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Reducing SaaS Expenses in the Time of Corona

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Financial Officers, IT Finance Directors and Managers, IT Procurement Directors and Managers, Accounting Directors and Managers, Telecom Expense Directors and Managers, IT Operations, IT Strategy, FinOps Directors and Managers

Why It Matters: SaaS expenses add up fast, especially when employees use more than one app for the same purpose. In the time of COVID-19, it’s critical to pare down costs and save jobs.

Top Takeaway: In cash-strapped environments, Software as a Service is an area of spend that is ripe for review based on employee flux, new application needs, and a round of quarantine-induced Shadow IT.

Managing IT in the Time of Corona calls for inquiry into a number of areas. So far, we’ve talked about the six overall stages of COVID IT management, ways to adjust telecom and network resources for the rest of 2020 (and beyond), and controlling wireless expenses as 40% of staff or more work from home. The next category to assess? Software as a Service, or SaaS. Digging into this facet of the technology environment will uncover which apps employees use so the enterprise can make some crucial decisions: what stays, what goes, what needs new contract terms. This action is essential as the world heads toward a recession of unknown length and impact. IT, financing and procurement must do their part now to help the business batten down the hatches. Analyzing the current state of SaaS, and then streamlining it, will address this need.

No One Wants to Lose

Before you start, understand that employees will want to cling to their apps – and SaaS vendors will want to keep your organization as a customer. The IT team and its colleagues will have to walk a fine line between keeping staff happy and protecting the business’s bottom line. The reason why boils down to one reality – that people are perhaps even more attached to their apps than to their mobile devices. That’s because apps serve specific purposes and solve particular problems.

At the same time, the last thing SaaS vendors want, or need, right now is to lose clients. COVID-19 already has given rise to the highest jobless rate in over 80 years. Companies throughout the United States are motivated to retain as many customers as possible and that goes for the SaaS world as well. In fact, this segment of technology well could be the most relationship-dependent. Again, apps are personal and SaaS profitability is dependent on medium-to-long term relationships. SaaS companies need time to prove the indispensability of their software and earn the long-term contracts and relationships that lead to profit. This means that SaaS companies have incentives to work with enterprises seeking to organize and reduce costs.

Don’t Fear ‘DISRUPT’ion
Before deciding which apps make sense to keep, and which need to hit the highway, “DISRUPT” your environment with the following assessment:

Discover new apps. Find out what’s residing in the enterprise and whether it is IT-approved.
Inventory all licenses. Understand what the organization is paying for each month, and evaluate whether the licenses match up with employee numbers and roles.
Spend and usage visibility. Does the IT team have this level of insight? If not, who does?
Recycle licenses. Where can IT re-allocate use of a license instead of paying for an additional one?
Unite SaaS categories. Simply put, consolidate vendors. Many apps serve a similar purpose. Choose the best one for the organization and eliminate the rest.
Prune unused services. On a similar note, get rid of any SaaS employees do not use. Why pay something for nothing?
Training and enablement. Educate employees so they know how to make the most of the SaaS for which the company is paying. This will ensure the organization and its people use the app to its full advantage.

The “DISRUPT” phase of a SaaS assessment may take several months to complete. But it’s just the first step in a series of actions IT needs to take to better prepare the organization for predicted economic headwinds.

Follow These Steps
The steps below provide a mix of recommendations for reducing what the organization spends on SaaS, and for (re)negotiating with vendors. After you benchmark your spend, take the rest of these steps in the order that makes the most sense for your business leading up to the final negotiation process.

Step 1: Benchmark March and April’s Spend
Next comes the much-discussed benchmarking phase we’ve been driving home for the past couple months. As we note in previous blogs on COVID IT, benchmarking March and April 2020 usage and spend is a must. Glossing over, or skipping this step, would prove fatal to effective IT expense management in the face of a looming recession. You do not want to optimize on pre-COVID-19 assumptions. The sooner IT can pinpoint how COVID has affected the organization, the sooner it can react – all based on data.

Pro tip: Take advantage of free offers. For instance, G2 Track is providing a 90 day free trial of its software expense platform. 

Step 2: Prepare for Tough Negotiations
Identify the software vendors with which the organization spends the most money. If your organization is tight for cash, take the following steps. (Note: Amalgam Insights considers these to be extreme measures appropriate only in a pandemic recession or when the survival of the business is at stake.) For each of those providers, choose a “credible threat.” In other words, be ready to move to an app that does the same job as the current one, and be prepared to use that readiness in negotiations. Also, back up all data residing in the current software. Do all this in case it becomes necessary to walk away from negotiations because the vendor won’t work with you. And then make your demand or request, which may include postponed payments or a payment holiday. As a non-software example, consider how Starbucks sought a rent “vacation” for 12 months.

