'IT To Help Green Other Functions In Next Phase Of Evolution'

 'IT To Help Green Other Functions In Next Phase Of Evolution'Christopher Mine, SVP-Research, Forrester, discusses some of the most exciting trends in the green IT space in this one-on-one with Biztech2.

Is green IT just a buzzword?

We can say that 'green IT' is a buzzword that is happening! Companies already have a big set of activities within their organisation, which can be termed green, but a green IT plan helps to pull all these things together in a co-ordinated and prioritised way. It helps to improve environmental responsibility of the firm overall. It’s a buzzword that has big elements of reality.

Is cost a prime driving factor for green IT?

Cost reduction is the biggest motivator and an assured outcome companies expect from green IT. If there aren’t hard returns from making investments in greener IT systems, most companies won’t do it. There are some other reasons as well like regulatory pressures, brand building needs and shareholder requirements. These days, increasingly, customers also expect companies to be green, but all these are secondary factors. Cost reduction is the primary reason for which companies are pursuing green IT.

Will recession impact spending on green IT initiatives?

Recession is going to slow overall IT spending and hence, it is going to slow spending on green IT as well. This will especially impact capital-intensive initiatives like building new data centres, data centre consolidation and building automation.

Green strategy has passed the point of no return now. I think green is getting embedded into the way companies operate. So it is not going to stop or reverse; however, it may not go ahead quite as fast in a recessionary environment.

Is IT enough to drive green strategy?

We have observed that different companies adopt different approaches. In some cases, green IT is only about IT, efficiency, cost reduction etc. It’s not really a part of a broader corporate sustainability initiative. For many companies though, green IT starts at the top. They have the bigger brand and customer appeal in mind and hence, have to green a wide range of company operations where IT is one piece. In either case, IT can’t act in isolation, it has be paired with facilities, finance, marketing and HR.

Which technologies are most popular to accomplish the green mantra?

Probably, the most prevalent technology that companies are using to drive the green IT initiative is virtualisation of servers, storage, and network equipment. It helps to consolidate their hardware footprint and reduce energy consumption by almost 30 to 40 percent.

Power management is another important technology that helps to turn off IT systems when they are not in use. For around 50 years, companies have used IT systems that run 24/7. Now they have realised that this involves inefficient and wasteful use of energy resources. They are putting power management software in place to identify when systems are not being used and then simply turn them off.

What suggestions would you give to a CIO wishing to embark on the green path?

A CIO planning green IT initiatives has to focus on goals. He should keep the following questions in mind: What are we trying to accomplish? Are we aligning it with corporate goals or IT-specific goals? Are we looking at energy reduction, cost saving or carbon footprint reduction? Often, all of these are aligned.

A CIO also needs to take care of the trade-off, which the company might be making while adopting a green strategy. For example, is the company willing to trade off performance and equipment efficiency in order to get green outcomes? Thus, CIOs need to set definite goals, prioritise activities against those goals and then have systems in place to measure progress towards those goals. This is often a very tricky process for CIOs as they have to put different metrics in place for their policies, systems management software etc in order to track progress towards green IT.

Should the CIO be a single-point authority for green initiatives?

CIOs own IT so they have to own green IT as well. An interesting organisational challenge comes up when you look at greening not just the IT organisation but also the rest of the company. In that case, just the CIO cannot take the authority. However, the CIO has to be a critical catalyst or enabler for using IT to green other parts of the business like supply chain, manual processes etc.

Are customers favouring vendors, who fulfill the green criteria?

A recent Forrester survey shows that more than 50 percent of organisations are now imposing green criteria while evaluating and selecting IT equipment providers and suppliers. They are putting pressure on vendors to come up with greener, more efficient and recyclable products and services. Vendors in the IT industry will need to get ready for such demands.

What are the future trends you see in this space?

The next big leg of green IT is actually looking beyond the IT organisation and thinking about how IT can help the company green its other functions and processes and how IT can make the world in general a greener place. Thus, things like water facilities, smart electric grids, green transportation systems and other such public infrastructure projects are going to have innovative IT systems embedded into them. There is a big opportunity for IT vendors to be participants or players responsible for bringing IT into green infrastructure projects.

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Updated Date: May 04, 2009 17:00:20 IST