Green IT Success Is More Than Just Eco-Talk

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Green IT projects should benefit the whole company, not just its carbon footprint, says Peter Judge

A good Green IT project has to do more than just cut the carbon footprint. It should benefit the business as well.

In years past, organisations could put their green conscience first and pay what it cost to make a green gesture. There was public relations value in it, and a PR budget to pay for it. Now, the recession has put an end to greenwash – but that doesn’t mean and end to Green IT. In fact, in some cases, the recession is a spur to greater efforts.

All of which is just as well, because TechWeekEurope is looking for great Green IT projects for our Tech Success awards.

Green IT in troubled times

Some green projects aim to reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint by cutting the amount of energy used. Obviously, that also cuts the energy costs. So if the investment required is moderate, and the payback time is reasonably short, those green projects get a boost in tough times.

“Projects with a quick financial payback – a matter of months or within the financial year – can become more compelling,” said Emma Fryer, climate change programme director at Intellect, the technology industry trade association which is our partner on Tech Success.

Longer term projects can be trickier, though. But here, the recession can help, by changing the dynamics of the organisation.

Green IT has sometimes been locked in a ghetto, focussing on the narrow job of reducing the carbon footprint of the IT department, but eco-conscious ICT people have always wanted to take their expertise further, and use IT more widely to reduce the overall environmental impact of the company.

These kinds of “enabling green” projects have the potential to make big changes – but rigid departmental structures have always held them back.

For instance, video-conferencing can reduce a company’s travel, and thereby cut emissions. However, the cost of the video conference comes out of the IT budget, and the savings come back to other departments, so the project never gets signed off.

Breaking barriers

“In the past, IT would have to pay for a teleconferencing facility and travel/transport would reap the benefits,” said Fryer. “Despite a compelling business case if you looked at the organisation as a whole the IT department could not justify the cost because the accounting structures would not allow them to share the benefits.”

Tough economic times can change that. Other departments are so keen to cut their costs, they come to IT asking for enabling technologies – and willing to pay for them. “At long last the people in IT and the people in transport have to talk to each other,” said Fryer. “There is more pressure on silly structural barriers.”

Overall, a Green IT project needs the same things as any change management project. It has to have deliverables that can be measured, and which can be made permanent.

That won’t happen unless it comes from a genuine need, and is explained and communicated well to everyone involved – to get the all-important support of staff.

A great Green IT project will have impacts outside IT and will actually improve working life for people in the organisation. If you know of one like that, contact us and tell us more!

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