How CIOs Can Use 'Butterfly Effect' To Green Up Their Act

The world is progressing at a fast pace and technology has a major role to play in this. As organisations find new ways of using IT to optimise and accelerate their businesses, they subconsciously move a step closer to depleting the environment.

Realisation is in the air, and efforts are on. Beginning July 2013, Microsoft will be carbon neutral across all their direct operations including DCs. Apple plans on moving to renewable energy to run its main US datacentre by year-end. Under its ‘Google Green’ initiative Google uses renewable energy to run over 30 percent of its operations. Most recently, eBay announced plans to build a DC powered by renewable energy fuel cells.

Your organisation may believe in environment conservation and reducing its carbon footprint as passionately as the pioneers cited above, but the big bucks are a stumbling block in the way.

Don’t lose heart if your organisation is not prepared for the big bang ‘Green IT’ change. All that your organisation needs is a ‘butterfly effect’, or simply making small changes that add up to a consequential difference.

“In chaos theory, the ‘butterfly effect’ is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before,” says the Wikipedia reference.

The famous ‘butterfly effect’ theory can be effectively applied by CIOs to their IT set-ups: smaller steps in the Green IT journey that cumulatively add up to a larger impact on the environment. With CIOs off late playing an active role in the overall environmental initiatives and not getting restricted to greening of the IT infrastructure alone, some of them are also applying this theory to non-IT environment initiatives within their organisations.

Setting Examples

We get some of the leading CIOs to share their own ‘butterfly effect’ stories as well as tips on how organisations can make this theory work for them.

Most of these examples and tips may sound obvious, and not the ‘big bang theory’ that sounds exciting to hear about. But, don’t forget, sometimes the smallest of things fail to catch our attention. Just because they don’t stand out as important, doesn’t mean the butterfly effect won’t apply to them. And, that’s the biggest lesson and holds the key to effective implementation of this theory.

Additionally, CIOs need to ensure that even the smallest measures, including those listed below, should be included as a part of the company’s environment policy.

Hilal Khan, Head – Corporate IT, Honda Motor India

  • The central air conditioner is automatically switched off after the working hours shift is over.
  • The printers are set to print in duplex mode.
  • Previously used printer paper is re-used.
  • The company maintains a record of how much and how it contributes to an increasing carbon foot-print, and shares this data with employees in order to create awareness among them.


SR Balasubramaniam, Independent Consultant, and formerly CIO of Honda MotoCorp and Godfrey Philips

(Shares initiatives undertaken during his tenure as a CIO with various organisations.)

  • Time-bound PCs set to go on blink mode after 10 min of no usage.
  • Centralised printing system implemented and all individual printers done away with.
  • Hired an outside agency to dispose off e-waste. All employees were requested to collect their e-waste instead of throwing them away, which was later collected by the agency and disposed off in an environment friendly way.
  • Old PCs within the office were not thrown away, and were instead given away to poor schools, so that their life was extended.

Jayantha Prabhu, CTO, Essar Group

  • Outsourced its printers to the vendor and implemented software for managing the printers which have delivered the following benefits from an eco-friendly perspective:

- Power Optimisation: With central control have set policies on the printers to put them in an inactive mode when not used.

- Paper reduction by secure printing: The user goes to the printer and flashes his/her ID after which the printer prints the requests. Thereby, ensuring that all prints are accounted for and paper wastage due to accidental printing is avoided. The company has also set deletion of all prints on printer which are not collected for more than 24 hrs.

  • Replaced 400 CRT monitors at Vadinar and 250 CRT monitors in Hazira with power efficient TFT monitors. A typical 15" CRT monitor consumes about 100W of power whereas a corresponding TFT monitor would only consume 30W of power. Besides being more power efficient than CRT monitors, the TFT monitors are also eco-friendly in comparison with regards to waste disposal.

  • Planned for replacement of old comfort AC units in Mahalaxmi datacentre with PAC units to save energy consumption by utilising the advanced power saving features of the PAC units.

Sachin Jain, CIO, Evalueserve

  • Company-wide Evalueserve has implemented a policy to hibernate PCs if they are idle for over 30 minutes.
  • Replaced almost 1300 old CRT monitors with low power LED monitors to save energy.
  • Reduced its paper consumption by over 50% by implementing secure and forced duplex printing.

Arun Gupta, CIO, Cipla

  • In the process of strategising towards transitioning the company’s large travelling field force from laptops to newer devices like tablets. Gupta believes that this step will have a significant impact considering that a like-to-like comparison will clearly demonstrate the benefit that tablets offer over the laptops across all parameters, including energy. Tablets are reportedly designed for efficiency because of the low power requirements of their hardware components.

Some CIO Tips

Ganesh Ramamoorthy, Research Director, Gartner
lists down some tips for the CIOs that put the butterfly effect theory to good use:

  • Recognise internally that PC power consumption contributes to your organisation's office expenses. Also recognise that the greatest savings come from employing built-in power management features, and not just from switching off and unplugging PCs.
  • Basic power management features are available for free on most PCs and in client operating systems. PC configuration management suites increasingly include power management capabilities. Third-party power management point solutions provide further capabilities.
  • Monitor type and the use of appropriate timeout settings and brightness settings are the major factors affecting power consumption and energy costs in an organisation — costs that often are not obvious.
  • The biggest impact on power consumption with monitors is to ensure that a timeout is specified to shift them to standby mode "after hours." There is little to be gained by changing the timeout value from the standard 20-minute setting to something shorter. Some organisations may opt for slightly shorter or longer settings to match user work patterns, but there will be little impact on power use.
  • Switching from CRT monitors to LCD monitors will have a significant impact on power use. LCD monitors are almost twice as power-efficient as CRT monitors. Although the savings will not justify the cost of replacing working monitors, they do mitigate some of the cost difference between CRT monitors and LCD monitors when new monitors need to be purchased. Therefore, replace all installed CRT monitors with LCD monitors at end of life. However, energy savings will not be enough to justify the move. Even so, it is strongly recommended that LCD monitors be used for their improved ergonomics, longer life, lower shipping costs and reduced disposal concerns.
  • Companies should discourage the use of active screen savers or other tools that might prevent monitors from shifting into standby mode when not in use. If a screen saver is used for security reasons, then use a simple blank screen saver (with a required password), and align its timeout with that of the monitor.

V. Subramaniam, CIO, OTIS, further adds some energy saving suggestions for CIOs for the datacentre and the workspace:

  • Switch off lights in the datacentre and keeping it bare minimum
  • Fine tune existing datacentre (if not complied to green) to implement some basic hygiene factors which can help save energy consumption, like moving to energy saving lights, energy saving monitors, one monitor shared among servers, etc.
  • While not in use, put the PC to sleep mode
  • Before going home each employee needs to ensure complete power off of PC and printers
  • Minimise colour printers
  • Create awareness among employees to print and copy only what is necessary

Some Additional Tips:

  • Make double-sided copies
  • Proof documents on screen
  • Store information electronically versus paper files or manuals
  • Use e-mail for memos, meeting notes, announcements, etc.
  • Re-use folders, routing envelopes, etc.
  • Recycle or re-use waste paper
  • Remove your name from unwanted mailing lists

So, CIOs…start flapping your wings now and wait for the hurricane to follow soon.