Step 3: Escalate Negotiations in Your Largest SaaS Vendors to the Executive Level
Here, teaming with your CFO on outreach to SaaS vendors’ top leaders should prove really helpful. The CFO office should send a letter to all vendors stating that there is a formal effort to reduce costs and providing guidance both on the current company situation and need for financial relief. Start with the sales and accounts teams so as not to damage good relationships, but be prepared to escalate the conversation. Once the vendor sees that executives are actively reviewing spend for all major accounts, negotiations often get easier. Citing circumstances including COVID-19, the probable recession and high unemployment may help, but credible backing and financial documentation from the CFO cements the seriousness of the requests at hand.

Throughout all the activity, maintain consistency in requests among vendors. The idea is not to play favorites or be a bully. To avoid that, standardize the wording on all negotiation documents and emphasize how much the organization values partnership with its SaaS vendors.

Step 4: Delay, Discount, Deny
Once SaaS providers finally have your business – which usually comes after a prolonged period of time – they know their best interest lies in keeping you as a customer. And in these tough times, these vendors often are willing to make concessions in the interest of long-term relationships. To get the outcome you want for the organization, start with a win-win approach. Offer various carrots such as lengthening the contract, serving as a customer reference, introducing their account team to other people in your business who could use the product, and so on. Ideally your organization and the SaaS vendor will be able to create a tighter relationship that provides quid pro quo benefits.

However, if the vendor will not play ball, it may be time to prove how far you’re willing to go. First off, you may have to show the vendor your books and prove why the organization is asking for new terms. If that doesn’t do the trick, figure out how to push back. Potential tactics include:
• Delaying payments and audits
• Discounting reduced payments
• Disputing excess capacity and unknown charges

Make sure the organization’s usage aligns correctly to the terms of the deal with the SaaS vendor.

Step 5: Rein in Employees
COVID-19 and its subsequent economic effects have made one thing blatantly clear: the SaaS party is over. In these critical times, the business must pare down what it pays for and enforce that change. No longer may employees choose their own separate SaaS vendors. And no longer may they may use 10 apps that does the work of one. Money and jobs are at stake.

So, to rein in employees, categorize apps by whether they are a priority, a luxury or a vanity.

Priority Apps: These apps are mission-critical, show well-articulated value and are widely adopted across the organization.
Luxury Apps: These apps tend to facilitate work, but they have inconsistent value and employees struggle to adopt them.
Vanity Apps: These apps do not contribute to work outcomes, and defining their value proves difficult. Staff only use them in niche instances.

Once all apps are categorized, it becomes easy to whittle down the number and type. Staff will want to push back but if the organization is footing the bill, its best interest is the priority.

Step 6: Think Differently
The key question to ask is, what can IT, finance and procurement do to minimize the organization’s risk and manage cash well? Before stepping into the (figurative) negotiation room, find the answer by analyzing the areas outlined below:
• Reconsider spend and license minimums (the organization may actually have a chance to save money by using an app in a different way, for instance)
• Enact scheduled audits and peak/valley exceptions• Shift from per-user to use case or revenue share (this would eliminate per-user scaling, which adds up quickly)
• Look for leeway (find out if the SaaS vendor has any flexibility on its payment terms, or whether it offers financing. Multiple large technology companies desperate to keep users in the time of Corona are putting up billions of dollars in financing.)
• Include COVID-19-specific clauses (act-of-god type of verbiage can provide a way out if no other path comes of negotiations.)

Together, some or all of these tools and strategies should result in positive change as the organization trims its SaaS expenses. With any luck, negotiations will go smoothly and all parties will exit feeling better about the long-term outlook. We’ve presented the worst-case scenario options in hopes they will lie fallow, but being prepared is better than being surprised.

***If you are seeking outside guidance and a deeper dive on your IT environment, Amalgam Insights is here to help. Click here to schedule a consultation.

***Join us at TEM Expo on July 14 to learn more about how to prepare for COVID IT and take immediate action to cut costs.

***And if you’d like to learn more about this topic now, please watch our webinar.

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Getting Wireless Expenses Under Control During COVID IT

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Financial Officers, IT Finance Directors and Managers, IT Procurement Directors and Managers, Accounting Directors and Managers, Telecom Expense Directors and Managers, IT Operations, IT Strategy

Why It Matters: Whipping the wireless environment into shape will showcase the IT department’s leadership as a steward of the business, and contribute to the organization’s larger goal of saving or reinstating jobs.

Top Takeaway: Optimizing mobile assets and services will ensure the organization is paying only for what it should, while making sure employees have the resources they need to do their jobs well.

Even before the coronavirus struck, IT professionals faced a mobility management dilemma: how to determine whether smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices would serve as primary or secondary work tools.

The quandary arose as the iPhone, the world’s flagship smartphone (BlackBerry notwithstanding), hovered on the brink of the teenage years – the iPhone turns 13 in 2020. Since its introduction in 2007, the iPhone led the way in shifting the enterprise from a landlocked entity to a fluid one not restricted by physical boundaries. Work from outside the office grew more common, which paved the way for employees to bring their own devices into the business. These devices further complicated IT’s security, expense, optimization and other mobility management duties. These mobile device “tween” years, if you will, have not been easy.

Then came COVID-19.

