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Chapter 3

Designing the concept “How to build a sustainable company”

While targeted observations and evaluations can already delineate several carbon emitters, the strategic realignment of companies requires a clear definition of detailed courses of action and recommendations. In order to clearly define these, it is important to formulate precise answers to the previously raised questions in the process for more sustainability, while putting the technology used in the company to the test. A further dimension comes into play additionally, which puts various aspects of the company under close scrutiny.

In order to be able to cover all company aspects thoroughly, four levels have to be analyzed in more detail: the data-storage, how data is used, the way your employees work, and the cultural component of your sustainability strategy. This will happen on the basis of the following questions:

  • What is used?
  • How are the available resources used?
  • Are there alternative methods to create a more sustainable area?

A handy overview of the company’s sustainability profile then results out of the above questions and their respective answers with regard to the individual levels. This enables decision-makers and managers to either highlight business areas that already are sufficiently sustainable or to develop additional recommendations for action based on the supplementary analysis:

Layers/QuestionsWhat is
being used?
How are the
solutions used?
Are there more
solutions that can
be used instead?
Data Storage & UsageDistributed
contracts &
rigid planning
processes over
several years
Yes, for example
cloud solution – e.
g. Azure Data Lake
Business LayerClassical
deployed on
desktop PCs
hosted on
employee’s PCs
Yes, for example
applications – e. g.
Microsoft Teams,
Microsoft Dynamics
Culture LayerNo actions
Regular updates
on sustainability
progress via
internal comms
Yes, for example
Chief Sustainability
Officer combined
with employee

In collaboration with us and Microsoft, a comprehensive description and roadmap for greater sustainability can then be created. The decisive factor hereby is the view of your company’s individual levels and technologies: on the one hand, we have to take digitization into account, and at the same time also include the sustainability aspect.

Designing Sustainability: Data Storage and Usage

Data and their use are already critical to today’s business success. While that is evident, it should be apparent to all those responsible as well that this is a continuing development. In the coming years and decades, there will be an ever-increasing focus on the processing and storage of corporate data. It is not for nothing that data is referred to as the ‘gold of the 21st century’. In the industrial sector for example, they form the core for far-reaching forecasts and serve the optimization of plants and machinery.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that data, its use and sensible storage as well as its retention are increasingly shifting into the focus of corporate IT’s attention. Since enterprise data is the basis for a multitude of business decisions and processes, their handling is something that cannot be neglected from an operational point of view alone. The relevance of data analysis will only further increase in the future due to new technologies such as artificial intelligence and ever-improving systems to process data and avoid data silos.

To illustrate the effects data handling can have on different carbon emissions, it can be worth it to have a look at diametrically opposed strategies:

On-PremiseCompany A
• On-premises data center is being used
• High storage capacity with only a small share that is actually
in usage – possibility to upscale in case of unexpected events
• Calculation based on long-term planning (5 years minimum)
• Policy for employees to store back-up data on their
end devices
• Occurance of data silos hinder the usage and analysis of
available data
• Enterprise applications are either outdated or rely on old data
• High energy costs for data center and corresponding software
CloudCompany B
• Entire data capacities have been migrated to the Azure Cloud
• Additional capacities in case of unexpected usage peaks
can be acquired anytime thanks to the flexible cloud
storage solution
• Cloud database has a sophisticated architecture
• Relevant data is easily usable and can also be utilised for all
sorts of applications
Due to the fact that Azure Cloud is carbon neutral, the only
carbon emission that Company B produces comes from the
internet and connectivity usage

It becomes clearly evident that the infrastructure decisions and the respective databases’ architecture have a decisive influence on both companies’ carbon emissions. Company A’s infrastructure and architecture corresponds to a thicket that only grew over the years without having been updated or adapted at all. This has resulted in extensive data silos. By contrast, Company B is an example of a coherent strategy: Through the cloud approach, they enabled intelligent data utilization and far-reaching flexibility with a view to future developments when migration processes may become necessary.

Company B’s successful and sustainable approach is based on various definitions that divide data into different categories. Based on these, service providers such as Devoteam can develop corresponding architectures that can lead to a high savings potential with Microsoft solutions.

