Sustainable Information Technology

The Green IT Project Plan

Green IT Project PlanIn part four of our Green IT Implementation series, we look at the Green IT project plan, what it should cover, and how to deliver it successfully. Up to this point, you have won over hearts and minds for the project, aligned with CSR, and constructed the business case, which we’ll assume has been accepted.

When you crafted the business case you already had some clear ideas about the specifics of your Green IT project, and may have gone into some detail on key activities. If not, it’s highly unlikely that you were accurate about the level of investment needed to make Green IT a reality in your organisation! Now is the time to get into more detail about exactly what the Green IT project plan will deliver.

Not All Green IT Project Plans are Equal

Because each organisation is different and has varying resources, objectives, priorities and starting points, it’s not possible to generalise about the Green IT project plan beyond certain key features. However, there is a basic structure that every Green IT implementation should adhere to. It will be a relatively easy matter to fit your specific needs into the overall plan structure, so here it is, broken down into work-streams:

Green IT Project Plan: The Strategy Work-stream

Each of these points is worth an article in its own right, but for now let’s just establish the skeleton of the strategy:

  • Clarify and record the objectives and vision for Green IT
  • Establish what high-level measures will be used to monitor improvement
  • Describe how Green IT will become a BAU activity by the end of the project (HINT: embed in processes. See the process work-stream)
  • Publish the first draft of the Green IT policy. For example, what will be the rules governing procurement, supplier accreditation, energy monitoring and efficiency, and disposal of assets?

Green IT Project Plan: The Technology Work-stream

The technology work-stream will be highly dependent on factors specific to your situation. You will want to prioritise, work to a budget, do what is technically possible with the resources you have at hand, and of course deliver the services needed by your business. So what follows is a menu of possibilities. Each of these aspects of the Green IT project plan is capable of being  implemented in a way that helps Green IT objectives:

  • Benchmark current GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions and / or energy bills
  • Real-time data centre power-use monitoring and control
  • Real-time IT device power-use monitoring and control
  • Desk-top technology refresh (replace energy inefficient kit where appropriate)
  • Rationalise software (liberate server real-estate and the capital that is sunk in license overspend)
  • Rationalise servers (possibly through virtualisation)
  • Outsource appropriate applications, storage and infrastructure to cloud providers with proven Green credentials
  • Deploy Thin-client technology if appropriate
  • Rationalise Data centres
  • Switch to Green / clean energy sources (consider self-generation for data centres if you have the scale, or clean providers if you don’t)
  • IT enablement of other technologies. This is highly dependent upon your business, but there is massive scope for IT to enable other Green Technologies. For example, Marks and Spencer recently declared that it is carbon neutral, and one of its significant areas of sustainability improvement was refrigeration. Could refrigeration monitoring and management be an opportunity as we move into the era of the ‘internet of things’? Replace ‘refrigeration’ with the hot topics (and energy consumers) in your industry, and ensure these elements of the Green IT project plan are given sufficient leadership and drive, as they will need to be implemented with the help of non-IT operational departments.

Green IT Project Plan: The Process Work-stream

If the Green IT project plan is just a list of technology deployment activities, it’s not likely to be  successful in the long term. Green IT is as much about culture and behaviour as it is about techie wizardry, and it is changes in behaviour that will make it stick.

The trick is to turn fuzzy ideas about behaviour and culture into Business As Usual reality, which is where the process work-stream comes in. The right behaviours need to be embedded in processes at a very detailed level. Just to give one example of this, you might look at the IT Change Management process and decide that all appropriate changes need to be supported by a short statement on how the change supports or adheres to the Green IT Policy. For instance, if a server is being decommissioned, there would need to be a plan to dispose or re-use the asset in line with the policy.

Most service management tools can be configured so that work-flows are driven by conditional logic. In the above example, you could configure any change related to asset retirement to include a step that ensures sustainable disposal. In this way, the tools support the process but do not constrain it.

This example from Change Management needs to be followed right across the Green IT Life Cycle from Service Strategy through Design, Transition and Operation and all the processes along the way. This may seem like a difficult and drawn-out exercise, but in fact it is little more than common sense applied to the processes already in place. Look at processes to identify opportunities to carry out the Green IT policy. Where appropriate, change the process, apply appropriate KPIs or other measures, record the new process and train staff to follow it.

Here are some key activities for the Process Work-stream of the Green IT Project Plan:
  • Benchmark current process performance
  • Encourage staff to suggest how Green IT policies can be introduced
  • Ask staff how all waste and emissions can be reduced
  • Give feedback on and implement staff suggestions
  • Task process owners to identify where Green IT policies can be enforced for each process
  • Design appropriate KPIs and metrics
  • Train staff on new processes
  • Formalise processes (for example with flow diagrams or work instructions that are easily accessible)
  • Measure and advertise success brought about by process changes
  • Use supporting tools to ‘operationalise’ the process changes. An alternative approach is to have a separate tools work-stream. The shape and type of your IT organisation will determine which is the best approach

Green IT Project Plan: The People and Organisation Work-stream

  • Define roles and responsibilities for the duration of the project
  • Map the current organisation and reporting structure
  • Define new roles, teams and reporting structures in the post-project organisation if appropriate
  • Identify training needs for the new organisation – for example, depending on the size of the organisation there may be specialist roles  such as Green IT Champion, Asset Disposals Manager, etc

Green IT Project Plan: The Management and Communication Work-stream

The management and communication work-stream is where you will build momentum for the project. Previously, you went about winning the hearts and minds of stakeholders who could say yes or no to the project itself. You still need to keep those people onside, but now it is time to win over stakeholders who will drive Green IT day in, day out.

Here are some suggested activities for this work-stream:

  • Produce a communications plan with three distinct phases
    • Launch – make it clear that Green IT is a key part of strategy. Describe objectives. Explain to staff where there are opportunities to get involved.
    • Progress – celebrate personal and corporate success and publicise progress towards objectives
    • Transition to BAU and Close – explain how Green IT will become part of BAU and what organisational changes will be made to ensure success
  • Internal ICT Communications – establish regular briefings that are cascaded through local team meetings
  • External Communications – regularly brief external stakeholders such as non-IT staff, suppliers and customers
  • Each team should have a local champion for Green IT so that efforts to reduce emissions and waste are driven deep into the organisation
  • In all communications, make it clear that the Green IT project plan is only a means to an end and that it is the responsibility of all staff to make sure emissions and waste are reduced
In each of these activities, staff, suppliers and customers should be encouraged to participate. The effects of a well run Green IT Project Plan can extend to improving staff morale and teamwork, as people come to believe that they are engaged in something that benefits not just the organisation, but the environment and community.

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