March and April of this year looked like no other time in modern history. From an IT perspective alone, organizations around the world rushed to support remote work as the need for people to work from home became obvious. IT threw many of these efforts together in a frenetic, cobbled-together fashion. Cloud, SaaS and, of course, mobility, came to the rescue, but at a price. Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 work-from-home (WFH) frenzy, IT experts are finding that employees have adopted mobile computing resources that might not meet standards, and that have inflated the organization’s expenses. Managing the awkward tween phase of mobility just got harder. And considering that most enterprises say they will allow or require remote work for the foreseeable future, IT has a long-term challenge on its hands.

This blog, the third in Amalgam Insights’ series on managing COVID IT, gives IT, accounting, procurement and other professionals involved in expense management, specific steps that will transform disarray into order. (For more fun with the tween theme twist, watch our webinar on this topic.)  

Step 1: Benchmark March and April’s IT Usage, Activity

Amalgam Insights’ chief recommendation for getting the IT department back on track is to benchmark the past quarter of IT usage and activity now that the crush to move staff to remote work has subsided. (With any luck, organizations have advanced past the “survivor” phase of IT.) We discuss in detail here the what and why of benchmarking March and April spend now. If you haven’t undergone this exercise already, time is of the essence. Not benchmarking at all means the IT department will optimize on pre-COVID-19 assumptions. The business will overpay for months or years to come by assuming that the challenges of March and April 2020 represent a “normal” IT environment.

Benchmarking is vital. According to Amalgam Insights’ IT Rule of 30, any unmanaged IT spend averages 30% in waste. This past March and April, largely unbeknownst to IT, employees bought the tools they needed to better work from home (think consumer-grade apps, services and devices). Cleaning up the IT environment, including all those shadow purchases, allows leaders to reclaim costs – and more.

For example, assessing the new normal for mobility (and, of course, other parts of IT including networking, cloud, SaaS and more) also will highlight where to cut future expenses and which contracts to renegotiate. The key lies in knowing what you are cutting before proceeding. The last thing you want is to inadvertently chop something that actually is necessary.

Here’s a pro tip for getting management of wireless assets and services back in line: Take advantage of the free audits some mobility expense management providers are offering. (MobiChord, Upland Software, Tangoe, and vMox are a few we know of.) This level of expert guidance likely will result in significant savings. Furthermore, it should give the IT department leverage for contract renegotiations.

Perhaps most importantly, though, benchmarking March and April’s spend can help the IT department save or reinstate jobs across the organization. That is the overarching goal Amalgam Insights aims to drive home. IT is ideally positioned to support the business in efforts to keep or bring back jobs. Every $100,000-$200,000 in eliminated IT waste translates into another role, and that’s critical as unemployment claims in the United States have climbed.

Step 2: Identify Anomalies, Overages, Inconsistent Usage and Access

A high-functioning mobility estate is key to fostering a productive, smooth remote work environment. Achieving this means, in part, making sure employees have the right devices (type, brand, model and operating system) and services (authorized accesses to corporate files and apps, international roaming and unlimited data if required, etc.), and that they are using them. Understand that IT may end up adding or subtracting assets and services, depending on what comes up in the discovery process. The idea is to serve as a steward to the business and ensure it provides and pays for the mobility it should, and only that.

Step 3: Uncover the Zombies, Lazy Slobs and Misfits

An important step in fixing wireless inefficiencies starts with finding the obvious slackers: the zombie devices, the ones with bloat and the mismatches.

Zombies: These smartphones, tablets and laptops could be hiding in someone’s drawer or somewhere else at headquarters where no one is working right now. If the device has a cellular or hotspot connection and a data plan, the enterprise is still footing the bill. Why pay for something no one is using?

Slobs: The service plans on these devices have a glut of features, such as too much data or personal hotspot capabilities. The organization doesn’t need to give every employee the same extras. Trim down who gets what by role and responsibilities.

Misfits: These devices and their services have limitations that impede employee productivity. A limited data plan, paired with an equally constrained phone, can make a staff member’s video conferencing choppy or even inaccessible. The device may work best for email and other lighter apps. In other words, look for mismatches among devices, services, plans and their users to keep cleaning up and optimizing the wireless environment.

Step 4: Check With Your Expense Management Counterparts

We’ve all gotten past the literal survival stage of COVID IT. Employees throughout the enterprise have settled into routines. That makes now the time to rein in wireless costs by following all the aforementioned steps, and by going even further. Next, do some investigation. Check in with the people who handle various expense management and procurement tasks for the business to see where IT costs might be popping up. These are other areas where shadow COVID IT could be making an appearance.

Assess whether corporate should continue to fund these expenses and stay alert for opportunities to support staff with more of the wireless equipment or services they need to do their jobs well. For instance, does someone need a better webcam for more professional video conferencing? Not all expenses are bad or unnecessary. Digging deeper with expense management counterparts will help define what is and is not IT’s and the enterprise’s to cover – and what is.

