Sustainability Doesn't Sell ... Or Does It?

Chris Mines
Let me start off this post on a downbeat note: Improving sustainability is not a high priority for companies, according to data from the recent Forrester survey of business decision-makers. The survey, part of Forrester's Forrsights research, was fielded to 2,600 executives with budget authority at companies in Europe, North America, and Asia during the fourth quarter of 2010.

When we asked these corporate decision-makers about their company's top business priorities, revenue growth was #1, customer retention #2, and cost-cutting #3 (see Figure 1 below). Improving the corporate sustainability posture? Oops, it's down at #10, with just 10% of respondents indicating that sustainability is one of their firm's high priorities for 2011. When we cut those numbers by industry grouping, utilities/telecoms and public sector/healthcare are highest, with 15% prioritizing sustainability, compared with a low of just 7% in financial services.

Now, I'd like to contrast that eye-opening data with a much more optimistic set of figures from our recent research about the growth of sustainability consulting services. My colleague Daniel Krauss and I have worked with many of the large consultancies over the past few years and seen their sustainability practices grow from practically nothing to very substantial businesses.

Among 21 consulting firms that we surveyed late last year, 17 have a dedicated sustainability practice, and five of those count more than 1,000 practitioners (see Figure 2).

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Is Disposing Of, Reselling, Or Recycling End-Of-Life IT Equipment Really Strategic To You?

Doug Washburn

Yesterday, I participated in one of the regular content planning sessions for us analysts on Forrester’s IT Infrastructure & Operation’s Research team. Similar to investment managers and their portfolio of stocks or bonds, we spent time making buy/hold/sell decisions on what we will research more, continue to research, or stop researching. Among the many criteria we use to make these decisions, like client readership, inquiries, or consulting, the strategic relevancy to IT is an important factor to consider. And there was some heated debate around research themes we may phase out down the road…

Enter the discussion on IT asset disposition – or the process of reselling, donating, or recycling end-of-life IT equipment. While every organization eventually has to dispose of its end-of-life IT equipment, it’s long been an afterthought. And the data backs this up. Forrester finds that 80% of organizations globally use their OEM, third parties or a combination of the two for IT asset disposition. But when asked how important IT asset disposition is relative to other IT asset management processes, it’s far and away the least important. As an indicator of this, I recently surveyed over 300 European IT professionals where 77% of respondents ranked IT asset disposition “less important” or “least important.”

This begs the question, is disposing of end-of-life IT equipment really strategic?

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How GlaxoSmithKline Empowered IT Staff To Save ~$1 Million In PC Energy Costs

Doug Washburn

I recently recorded a podcast with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the global pharmaceutical company, and their success story of implementing a PC power management initiative that is expected to cut energy costs by ~$1 million per year. While these savings alone should impress any IT executive – especially IT infrastructure and operations professionals who manage PCs – what I found so unique about their story came through my conversation with Matt Bartow, business analyst in GSK’s research and development IT organization, who led this initiative. In particular, GSK is a great example of how “empowering” staff to innovate can industrialize IT operations leading to significant cost savings and green IT benefits.

GSK’s success with PC power management is an outcome of the inspired management style advocated in Forrester’s upcoming book, Empowered. By proactively calling on their employees to spur innovation, GSK tapped into one of their greatest inventive resources – staff, like Matt Bartow, who Forrester would consider a highly empowered and resourceful operative (HERO). But as Empowered explains, HEROes can’t succeed without support from management. By initiating the innovation challenge, GSK’s IT leadership not only identified HEROes in their organization but sourced innovative ideas at the same time. From there, the use of social media technology – in this case, using a wiki-type website with voting capabilities – made it simple for GSK staff to participate while giving them a “say” in the selection process.

So how exactly did PC power management become an IT priority at GSK?

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Is Google Powering Its Data Centers With Wind? No, And 2010 Won't Be The Breakthrough Year For Clean Energy In The DC Either

Doug Washburn

As green IT plans persist through 2010, I'm starting to receive questions from IT infrastructure and operations professionals — particularly data center managers — about the use of cleaner energy sources (e.g. wind, solar, fuel cells, hydro) to power their data center facilities. So when Google recently announced its purchase of 114 megawatts of wind power capacity for the next 20 years from a wind farm in Iowa, I got excited, hopeful of a credible example I could refer to.

But as it turns out, Google will not be using this wind energy to power its data centers. . . yet. Despite Google stating that the wind capacity is enough to power several data centers, their Senior Vice President of Operations, Urs Hoelzle, explains that, "We cannot use this energy directly, so we're reselling it back to the grid in the regional spot market." I confirmed this in electronic conversations with two other industry insiders, Martin LaMonica (CNET News) and Lora Kolodny (GreenTech), who also covered the announcement.

And it's unfortunate since Google's $600 million data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa could likely benefit from the greener, and possibly cheaper, wind energy. But Iowa is a large state and it's likely that distribution of the wind energy is an issue since the Council Bluffs data center appears to be well over a 100 miles away from their wind farms several counties away.

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What BigFix Adds To IBM’s Portfolio Of Green IT Products And Services

Doug Washburn

Today, IBM announced its acquisition of BigFix, an established client and security management suite vendor. Beyond gaining BigFix’s core competencies in securing and managing client devices and servers, the acquisition adds PC power management* to IBM’s already broad portfolio of green IT products and services.

So why is PC power management important to IBM customers?

