription agreement.  

Licence management gives companies the visibility they need to ensure their subscription licences are in order and that the services they subscribe to are cost effective, transparent and utilised within the agreement’s terms. 

As subscription models become more practical and available, businesses that rely on software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are discovering that it’s harder than ever to manage their various licences while optimising spend and ensuring compliance. ServiceNow, the leader in IT management, has the answer: SaaS License Management.

Built on the award-winning Now Platform® and available as part of ServiceNow Software Asset Management (SAM), SaaS License Management puts your business in the driver’s seat with total visibility and control over your essential SaaS resources. Additionally, ServiceNow Cloud Insights provides the resources and support you need to gain total visibility into your cloud assets, including any third-party IaaS, SaaS and PaaS subscriptions.

Track renewals and identify underused or outdated licences that need to be cancelled. Right-size your licences through in-depth usage analysis. Compare software capabilities from over 1500 categories to discover where your SaaS solutions may overlap. And that’s only the beginning.

With ServiceNow, you gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re getting the most out of your SaaS solutions. Want to learn more? Talk with an expert and discover how ServiceNow can revolutionise how your business manages subscriptions.

Discover the possibilities

Automate the end-to-end lifecycle for software licences, hardware assets and cloud—on one platform.

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