Step 5: Ok, Sometimes You Legally Have To

To that last point, get clear on which wireless devices and services the organization legally must pay for. The IT department does not want to put the enterprise on the wrong side of expense-reimbursement lawsuits. The state of California, as one example, decided in 2014 that companies have to pay for any reasonable costs. Know the rules governing your enterprise before you push back on employee requests.

Step 6: Prep for Contract Negotiations

The next important aspect of improving the wireless environment lies in renegotiating contracts, as that makes sense. But in the time of COVID IT, bargaining with vendors calls for much more than just agreeing to discounts. To do this, start by examining usage categories. Look for large increases where IT may be able to cut costs. These opportunities may not show up in the obvious places, such as eliminating unlimited data.

Figure out how (or whether) switching up products, services and plans also might reduce expenses. Employees might not be thrilled about adapting to a new brand, but going with Google Pixel over Samsung, as one example, could prove worthwhile if usability, data transfer, and security concerns can be worked out. Work through the options with the account rep. Above all, do not miss this chance to renegotiate and make a significant contribution to the enterprise’s bottom line.

Step 7: Look at Wired vs. Wireless Tradeoffs

Employees don’t care about the networks that connect them to the enterprise as long as everything works. IT, on the other hand, cares, especially when cost matters. For instance, determine whether landline access coupled with Wi-Fi might offer better pricing than cellular services without sacrificing service quality. In addition, look for – and get rid of – duplicate services, whatever they are.  

Step 8: Sometimes You Have to Lose the Battle to Win the War

Again, tradeoffs can create prime opportunities for financial savings. In that vein, consider that the SaaS or cloud bill may have to grow even as the mobility bill shrinks. Rather than trying to squeeze costs in every IT category, think about where tradeoffs might turn into gains. In this current environment, it is more realistic to drop the entire IT bill by 10%from last year rather than by trying to trim each category by 5-10%.


Applying these eight steps to the enterprise’s mobile environment will position IT to work more efficeintly over the rest of 2020 and beyond. Tightening wireless expenses efficiently with an eye toward mantaining work productivity will contribute to the larger, imperative goal of saving or bringing back jobs in the time of Corona. IT can be, and is, far more than a commodity within the business – it’s arguably one of the key departments that can steer positive change.


If you are seeking outside guidance and a deeper dive on your IT environment, Amalgam Insights is here to help. Click here to schedule a consultation.

Join us at TEM Expo on July 14 to learn more about how to prepare for COVID IT and take immediate action to cut costs.

And if you’d like to learn more about this topic now, please watch our webinar.

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Adjusting Landline Resources and Spend in the Time of Corona

IT professionals face an imperative mandate: Find ways to cut, align, reallocate, and manage network and telecom costs to help the organization thrive during one of the most economically challenging times in modern history.

Such efforts will boost the business’s day-to-day functionality as it supports newly remote staff; they also will generate tangible, positive financial results that underscore the IT department’s value, from money saved to another employee saved (every $100,000-$200,000 in eliminated waste translates into another role, a critical contribution as the number of jobless claims in the United States recently passed the 40 million mark).

Remote work will remain the new normal for the foreseeable future and IT must proceed with that expectation. Even so, Amalgam Insights predicts networking and telecom spend to remain flat in 2020, contrary to pre-COVID-19 expectations of a 3-4% increase. Yet of that spend, 5-10% likely is a candidate for immediate reallocation. Tackling this challenge, as well as the rest of the recommendations in this blog, will showcase IT as the business steward it is.

To achieve those outcomes, though, IT must undergo some intensive assessments and processes. Amalgam Insights provides that guidance in this blog, in its ongoing webinar series and at its upcoming virtual TEM Expo.

Tips for Making the Most of Networking and Telecom in the Time of Corona

Amalgam has identified six stages inherent to making IT as efficient as possible in the time of COVID-19. For the purposes of better understanding how to optimize networking and telecom amid the pandemic, Stages 1-3 will prove most valuable.

Stage 1: Survivor: Shadow IT Edition

Enterprises around the world now accommodate, if not require, remote work to a heretofore unprecedented degree. The risks of working in enclosed spaces with multiple people now outweighs the risks of letting employees work with more autonomy. This has changed the game for IT. Experts now are working with four new realities:

  • Consumer-grade equipment and security now are normal;
  • Wired and wireless connections are interchangeable;
  • New apps are increasingly important to supporting remote work; and
  • Corporate bandwidth investments may be lying fallow.

Let’s break down each of these areas, which IT needs to address and account for right away if it hasn’t already.

The New Normal of Consumer-Grade Equipment and Security: Much of the work IT did in the months and years prior to the coronavirus’s arrival has become, in many ways, moot. High-performing, well-governed, secure networks no longer apply as employees connect to the organization over home broadband, often with their own devices. IT still must ensure data stays safe and confined within the organization.

Connectivity Interchangeability: IT faces the challenge of discovering if a work-from-home employee is using cable, DSL, fiber, 4G, LTE, Wi-Fi, and so on. Without this information, there is no insight into that connection’s origination or security. Nonetheless, IT has to put measures in place to protect the networks and the enterprise’s information to the greatest extent possible.

