SaaS: The Secret Weapon for Profits (and the Planet)

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Green IT is all the rage. In 4Q 2008 alone, anyone so inclined could have filled his or her days signing up for green IT initiatives, attending conferences and implementing dashboards to track his or her company’s progress. This eager, green soul may have interacted with a broad array of parties, from Cisco to the U.S. Department of Energy, or attended conferences held by forward-thinking groups, such as the Power Forward Initiative or the Silicon Valley Leadership Group—all with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint of the IT industry. 

Now, companies in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) sector are leading a charge to show how SaaS is the ultimate secret weapon for reducing any client company’s carbon footprint. Arguably, it has always been integral to the ethos of SaaS to be green. At the core of SaaS offerings of any stripe are greater operating efficiency, lower costs, and shared resources among clients; all solid sustainability practices. Now, to measure their green impact, SaaS companies are tracking the planetary benefit of their performance in terms of saving trees, jet fuel, or disk space and demonstrating through conversations and case studies how their clients shuffle less paper, travel less, or store and access data more efficiently.

Framing cost reduction as a green initiative may also be a win-win for companies, their employees, and the environment. According to Jhana Senxian, researcher at Aberdeen and co-author of the upcoming book Green IT for Dummies, "Sustainability builds employee loyalty." Senxian explains, "A corporate green/sustainability initiative gets a lot more volunteers than a typical cost-reduction initiative where a company would get just a few volunteers."

"In addition," affirms Senxian, "focusing on sustainability makes an organization more attractive. Lean [initiatives] got rid of waste. There are lots of movements that have done pieces of sustainability. Now, green plugs into very visionary practices. Innovation comes from all levels of the organization, and it can make it more competitive as a whole." Further, Senxian explains, "The green initiatives in companies, because of their success at sparking innovation, motivate them to redefine their bottom-line measurements. People, profit, and planet are the new triple bottom line for companies."

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The cloud seems to be manna to most analysts, investors, and vendors these days. As my colleague Alan Pelz-Sharpe writes, "It's a great term, ‘Cloud Computing,' since it conjures up visions of an invisible internet—an ether-like zone in the sky where computing power and storage is unfettered by the petty restrictions of boxes, cables, and technicians. Cloud computing sounds fluffy, it sounds cool, it sounds limitless, it sounds like the future."