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With Netflix’s mission to “entertain the world”, the company culture has a deep-rooted effect on how they manage SaaS. But how do you balance tool autonomy with cost-saving initiatives? In this episode, IT Asset Program Manager Lindsay Stokes sheds light on Netflix’s Freedom & Responsibility approach and how they’re addressing the abundant cost-saving opportunities at their fingertips today – and long-term.
We all have a binge-worthy show (or two!) that we just can’t live without. When it comes to Netflix, their unconventional approach to tooling is key to enabling employees to make this great content.
“With Netflix’s mission to entertain the world, we don’t like the idea of putting guardrails preventing any employees from creating great content because they don’t have the software they need to do their job,” said ITAM leader Lindsay Stokes.
But it doesn’t come without its challenges – from applications sprawling across the organization and limited visibility to ensuring Netflix’s data is protected.
Building the SAM program from the ground up, Lindsay knew they needed a tool to better manage their SaaS estate. Now with a tool in place, “complete visibility is our North Star,” said Stokes. “We want to continue uncovering what’s out there in the environment.”
Name: Lindsay Stokes
What she does: IT Asset Program Manager at Netflix
Connect with Lindsay online: LinkedIn
Homegrown Tools Just Don’t Cut It When It Comes to Managing SaaS
“Most companies can’t afford to wait for a tool to be built to have all the features…. You’d have to wait years to get even part of the ROI of building it internally. And honestly, at Netflix we kind of had the same situation, where we didn’t even really have the resources to perform a lot of those tasks manually while waiting on a tool to be built. Also, I think a lot of companies can relate. You need data to help inform decision-making like yesterday. So waiting for that is really difficult, especially when you need that visibility as soon as possible.”
Netflix Is Faced with SaaS Sprawl and Visibility Challenges, Just Like Everyone Else
“At Netflix we have what’s called Freedom & Responsibility. A user can have the tools that they need to do their job, but the expectation is that we all do this responsibly. And with Netflix’s mission to entertain the world, we don’t like the idea of putting guardrails preventing any employees from creating great content because they don’t have the software they need to do their job. So you can imagine, with this model, the SaaS sprawl. And me, in my experience, I just knew it was going to be quite large. I think that everybody at Netflix, maybe because that data wasn’t visible, they weren’t entirely sure how big, and I think that folks assumed that the responsibility part was happening on a regular basis. But as we in the industry know, that’s not always the case in understanding what their responsibility is. Because what you don’t know, you don’t know, and there’s a lot involved with bringing new tools into the environment. So, yeah. That moment, I knew we needed visibility first. I mean, how could we make informed decisions about what’s best for Netflix without data to tell the story?”
Reducing Waste Is a Key Opportunity for IT Asset Management
“The first thing on my mind is, ‘How are we effectively managing this? Are there reclamation opportunities? Are there a lot of waste, and opportunities to reclaim all those?’ The other big one is right-sizing our investments. Because if you’re growing the SaaS space based on your headcount year-over-year, that’s not really a good indication of if that is actually being used. It also leads to redundancy. We have a lot of different tools that do the same thing. And there’s a lot of tools out there that I think, by design, have a lot of features, and some do better than others in some areas. So, there’s always going to be that redundancy. Because again, with our model, folks want to use what works best for them, and that might not always be the same tool.”
Create a White-Glove Experience for Employees, Powered by Education
“We definitely have a lot of work to do and some big 2023 goals, and a lot of that even includes that user education. We want to offer a preferred list of software – we’re actually calling it Paved Road – really just to give users what I would say is a white-glove treatment when it comes to software so they don’t have to manage and maintain it. So we will have support from a renewal perspective. From maintaining all of the licenses, the reclamation opportunities, and all that. And that’s actually in hopes that folks would prefer to go that route rather than bringing in a lot of other obscure tools. We know that’s going to happen. I mean, there’s going to be use cases where folks have to go outside that Paved Road, but I think that’s part of the education process. If users have something they can choose from, and maybe if we offer this white-glove experience, they’re more likely to use those options.”
Being Proactive Makes Sourcing New SaaS Better for All
“If you are reactive in letting somebody know that, ‘Actually, this is a huge risk for the company, and we really want to recommend that we take another approach,’ sometimes those teams already have implemented it, and are using it, and it’s part of their process. And that’s so much more difficult to unwrap and redo than if you catch it from the beginning, and then they’re like, ” Oh, okay. Well, I need to explore other options early- on.” So I love how you said that, because that’s a real problem too, when you have that reactive approach. So that’s the goal, is to be more proactive for sure.”
ITAM is Instrumental in Managing Software Operating Expenses
“We always have a contributing role when it comes to OpEx with software. There’s just so many opportunities to… Like we’ve been talking about in this whole conversation, we want to showcase how we can help, for one, because now we have a lot of data to help inform what’s happening. So now that we have our tooling in place, we’re basically actioning on that, and we are trying to sunshine a lot of the opportunities where we can contribute to reducing that effect. So again, part of our 2023 strategy is really just bringing in a lot of the application owners, letting them know the opportunities, and helping them.”
Maturing Your SAM Practice Takes Time and Patience
“Nothing happens overnight in this space. That maturity takes time, and that also takes patience. There’s a lot involved, and a lot of stakeholders and stakeholders’ processes that you have to take into account. Especially when you’ve been building a program and a process, because SAM touches so many different things, and it’s the tracking of that whole lifecycle of going through all of these different teams. And just one of those things is, again, it just takes time. And there’s no one-size-fits-all either. So, it’s not a lift-and-shift of a process. You really have to take the time to understand the business needs.”
9:53 – “I do love ITAM. I feel like I finally found that passion in my work.”
15:01 – “If you’re growing the SaaS space based on your headcount year-over-year, that’s not really a good indication of if that is actually being used.”
18:43 – “Complete visibility is our North star.”
24:20 – “We always have a contributing role when it comes to OpEx with software.”
27:57 – “You really have to take the time to understand the business needs.”
Check out other episodes here, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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