New Apps: By using conferencing and other voice- and video-heavy apps, employees may be putting more traffic on their bandwidth channels than they can reasonably withstand. That results in garbled, delayed signals and other constraints on the connection itself. IT may need to adjust traffic prioritization on its end, and educate staff about reconfiguring settings and/or using other, or additional, means of communication to relieve congestion.

Evaluating Corporate Bandwidth. With so many workers no longer in the office, IT must perform some cleanup. After all, why pay for unused resources? Operate from the assumption that you need to reconfigure the enterprise’s network strategy. To do that, follow these steps, knowing that the answers to each section will pave the way for action in Stages 2 and 3:

  1. Understand employees’ primary method of connecting to the enterprise. Pinpoint how staff use bandwidth; the results will play into the next step. 
  2. Modify network access management to make sure bandwidth is going to the right places. This is most easily accomplished with modern technologies such as SD-WAN.
  3. Determine what security – type and level – is needed. The goal is to deter hackers and ensure staff are using bandwidth for work purposes.
  4. Learn the latest on employee technology-reimbursement laws. The enterprise very likely will need to compensate remote workers for bringing their own broadband, laptops and/or mobile phones to the job.
  5. Find out which apps are in place. This will take longer and require more footwork in a remote world with everyone dispersed.
  6. Learn what the organization is competing against. For example, employees’ children are using the home network for school, video games, Netflix, etc. Spouses and partners, too, consuming bandwidth for their work. Having an accurate picture of what your IT department faces will be vital in right-sizing network elements and gauging whether to buy more equipment and/or bandwidth.

Stage 2: Secure Your Business

In the second stage of controlling networks and telecom in the time of corona, shoring up security is essential. Once again, employees’ consumer-grade equipment could pose a significant risk if overlooked. IT must be able to view and prioritize traffic. Remember, too, that other people in the employee’s home, depending on the devices they use and the content they access, could breach your IT protocols if they rely on the same network. Finally, consider how or whether corporate assets may be in peril because of the remote nature of work. This could range from physical danger, wherein a laptop containing private information is lost or stolen, to virtual, such as a staff connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi.

Stage 3: Audit Your Environment

The outcomes revealed from following the recommendations in this section will be indispensable to bringing together Stages 1 and 2, and to solidifying a waste-eliminating approach to networking and telecom for months and years to come.

Above all, begin by benchmarking March, April, and May 2020 spend. These three months represented the critical turning point when remote work habits were established. IT likely will discover a number of new accounts, expenses, and services for which the organization is now paying. Much of that will have happened through shadow IT – employees procuring assets and services outside of formal processes. Work hand in hand (not literally, of course!) with the corporate expense team to identify all IT spend. Let me make this clear.

To Effectively Cut IT Costs in 2020, You Must Identify ALL IT Spend That Emerged During Quarantine.

That advice holds for uncovering all vendors, too; in fact, the results here will highlight redundancies that can be corrected, as well as opportunities to bid for better pricing and contracts.

Knowing what the organization spent in March and April will give the IT team a deep understanding of the networking, applications, and equipment capabilities it needs to provide to remote workers for the rest of the year, and maybe longer. It also will serve as the starting point for eliminating waste as IT reins in shadow IT, reallocates resources (say, away from the once-crowded headquarters office to various, spread-out employee locations), and consolidates vendors.

Failing to benchmark March-May spend now will put your IT planning behind for the remainder of 2020 and probably beyond.

Once IT completes Stages 1-3, it then can move on to more of a strategic enabler role. Reaching that point, however, will only come after pouring some blood, sweat, and tears into the areas discussed here. Celebration and employee education will be hard-earned, but they come later, after IT has built a stable, secure, remote-friendly, and well-managed networking and telecom environment.

For in-depth guidance into COVID IT Strategy, schedule a consultation with us.

To get more guidance on cutting IT costs, join us July 14th for our Technology Expense Management Expo: free for all IT, Finance, and Procurement professionals and with some great gifts and charity opportunities to boot.

And to learn more right now, check out our webinar on this topic.

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Start with a purpose: What your side hustle can teach you about launching a business

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10 effective methods for staying productive while working remotely

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Strategies for getting detailed, actionable feedback from your customers

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Where Are You in the 6 Stages of COVID IT Management?

Author: Hyoun Park

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Financial Officers, IT Finance Directors and Managers, IT Procurement Directors and Managers, Accounting Directors and Managers, Telecom Expense Directors and Managers, IT Operations, IT Strategy, FinOps Directors and Managers

Why It Matters: Consumer IT, cybersecurity issues, and massive unexpected IT costs can create a perfect storm that could overwhelm IT – unless experts take the time now to understand what they’re up against and learn how to transform chaos into calm.

Top Takeaway: By preparing for the six stages of COVID IT, companies will be prepared for the challenges of supporting a newly transformed IT where over 40% of employees work from home and 30% of unmanaged spend is wasted.

COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the way IT does business. Many employees stand to remain in work-from-home models for a long time to come as organizations seek to mitigate disease transmission. In some ways, that shift bodes well for the environment and for company overhead. In others, it has caused chaos and stress. For example, this shift has left the IT department, in particular, scrambling: Cybersecurity has grown more difficult to ensure, with workers relying on personal laptops, tablets and smartphones, all over home networks; use of apps and oversight of company data has become harder to track as employees turn to consumer-grade file sharing and video conferencing to do their jobs, further exposing the enterprise to potential breaches; and, finally, hidden and unexpected expenses are hitting the IT department in the aftermath of the sudden move to WFH (Work From Home).

Each of these factors is creating a perfect storm that could overwhelm IT – unless experts take the time now to understand what they’re up against and learn how to transform chaos into calm. Achieving that starts with knowing the six stages of COVID IT and then navigating them with a confident action plan.

Before exploring the six stages of COVID IT, Amalgam Insights wants to emphasize that the IT bills incurred during the COVID-fueled work-from-home activity reflect the new normal. They also highlight areas IT must evaluate for excess spending. This will increase in relevance as organizations prepare for a likely economic downturn and for future global events that will call for non-traditional approaches to work.

As such, assessing where your enterprise falls in the following six stages not only will show where you are now, but where you need to go. Keep in mind, IT cannot tackle all of these stages at once, nor is that desirable.

This process is one we’ve built with sequencing in mind – IT cannot reach Stage 4 without analyzing and addressing Stage 1, for example. Sticking to the steps in order supports IT in its quest to serve as a steward to the business, helping it to shed its outdated role as a commodity within the organization, and, instead, bring value. The following figure describes our recommended timeline as a general rule of thumb. Note that we are coming up on the 3 month period for Stage 3 and 4.

Recommended Timeline for Cleaning Up COVID IT

Stage 1: Survivor: Shadow IT Edition

Estimated time required: 2-4 weeks

Most organizations exited this stage in mid- to late April. They had spent much of March and even early April outfitting employees to work remotely, mostly by deploying cloud resources cobbled together in a matter of days. Everyone, including IT, fumbled just trying to survive. That’s okay. Few entities had plans in place that invited perfect governance and compliance in case of something like a pandemic. Because of that, the top priority was to keep employees connected and able to perform their tasks from home, regardless of the equipment or network enabling those capabilities.

At the same time, employees themselves were adjusting to strange new circumstances. Suddenly their spouses/partners, kids, other family members and neighbors were all at home. In addition to still having to attend to work, this meant dealing with distractions in the form of constant interruptions, child care, the need to serve as school teacher and more. On top of that, employees found themselves in the midst of continuous personal and professional change. Could they keep using Zoom or not? Were they supposed to wear masks outside the house or not? Could they even go outside? All this stress compounded whatever other life experiences they may have been undergoing, from divorce or illness to the fear of losing their livelihoods. The last thing on almost everyone’s mind – and this applied to IT staff as well – was worrying about protecting and securing corporate assets, or worrying about IT expenses.

Again, the hope is that by now, organizations have left this stage behind. There may be some areas to clean up, though, and this blog provides the guidance for analyzing where that may be the case.

Stage 2: Secure Your Business

Estimated time required for initial triage: 2-4 weeks

Chances are, most enterprises remain in this phase. Recall that employees across the board still are confronting the myriad stresses caused by uncertainty around COVID-19. That puts them in a more vulnerable position to inadvertently expose the organization to bad actors. For instance, a hacker may call pretending to be someone from IT and request a password. A worker more focused on day-to-day survival than on corporate security may share that information, thinking nothing of it. This form of social engineering makes way for a serious breach. In fact, hackers have managed to turn COVID-19 fraud into a profitable endeavor by targeting unsuspecting consumers.  As of June 4, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission had fielded more than 64,000 complaints totaling more than $46 million in losses. The numbers only represent the consumer side; the possibility for losses in the corporate world go much, much higher due not only to social engineering, but also to phishing, ransomware and malware. Amalgam Insights recommends educating and testing employees, as well as implementing the tightest enterprise-grade cybersecurity measures feasible that can be supported on consumer-grade networks with an eye towards a zero-trust approach in our consumerized IT world.

Stage 3: Audit Your Environment

Estimated time required: 1-3 months

Next comes cleanup, or the need to audit all the technologies and services ordered and used since the beginning of COVID-19 (as well as everything else IT already was managing). This will indicate what is probable in terms of ongoing and future demand, and show where IT can trim or eliminate costs. To do this, pinpoint all the equipment, devices, applications and services procured and consumed. Then look where overages or absence of use occurred. Amalgam Insights recommends taking a focused approach across landline inventory, cloud services, and infrastructure that includes invoices, inventory, service orders, and virtual inventory.

Once the IT department has a clear bead on all of the above, experts then can compare activity to contracts. The results may reveal that it’s time to renegotiate terms with vendors. Once you have done that, be sure to keep the accounting and sourcing departments in the loop. Show the company how IT has positively impacted cash flow and governance – or, in other words, continued to add value to the organization.

