Lean IT strategy

    As a large, multinational organization headquartered in Dubai, Al Naboodah Group Enterprises (ANGE) has as many as 100 construction sites active at any time. Photo: ANGE

    How one multinational engineering giant optimized its IT assets.

    In engineering and construction there’s little, if any, margin for error. Up against tight deadlines, finite design specifications, and with customer expectations at an all-time high, engineering and construction firms need to make efficient and highly accurate moves to remain competitive. That means every part of the business, IT included, should be lean. As firms grow over time, their IT landscape becomes larger and gets cluttered with various types of software and hardware assets. Without good governance, executing a lean IT strategy becomes a challenge.

    For a large organization structured around industry specialties of civil engineering; structural engineering; and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP), etc., there is also the challenge of managing different staff software entitlements, each of which may have different software needs based on their role. Without a centralized view of all applications across the organization, it can be difficult for large enterprises with multiple offices and worksites to consolidate vast amounts of information in a way that’s easy to manage.

    Beyond that, lack of visibility prevents business and IT decision makers from seeing that all technology investments are driving real business value. Regardless of an organization’s geographic footprint, size, or scope, IT asset management should be a top priority. With the right technology, engineering and construction firms can create visibility over their IT estates to gauge usage, optimize spending, and drive digital transformation. Headquartered in Dubai, Al Naboodah Group Enterprises (ANGE) provides an example of how to accomplish this feat.

    Diversified company demands diversified solutions

    Al Naboodah Group Enterprises’ (ANGE) IT environment straddles a wide range of businesses and geographical locations, but its IT is run centrally on a group level. Photo: ANGE

    ANGE is one of the oldest and most respected family conglomerates in the United Arab Emirates, with as many as 100 construction sites active at any time. Its core business focuses on civil engineering, building, MEP and facilities management, though it also represents a diverse portfolio of global brands in the transportation, travel, electrical, solar, logistics, heavy equipment, agriculture, and fit-out arenas. As a multinational organization headquartered in Dubai, ANGE has operations in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, and employs more than 16,000 people comprising more than 40 nationalities.

    While ANGE is clearly diversified — with an IT environment that straddles a wide range of businesses and geographical locations — its IT is run centrally, on a group level. With limited visibility, data blindness can result in unutilized or underutilized applications or compliance challenges. To control sprawling IT spend caused by license redundancy across the organization, ANGE’s IT governance and planning manager needed a powerful solution to provide user-level visibility over hardware and software — regardless of which department purchased the technology. Group CIO Mario Foster also required a solution capable of integrating software license information to enable business decision makers to make more effective choices regarding IT investments.

    The SAM opportunity

    When it came time to begin evaluating enterprise technologies to solve its challenges, ANGE reviewed several Gartner use cases and various products on the market with a single major objective: Solve multiple problems with a single investment and solution. When the ANGE team came across Software Asset Management (SAM) platforms, the ability to gain granular, device-level insights that were needed to retire or recycle unused licenses stood out.

    In March 2016, ANGE selected Snow Software — specifically Snow License Manager, Software Recognition Service, Snow Inventory, and Snow’s Virtualization Management Option — for 2,200 devices, with an additional 800 licenses purchased later that year. Paired with the advanced capabilities these solutions offered was support from Snow’s customer service team that ensured ANGE would be able to leverage the SAM technology for all of its IT governance and planning needs.

    From the outset of its implementation, ANGE was able to achieve great visibility over its IT estate and leverage the information from Snow on several group-wide projects. For instance, ANGE was implementing a product that needed .NET Framework 4.5.

    With the visibility provided by Snow, the IT infrastructure and service desk teams could clearly identify and target only those PCs that had an older version. Then, when mid-project the vendor changed its specification to 4.6, ANGE was able to easily identify the systems that could be moved directly from 4.4 to 4.6, and which ones to upgrade from 4.5 to 4.6.

    “We would not have had that visibility and power to scale so fast if we had not deployed Snow,” said Abhinav Mittal, IT governance and planning manager, ANGE.

    No more audit nightmares

    As a result of its SAM deployment, ANGE received detailed reports on license usage that would help defend against upcoming software audits. As most IT managers know, preparing for an audit is a huge undertaking for companies — one that most would like to avoid. When software vendors learn that enterprises have implemented SAM processes, they tend to defer the audit and move on to companies with less advanced SAM processes. When approached by one of its software vendors, ANGE used a Snow-generated report to illustrate how it was using its licenses appropriately and within contract guidelines.

    “We tell the vendors upfront we are using Snow, and that we have very well-defined Software Asset Management processes and policies to back that up; this acts as deterrent and vendors avoid us,” Mittal said.

    With new visibility over its IT estate, ANGE has been able to tighten up the request and procurement process, improve cybersecurity, and proactively manage its critical business systems.

    Reinforcing value of IT in the C-suite

    IT strategists with this visibility can elevate IT from a manager of software assets to a true business partner. Group CIO Foster and his team use Snow-generated analytics in their internal discussions, as well as with the IT steering committee. When it comes time to fend off budget cuts, the team can cite objective usage data to justify the cost of certain software and locate non-provisioned IT projects to reevaluate or eliminate.

    “For example, some time back, our Group CFO asked us to cut our budget,” Mittal said. “And because we had the data on which software is used by business users, which software is centrally provisioned by IT, the cost of that software and who was using it, we were able to have a very objective negotiation with our Group CFO about where IT could shrink its budget and deliver greater productivity.”

    Armed with intelligence generated from Snow, Foster drives strategic conversations during executive management meetings and helps business leaders reduce their IT costs by proactively educating business users to stop renewal of unitized licenses. These insights, made easily accessible by the advanced analytics dashboards, help to drive digital transformation in the enterprise.

    To bolster C-suite faith in ANGE’s SAM processes, Mittal works closely with Foster to run a tight ship. The group has a set of well-defined policies about what standard software users are supposed to have on their PCs and what procedures are required for sourcing any software or hardware.

    “As a software asset management solution, Snow helps Al Naboodah Group Enterprises maintain our license to operate, have better visibility, and therefore better productivity management of risks in the organization,” Mittal said. “It helps all of us.”

    With its IT assets visible and under close control, SAM technology enabled ANGE to derive direct value from its technology investments. It helped keep software updated and properly allocated while also reducing the stress of software audits.

    “With the amount of information that we get from Snow, it has assisted me in good IT governance,” Mittal said, “and I think it was one of the most strategic IT investments we have made.”

    Information provided by Snow Software (www.snowsoftware.com/int).