At the ITAM Review we continue to hear from companies and ITAM managers wishing to make their IT operations more sustainable. The rising profile of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) topics means that this is becoming a board priority. Often companies start by addressing large scale deliverables in a sustainability program but as we’ll see in this article SaaS Management also has a role to play.
The most important thing all businesses can do to become more sustainable is to use resources more efficiently. This is why ITAM can, and should, be at forefront of sustainability initiatives within IT. A big part of what ITAM teams do is to ensure all assets are managed and used efficiently. At first glance, you might expect a Sustainable IT program to focus on hardware and power consumption, but that’s not the whole story. SaaS also has an impact, and this means a SaaS Management tool such as Zluri can be a powerful ally in delivering against ESG goals.
Here are four ways in which effective SaaS Management can make a difference in sustainable IT.
Web-based applications, and apps accessed primarily via a web browser unlock the ability to use a wider variety of hardware devices for business computing. SaaS users can benefit from a unified experience across cellphones, tablets, thin clients, laptops, and desktop computers.
Additionally, SaaS applications tend not to have minimum hardware requirements, which unlocks the possibility of using lower cost, less complex, and second-owner hardware.
Furthermore, the growth in remote working has seen IT departments be more willing to consider alternative device types such as thin clients and Chromebooks, and also to allow greater use of personal devices. With many employees having multiple devices, the multiplatform nature of SaaS means fewer new devices will be required as devices last longer, and that cuts technology consumption. Why provide an employee with a company-issued cellphone when it’s possible to create a work profile on their existing device? Why provide a basic business laptop when they’ve already got a high-end laptop or tablet for personal use?
The migration of workloads from on-premises datacenters to the cloud is a continuing and accelerating trend. This cuts energy and hardware consumption as on-premises datacentres can never be run as efficiently as the cloud. For example, from a sustainability perspective, it’s far more energy and resource efficient to use cloud storage than to size, protect, power, and upgrade on-premises network file servers. The same is true for organizations running in-house application virtualization solutions such as Citrix. New licensing and deployment models such as Azure Virtual Desktop shift resource-intensive workloads to public cloud services. However, once that cloud shift has taken place it’s important to ensure that consumption and expenditure is managed and optimized and this is a key deliverable from a SaaS Management toolset.
This is related to the multi-platform nature of SaaS. Devices which are running a no-longer-supported version of Windows can be repurposed to run an OS which is still receiving the security updates required for business use. For example, a Windows 7 laptop could be rebuilt with an enterprise-ready version of Linux such as Fedora or Ubuntu, and then access SaaS applications. This extends the life of a device beyond what would be possible if it was stuck running a non-supported version of Windows.
The subscription-based nature of SaaS means that it’s easy – particularly with the right SaaS Management tools to hand – to rapidly scale up and scale down resource usage. With monthly and yearly contracts commonplace SaaS managers can make rapid changes to resource consumption by right-sizing their subscriptions. Reducing subscriptions reduces the amount of cloud compute and storage the SaaS vendor needs to make available, thereby reducing resource usage.
In the previous section we’ve covered some of the key ways SaaS Management can reduce environmental impact and deliver more sustainable IT ; but how can ITAM teams drive or contribute to a Sustainable IT program?
The first step is to have a comprehensive overview of software usage, and that’s something that SaaS Management tools such as Zluri will provide. With an overview of usage, it’s possible to determine where changes can be made. These might include downgrading users to a version more suitable for their limited usage needs, reducing subscriptions, and rationalizing applications. All these actions will reduce resource consumption and therefore benefit your Sustainable IT program. As noted above, these changes can be made rapidly, due to the often-short-term nature of SaaS contracts.
Company-wide sustainability goals can tend to be large and slow-moving, with payoffs only coming years down the line. For example, a manufacturing company might retool with more energy-efficient machines, or a logistics company might switch to electric vehicles. In contrast, the returns from a SaaS Management program come over a much shorter period, perhaps as little as months. The beauty of these quick returns is that they can help build momentum behind longer term sustainability goals, and that will raise the profile of the Sustainable IT program.
Some SaaS Management tools provide the ability to automate common software-related tasks such as onboarding and offboarding. This capability is particularly important given that the average employee needs to be provisioned with 20+ individual SaaS applications, a highly resource-intensive activity. Without automation organizations would need to employ more people dedicated to provisioning and deprovisioning SaaS applications and in doing so consume more resources in terms of office space, IT equipment, and transport costs.
SaaS Management tools can look at application usage trends across dimensions such as application capabilities and user profiles. For example, the data provided by your tool might indicate that Box is popular with Marketing & Sales whilst Dropbox is used mostly by IT. It might also show you that usage of Slack is declining as employees begin to prefer to use Microsoft Teams for collaboration. Trend information such as this can help determine the strategic direction for application usage at your organization. From a sustainability perspective this might mean that the organization can rationalize on a single solution in a particular category, or plan to sunset an existing on-premises tool. In both cases trend information has enabled you to predict usage requirements and therefore predict your use of resources which have an associated environmental impact.
SaaS Management already delivers considerable benefits in terms of cost management, risk management, and automation. As we’ve discussed in this article, it can also help deliver against ESG goals. SaaS Management clearly has a role in sustainable IT also. As SaaS continues to grow as a spend category, I see this as an area of increasing importance and one where ITAM teams have the opportunity to raise their profile with senior leaders and new stakeholders.