This management is especially important because of the IT Rule of 30, Amalgam Insights’ rule that any unmanaged IT spend averages 30% in waste. Practically all shadow COVID IT spend in March and April was unmanaged. Clean your environment and reclaim your cash.

The IT Rule of 30

Stage 4: Train and Celebrate

Estimated time required: 1-3 months

With better and streamlined assets and services in place, and the corresponding financials that mirror that governance, use the next four to 12 weeks to train and celebrate employees. This may seem impractical amid COVID-19. Yet the people aspect of IT is vital.

First, gather the information gleaned from audits to identify current versus past usage. This applies to applications, devices and services. Record cost structure and the change in IT demands; this data will underscore decisions made by IT. Then, schedule time with company stakeholders. Amalgam Insights recommends those people include executives from finance and human resources, and the managers over the various lines of business. From there, IT should present on four main areas:

  • Making everyone aware of the new normal and what that looks like: Discuss how remote work is contributing to greater productivity and allowing employees the flexibility to juggle heightened work and home responsibilities.
  • Identifying best users and practices: Call out rock star employees who are not only embracing policies, but who may be going above and beyond to help the organization steer clear of security threats and unnecessary IT spending.
  • Showing how IT is helping the organization maneuver financial and operational concerns: IT is now a supply chain for delivering digital services. Accordingly, share the outcomes of an IT-conducted SWOT analysis, as well as savings attained, renegotiated terms, removal of obsolete or underused technologies, and any other audit-related improvements.
  • Describing the new and different use cases brought about by coronavirus-fueled IT deployments: Here, IT experts can talk about new processes that have saved time, money and protected the business, for example.

This meeting marks just the first of what should become regular touchpoints with leaders company-wide. After that, start working with HR and managers to train all employees about new and updated IT policies, processes and procedures. Get the HR unit to integrate the information into any and all onboarding and employee education and performance materials. This will prove crucial to awareness, adoption and adherence. It also will pave the way for executives to recognize and reward standout staff (and, conversely, continue to guide employees having trouble complying).

Notably, Amalgam Insights recommends that IT showcase as much as possible what it is doing to support and bolster the organization as everyone grapples with change. A global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is poised to hit and last for an unknown amount of time. This makes IT’s business contributions more important than ever. Talk about what matters. Quantify what the department is doing by illustrating how IT boosts the enterprise’s bottom line. Now is the time for purposeful, meaningful, quantifiable and visible business contribution.

Stage 5: Standardize and Improve

Estimated time required: 3-6 months

As the organization settles into its new normal, IT will have the luxury of concentrating on strategic initiatives that supply even more value. Standardizing and improving the environment should take between 90 and 180 days. And the efforts will pay off.

To that point, look for redundancy. Amalgam Insights continues to see examples of enterprises that have purchased multiple versions of at least one application. On top of that, recently remote employees probably have received more than one device because IT didn’t know what that person already had – or not. Take advantage of the “standardize and improve” stage to consolidate services, devices and apps.

On a similar note, it’s also time to standardize the services rolled out to staff. The technologies that sustained in-office work will not be the same ones enabling remote employees. Remove unnecessary vendors and consolidate redundant services (and document all of this as the IT department continues to showcase its value). This includes re-negotiating contracts as needed. Investigate current payment terms, business continuity, disputes, and so on, because what may have been acceptable pre-COVID probably does not favor the organization now.

In other words, IT must do due diligence to prevent the carrier or vendor from doing something that would hurt the organization. For example, if the provider or vendor bills on an automated basis, consider pushing out payment terms or minimum payments. This gives the enterprise wiggle room in case of an emergency. Another opportunity is to jettison now-outdated minimum requirements. Seek out ways to secure annual renewals that don’t just provide discounts, but that also guarantee the company will have upgrade to technologies that maintain and support remote work for months or years to come.

Lastly, make sure all onboarding and training materials now contain updated policies for remote work. With at least 40% of staff now on the job from home, any leniency extended to previously remote employees no longer applies. IT must ensure rigorous security and spending standards.

Stage 6: Transform the Business

Estimated time required: 3-6 months

This final stage of COVID IT may appear to be a luxury at first. We assure you it is not. A significant percentage of CFOs say the pandemic has not stopped them from projects to automate, digitize and improve customer experiences, supply chains and, remote work. To the latter point, Amalgam Insights predicts 15% or more of all United States-based employees will retain permanent work-from-home status post-COVID, which more than doubles our previous work-from-home population. Therefore, IT must align its investments with the C-suite’s vision. This strategy bolsters the organization overall. But it also enhances IT’s role within the company. Amalgam Insights recommends using these opportunities to become, and do, far more than acting as an auditor or bill processor if you haven’t done so already. Offer expert advice, planning and assistance that facilitates crucial outcomes and, at the same time, highlights IT’s importance to the business.


IT may find it necessary to repeat one or more of the six stages of COVID IT stages as circumstances evolve or new ones come to light in an environment where the networking, IT and cloud environments fluctuate constantly.

If you are seeking outside guidance and a deeper dive on your environment, Amalgam Insights is here to help. Click here to schedule a consultation.