While IBM already offers its customers energy-efficient servers and their “Tivoli Monitoring for Energy Management” software for the data center, bigger opportunities for savings exist across distributed IT assets, like PCs, monitors, phones, and printers. In fact, Forrester finds that distributed IT assets consume 55% of IT’s total energy footprint versus only 45% in the data center. And the extent of these savings can add up. For example, BigFix cites a large US public school district with 80,000 PCs saving $2.1 million in annual energy costs (or $26 per PC per year) using BigFix’s Power Management software.

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Does Your CEO Care About Green IT? Not If You’re Stuck In The Data Center

Doug Washburn

To quote Forrester’s CEO and Founder, George Colony, during his keynote at Forrester’s IT Forum EMEA event: “CEOs only care about two things: revenue growth and profitability.” How should we interpret this? CEOs do care about green if it is able to drive revenues, reduce costs and mitigate risks — all of which are essential ingredients in delivering long-term profits and shareholder value.

Evidence is mounting around CEOs' rising interest in corporate sustainability initiatives. For example, the United Nations Global Compact-Accenture CEO Survey 2010 published in June finds that 54% of CEOs globally view sustainability as “very important” to the future success of their businesses. And the Economist Intelligence Unit backs this up by finding that companies that rated their green efforts most highly over the past three years "saw annual average profit increases of 16% and share price growth of 45%, whereas those that ranked themselves worst reported growth of 7% and 12% respectively."

So does your CEO care about green IT?

Not without some convincing. And here’s why: While your CEO might care about green, they may not necessarily care about IT. As an indicator of this, Forrester found that only 16% of the world’s largest companies mention green IT in their annual reports. And as a result, CEOs are most likely unaware of IT’s role in enabling their company's green ambitions. The good news, however, is that IT is playing an increasingly central role in planning and executing companywide green strategies which will lead to C-level visibility.

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The Evolution Of Green IT: A Forrester Video Series, Part 2

Doug Washburn

[Scroll down to view Forrester’s "The Evolution Of Green IT" video… don’t worry, it’s only ~6 minutes.]

As a quick recap, part one of this video series walked through how corporations and governments are using green strategies to achieve their financial and political ends. From there, I gave a handful of examples around how green IT is helping leading organizations — like Sprint, AT&T, and Tesco — save $20m, $12m, and achieve a 17% reduction in fuel consumption, respectively. 

So what can you expect in part two? In ~6:00 minutes, part two of this video series will discuss green IT's quickly expanding scope and approach. What do I mean by this? In short, green IT's scope is evolving beyond the data center into distributed IT and broader business operations. Forrester calls this the green IT 1.0 ("green for IT") and 2.0 ("IT for green") transition. Likewise, the approach to green IT is expanding beyond procuring more energy efficient equipment to also include software, services, people, and process. And the savings from these new approaches are impressive:

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The Evolution Of Green IT: A Forrester Video Series, Part 1

Doug Washburn

[Scroll down to view Forrester’s “The Evolution Of Green IT” video… don’t worry, it’s only 3:30 minutes.]

At Forrester, we’re always exploring new ways to connect with our clients and fit into their busy schedules. And as an analyst on Forrester’s IT Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) research team, I’m well aware of how time-pressed our clients can be. The I&O professional is oftentimes characterized as the “fire fighter” of the IT organization, dropping everything at any hour of the day to ensure their business’s critical IT infrastructure – from servers to PCs to mobile devices – is running without a hitch… and on-time and on-budget.

With that said, I’m particularly interested in “testing” out video to supplement my published research and my blogs on the Forrester.com website. To that end, below is part one of a two part video series on “The Evolution Of Green IT” – a topic I am increasingly receiving client inquiries on as organizations try to determine their green IT maturity and future trajectory.

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The Evolution Of Green IT: Key Takeaways For I&O Professionals From Interop Las Vegas 2010

Doug Washburn

The green IT track at Interop Las Vegas kicked off with a session from yours truly on “The Evolution Of Green IT: Projects That Cut Cost, Avoid Risk, And Grow Revenues” to help IT professionals plan for green IT’s current and future state, backed up with a number of real-life examples. Here are the key takeaways that I&O professionals should pay attention to:

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Introducing Forrester’s Hot Air Index: How IT Blowhards Are Offsetting Green IT Gains One Breath At A Time

Doug Washburn

Consider the following: AT&T expects to save $12 million per year and 123,000 tons of carbon emissions per year using 1E's PC power management software to turn off PCs at night. By turning up the temperature in the data center from 69°F to 74°F, KPMG realized a 12.7% reduction in cooling energy usage. And Citigroup expects to save $11 million and 3,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually by simply enabling duplex settings on printers and copiers.

How are they achieving this? Green IT. Even in the face of a weak economy, Green IT is on the rise with approximately 50% of organizations globally enacting or creating a green IT strategy plan. And don't be fooled: green IT is as much about the greenbacks as it is about reducing the environmental impact of operating IT and the business. In fact, financial motivation — not environmental motivation — is the driving force behind the pursuit of greener IT (see Forrester’s “Q&A: The Economics Of Green IT”).

But despite the optimism, IT “blowhards” across the globe are negating the carbon reduction benefits of green IT one breath at a time. While virtualizing servers or powering down your PCs will reduce energy spend and CO2 emissions, Forrester finds that these jabber mouths — speaking fast, loud, and out of turn using unnecessarily wordy vocabulary — are creating a zero sum game.

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