  • Data archive: In every company, there is rarely used information that accumulates and has to be stored anyways, for either compliance reasons or possible future use. This data should be stored and handled the same way as the one used every day: Unless business transactions require it, or if corresponding data needs to be adapted or migrated for further processing or future use, access should not be possible. Accordingly, this type of data can be well stored as archived data in corresponding Microsoft Azure solutions such as the Azure Blob Storage. That way, any capacities of local data centers can be reduced, which is a good way to use the more climate-friendly services of Microsoft Azure.
  • Individual data used on a daily basis: Depending on the company type, there may be data which only plays a role for relevant employees that is not necessarily required for applications. Storing such data in the cloud can lead to wasted capacity and thus additional energy costs. Nevertheless, this data may become relevant for the company at some point in the future. Also, if the employees that are responsible for that very data leave, most likely certain parts of it will be lost. To prevent such setbacks, it can make sense to rely on an overall intelligent data management system. The keywords here are flexibility and adaptability with regard to the respective company’s and employee’s needs. Together with Devoteam and the Azure Data Catalog, companies are able to manage this data efficiently as well.
  • High-Performance Data: A lot of enterprise data is critical to a number of business processes. Whether it’s the success of the business’ day-to-day operations or for developing new applications, data plays a crucial role nowadays. In the modern work environment, this type of data must be globally accessible, so that employees and applications have flexible access to this type of data from anywhere at any point of time. It is not only the required high availability of this data that poses a problem for classic on-premises solutions. Quickly growing corresponding databases are difficult to implement for conventional data centers. Accordingly, a migration of this data towards the cloud makes perfect sense – also in alignment with a sustainable corporate strategy. In addition to the cloud approach, which already offers high availability, locationindependent access and scalability, solutions such as Azure Data Lake Storage can contribute to a better and more secure management of this very data.

63% of cloud innovators* are using Microsoft Azure

Most used workloads:

  • Analytics & data lakes (41%)
  • AI/ML (36%)
  • Databases (35%)

*Cloud users that are driving digital business transformation based on cloud. Source: 2021 Devoteam x IDC cloud benchmark survey.

It should be clear that by designing a smart architecture and infrastructure for corporate data use, considerable added value can be created. With the help of a well-thought-out cloud approach, previously untapped potential throughout the company can be exploited. Beside the many benefits of a farreaching digitization strategy, important impulses are set for sustainability on corporate level:

Instead of relying on energy-consuming data centers, the cloud approach to store data allows to reduce the energy budget significantly.

Designing Sustainability: Business Layer and Company Culture

The corporate level, consisting of the business and company layer, represents the most important lever for the sustainability strategy in terms of carbon emission reduction. This is in turn characterised by three different aspects: a sensible and sustainable device management, a corporate culture that promotes sustainability and creates positive incentives for employees and, last but not least, a business environment that is characterised by intelligent applications that help employees to behave more sustainably in their daily work.

With regard to device management, it can be clearly stated that companies should pay attention to keeping the equipment of employees as modern as necessary on the one hand, but on the other hand they must also make sure that end devices, such as laptops and smartphones, are used for as long as possible. An excellent example of this is the company mobile phone. If it is used for four years instead of three, this alone increases sustainability in the use of end devices by 25 per cent.

Considering the applications used in a company, employees as frequent users have the greatest point of contact and should hence perceive them as enriching and useful tools. If the applications do not meet the user’s expectations, it is possible that they resort to other solutions that do not necessarily align with the company’s sustainability strategy.

Solutions and applications that are already used by a large number of (remote) offices and hence have been tested extensively in practice are those offered by Microsoft. As an icing on the cake, the company is committed to a sustainable approach in its entire strategy. They pursue the smallest possible ecological footprint in both data processing and the use of their respective applications.

Particularly noteworthy and one of the best-known best-practice examples is Microsoft Teams. When the concept of remote work became globally necessary due to the pandemic, many companies discovered this communication platform for themselves. The tool became a crucial means of being able to work together in a concentrated and at the same time productive manner, regardless of the respective physical location. Microsoft Teams also goes far beyond the well-known chat and video call functions. By means of embedded applications and customizable functions, teams can also be organized in a decentralized manner and thus contribute to sustainability. Microsoft Viva places a strong focus on collaboration
and the user experience of employees.

Besides, Microsoft’s portfolio also offers appropriate tools and applications for the organization and collaboration of people outside the proper company. The tool Microsoft Dynamics 365 emphasizes which serves as a customer relationship management solution. It enables intelligent collaboration with customers, service providers and partners.

With regard to the corporate culture, it must be noted that decision-makers and those responsible throughout the organisational structure of the company must clarify that sustainability is one of the decisive topics for corporate management. On the one hand, this can be done through additional personnel resources within the company management – for example, embodied by a Chief Sustainability Officer. This shows clearly the relevance of sustainability for the company as a first step.

On the other hand, the CSO can use a top-down approach to shape a more sustainable company throughout all divisions and optimize for example decisive factors like data management, applications and device management. At the same time, low-level incentives must be created within the company for employees to work as sustainably as possible. Competitions, in-house influencers or internal communication channels can be used for this purpose.

Do you recognise yourself in any of these approaches? What about your device management? Do your employees use applications to avoid business trips and the like? How do you motivate your employees to work in an environment that is as sustainable as possible? We at Devoteam would be delighted to work with you on a battle plan to get sustainability to the top of your agenda in the shortest possible time – and at the same time enable your employees to be even more productive through intelligent applications and products.