Join us at TEM Expo on July 14 to learn more about how to prepare for COVID IT and take immediate action to cut costs.

And if you’d like to learn more about this topic now, please watch our webinar on this topic.

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JAMStack Design Pattern Emerges to Radically Rethink Application Platforms

Author: Tom Petrocelli

Executive Summary

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Technical Officers, Vice Presidents of IT, VPs of Platform Engineering, DevOps Evangelists, Platform Engineers, Release Managers, Automation Architects, Software Developers, Software Testers, Security Engineers, Software Engineering Directors and Managers, IT directors, DevOps professionals

Why It Matters: The IT industry has been undergoing a radical rethinking of how we architect application platforms. Much of the attention has been drawn to the back-end platforms built on containers and the Kubernetes ecosystem. Less has been said of the front-end environment, even though it too is undergoing a redesign.

Top Takeaway: Jamstack dovetails nicely into IT emerging architectures. It points to a future cloud-native web architecture based on Jamstack design patterns in the frontend,  backed by microservices implemented as transient serverless functions and more permanent Kubernetes-based services.

No one would say that the Spring 2020 conference season was in any way usual. With COVID-19 spreading throughout the world, the vast majority of conferences became “online”, “digital”, or “virtual.” At the tail end of the season was Microsoft Build Online 2020 (May 19, 2020) and Jamstack Conf 2020 (May 27, 2020) a week later. At both conferences, there was discussion of a web application architecture called Jamstack. Indeed, it was the focus of the later conference.

The IT industry has been undergoing a radical rethinking of how we architect application platforms. Much of the attention has been drawn to the back-end platforms built on containers and the Kubernetes ecosystem. Less has been said of the front-end environment, even though it too is undergoing a redesign. This is where Jamstack comes in.

Unlike containers and Kubernetes, Jamstack is not a technology. Instead, it is a design pattern that is implemented in technology. The philosophy behind Jamstack is to isolate the web developer from the back-end systems that support their applications, creating more efficient developers. An additional goal is to increase the scalability of web apps. In this regard, the market drivers are similar to those of the Kubernetes and Serverless communities – creating applications that are easier to build and maintain while increasing scalability.

The “JAM” in Jamstack is an acronym for Javascript, APIs, and Markup. This suggests not only a basket of technologies to be used in web applications. It points to a philosophy of simplification of the web app design that makes for more efficient development and operations. With Jamstack, it is expected that web applications are single-page apps, sometimes called Static Site apps, comprised mostly of JavaScript that then uses APIs to access back-end services (typically microservices) while using markup languages such as HTML and CSS to render the UI.

This is a model that most React framework developers will recognize; Load one page that contains the code and UI. After that, the application is expected to access additional data through RESTFul API calls in response to user actions and render them in HTML and CSS. This contrasts with the way many dynamic web sites are designed. That model calls for back-end systems generate HTML that are then sent to the browser as a new page. There are also applications built using the older AJAX design pattern or technology such as ASP.NET or  Java Server Pages, where pages are generated in the back-end and sent to the browser which then uses JavaScript to access more data as needed. Both of these architectures require web developers to be “full-stack developers”,  which means that the developer has to understand the entire platform from database to web front-end to create a web application. This makes development slower and less efficient while requiring client browsers to constantly download large pages, sometimes over large distances.

The evolution and growth of Jamstack was on display not only at the Jamstack Conference, as one would expect, but also at Microsoft Build. Part of the Azure developer presentation talked about the Jamstack architecture and how it is implemented as a service called Azure Static Web Apps. Even more interesting was the relationship with serverless. Microsoft presented a web applications architecture that was comprised of the Azure Static Web Apps service for the front-end and use of Azure Serverless Functions to implement scalable microservices as the back-end.

There are other ways the Jamstack community is looking to achieve its goals, especially reliability. Of particular interest is driving more functionality into the edge nodes. Most web applications use a content delivery network, or CDN, which caches static portions of a web site geographically closer to users. Without a CDN, all web requests would have to drag big assets such as graphics from their point of origin to the user’s browser. The amount of latency would make the web experience intolerable to many users. The Jamstack community is now looking to place some common processing in the front end CDN edge nodes, to handle common situations instead of processing them at a distant service.

While Jamstack has a lot of advantages, some of the vendor messaging can be a little confusing. For example, the idea that a web developer doesn’t have to be a full-stack developer is true. Someone, however, has to provide that back-end platform for the web developer to access. So, on an organizational level, a full stack is required for Jamstack to be meaningful. If an organization is only building apps using cloud services, this may be the case. But the majority of organizations don’t fit this description. Ultimately, creating a distinction between a web developer and platform developer is an artificial distinction. Code is code.

Ultimately, Jamstack dovetails nicely into IT emerging architectures. It points to a future cloud-native web architecture based on Jamstack design patterns in the frontend,  backed by microservices implemented as transient serverless functions and more permanent Kubernetes-based services. This is the melding of three emerging architectures into one whole design that provides for easier development, maintenance, reliability, and scalability.