Last week we invited members of the ITAM community to our London office to discuss a topic close to our hearts – sustainability in ITAM. These regular roundtables are designed to be a place to share common challenges, questions, and ideas about the pressing issues of our industry. And this one brought up lots of questions.
There’s no doubt sustainability is a hot topic these days. Get a group of CIOs together to talk about what’s on the horizon and no doubt it will be at the top of the agenda.
Attendees also commented that they are seeing more customers asking about sustainability and seeking help to create systems where they can provide sustainability reports as part of their ITAM function.
But what do we mean by sustainability in ITAM? Is this just another buzzword? A ‘nice to have’ for companies but something that ultimately they’re not willing to sacrifice convenience or cost to achieve? Or is it, as we hope, the beginning of a new paradigm of thinking?
We had multiple SAM tool vendors, end users across multiple sectors, notably finance and hosting providers, and ITAM service providers attending. It was clear that we are all still piecing together how ITAM can assist with the sustainability agenda across IT.
Collectively, the group identified three actions or major areas where ITAM might make a meaningful difference.
How ITAM can contribute to the sustainability agenda
Understanding the regulations, compliance requirements and potential conflicts with existing practices could help ITAM teams identify areas for improvement. An interesting case study for this is the maturity of the security agenda. Regulation is one of the forces that helped encourage real change in this area through enforced compliance with basic security settings like multi-factor authentication and stronger password protection.
In some instances, we can see the market supporting this. For example, technology with single factor authentication being nearly ten times the price of one with multi factor authentication. Security measures have become the norm – and the most profitable choice. When suppliers start to have certifications or regulations around their CO2 emissions in production, it will make it easier for ITAM teams to provide the data required to make informed and ethical decisions around which technology to invest in.
Measurement, measurement, measurement! Everyone knows we love data in ITAM and it is just as essential here. Only through accurate measurement of factors like the carbon footprint of our hardware and software can we establish the right processes and policies, or select the right tools that will support the sustainability agenda. This data can also be used to educate and persuade employees and executives of the potential impact of small choices.
Most of all, we can use this data to demonstrate improvement. If we can show employees the impact of their choice to extend their laptop lifecycle by a year, we can build a collective feeling of responsibility and goodwill.
Of course, good data also supports multiple SAM objectives. You need accurate data to really right size your software estate – something that ends up making sense from a cost perspective as well as a sustainability one.
A multi-platformed approach
Like most initiatives, it’s not enough to just take one measure towards sustainability. We need to create improvement plans that approach the issue from many directions – whether it’s through extending laptop life, making sure the suppliers we work with are also sustainable, moving to and managing the cloud, or just securing an accurate measurement of energy use from our data centers.
Get buy-in from the top
Most importantly, as always, is the process of getting buy-in from the top of our organizations. Several attendees expressed their frustration with this. Even at organizations where sustainability leads the agenda for executives (much like security), proposals about how ITAM can contribute to the effort often falls on deaf ears. The solution, we hope, is more trustworthy data. If we can identify ways the business can be more sustainable and offer robust data to provide the evidence, executive teams are much more likely to listen. Ultimately we need executive support and budgets to carry out truly sustainable initiatives.
A question of priority
Of course, sustainability in ITAM faces the same challenges that are familiar to the entire sustainability movement – how do we weigh it as a value against other priorities of the business such as cost savings, efficiency, and security? How do we avoid falling into the green washing trap – investing in small changes when the whole system is fundamentally environmentally destructive?
These are the big questions every business is going to have to tackle soon, and ITAM has a chance to increase their value.
We didn’t solve the sustainability question at this roundtable but there was a lot of passion in the room. With an overwhelming recognition that this is a real priority for many businesses and should be a consideration of the ITAM team. Let’s continue to share knowledge and work together to find more sustainable ways of working – for our organizations and the planet.
Learn more about the future of sustainability in ITAM and the other most pressing issues in 2023 in this recent webinar.