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.

How to Build the Green IT Business Case

Is there a difference between a Green IT business case and a conventional one? And if so, what are the key factors in making a successful case for investment in a Green IT initiative?

Conventional business cases define the benefits of carrying out some kind of change. Typically, these changes are in-line with the organisation’s overall strategy that is already in place. Business cases in themselves don’t challenge the strategy – or if they do, they are usually rejected on exactly those grounds.

What makes the Green IT business case different is that it may not fit within the current strategy. In fact, it could represent a radical departure from it, especially if the organisation doesn’t already have a CSR policy and CSR initiatives. The Green IT business case in itself can be a catalyst for change – a transformational tactic in its own right. Why? Because ‘triple bottom line’ accounting comes into play.

Triple Bottom Line Accounting

Triple bottom line accounting is the practice of taking three different kinds of benefits into consideration – planet, people and profit – rather than just financial gain.

Green footprintBe prepared to change the way that things have always been done if your organisation does not currently take the triple bottom line approach. There are other considerations than profit and this will be the most difficult part of the Green IT business case to sell. This is why we’ve previously discussed winning hearts and minds and aligning with CSR. If CSR is already in place, it will be easier to gain acceptance for the Green IT initiative. If not, prepare to do battle for hearts and minds.

Green IT Business Case Basics

Just because we are departing from the conventional, it doesn’t mean that the normal rules of business don’t apply. I would say that we have to be even more careful than normal to construct a rigorous and financially sound case. Here are the basics:

  • Define the business goals clearly. It isn’t enough to say that you want to improve  the reputation of the organisation (although that is an important consideration). Be specific about what  you are trying to achieve in terms of people, planet and profits. Refer to the Green IT life cycle and show how each of its stages is a clear opportunity to improve the organisationGreen footprint
  • Analyse costs. What is the current situation in terms of costs of delivering IT, including energy costs? This is about understanding exactly where we are today. Describe the costs of doing nothing, which may be financial, reputational or relate to competitiveness. Consider all of the same areas that you would when analysing benefits (see below)Green footprint
  • Develop KPIs. In order to be convincing, there must be a clear way to measure today’s situation and compare against the way things are when Green IT is implemented. You have to know what these measures are now, upfront. Designing Green IT measures is non-trivial. For example, in the data centre, will you use PUE or CUE, or both? Ensure that the KPIs cover all areas of the Green IT life cycle so that you consider manufacture, procurement, use and disposal.
  • Analyse benefits. What will the future situation be? Use the KPIs you have defined to make this clear. This is also where to specify the very factors that make the Green IT business case different to conventional organisational changes. So you will want to explain all benefits of the Green Initiative, both tangible and intangible…

  • Directly attributable financial savings at every step in the Green IT life cycle
  • Higher profits and shareholder value
  • Sustainability as a core value
  • Higher staff morale as associates and executives take the initiatives to heart and see them as benefiting not just profits, but people and the planet
  • More enthusiasm for innovative working practices including a ‘war on waste’, social and community engagement, and personal responsibility for reducing the carbon footprint
  • Improved reputation and customer acquisition and retention
  • A genuine reason to engage with social media channels to improve brand perception
  • Improved use of IT to enable non-IT initiatives
  • Improved use of IT to monitor and control energy consumption

Any thoughts on how to build the Green IT business case? Let us know!

How to Align Green IT with CSR

In part two of our guide to implementing Green IT in a large or medium sized organisation, we look at aligning with CSR before the Green IT project is even approved or started.

Managers responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility should be among the staunchest supporters of the Green IT initiative. If any elements of the proposed Green IT changes don’t fit in with CSR policy or the overall vision for CSR in your organisation, you’ll be involved in an uphill struggle from the start.

Foundations of Your Green IT Initiative

Getting the Green IT project off on the right foot involves three related activities:

Why align Green IT with CSR?

Communicate Green IT vision to CSR

Communicate Green IT vision to CSR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Green IT is not just a technical issue of moving to virtualised server environments or wider use of SaaS models. If that is all you are trying to do, and the benefits of the project are mostly financial and technical, then normal governance structures should suffice. If the CSR policy is effectively managed, it will be deeply embedded in the Change Governance models of your organisation already.

In other words, when your virtualisation-type project is being approved, there will be a challenge from CSR to ensure compliance with their standards.

However, this is not what true Green IT is about. Your project should be taking into account the complete Green IT life cycle including manufacture, procurement, use and disposal of IT technologies and services.

You’ll be concerned not just with usage emissions, but with the bigger picture of embedded emissions. You’ll also need to communicate your efforts internally and externally, and the CSR policy may have its own approach to how communication should be coordinated and carried out.

How to Align Green IT with CSR

You will need to align with both the CSR policy and the people who created and manage it day to day. Formal alignment with the policy itself is probably the easiest of these activities. Obviously, a deep knowledge and understanding of any written CSR policies is essential. Here are the specifics to look out for:

  • The policy will probably have internal and external elements. Make sure that your Green IT plans don’t seriously contravene either of these
  • For example, external elements might involve endorsing a government approach to waste disposal. The way in which you are proposing IT equipment is disposed of or recycled will have to comply with or exceed expectations
  • As already mentioned, internal elements will most likely involve a communication plan.  You may need to fight your corner in terms of controlling your Green IT communications, but in the end you will want to be seen by all stakeholders as being an integral part of the organisation’s CSR efforts

Be a CSR People Person

The more skilful and subtle part of aligning with CSR involves gaining the support of the people involved. The general approach to ‘how to win hearts and minds’ was covered in Part 1. More specifically:
  • Make it clear that you have taken the time to understand Corporate Social Responsibility policies
  • Get up to speed with current CSR initiatives, and use IT and your own influence to support them where you can
  • Explain clearly how Green IT doesn’t just comply with CSR, but advances its agenda
  • Outline any areas of concern early, and find a constructive way forward

In Part Three, we’ll look at Creating a Rock Solid Business Case for Green IT.

Go to Part One – Green IT Plan: How to Win Hearts and Minds

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Green IT Plan: How to Win Hearts and Minds

Implementing Green IT in a large or medium-sized enterprise can seem daunting. In this first of a series of posts I want to describe exactly what steps to take. When we’re done, you will have an actionable plan that is practical and proven, and will help you to turn Green IT into a reality in your organisation.

Green IT: Build on Firm Foundations

First, we have to do the groundwork. Building the right foundations for Green IT itself breaks down into three separate inter-connected areas:

In the rest of this post we’ll focuse on how to win the hearts and minds of the most important stakeholders. These are the people whose say-so will determine whether and how you get to implement Green IT in your organisation.

The stakeholders you will be influencing will want to know about the bottom line in detail, and particularly the tangible financial upside. You’ll provide those details in the business case.

Winning hearts and minds is about getting agreement – and more importantly, enthusiastic support – for the principle of Green IT implementation. There are general points to remember about winning support, and there are Green IT-specific items. Let’s deal generally with how to win the support of your CEO, board or other stakeholders, first.

How to Make Green IT Friends and Influence People

  • Do some fundamental thinking – how will Green IT benefit your organisation? Without answering this, arguments based upon how Green IT can benefit the environment are likely to get nowhere.
  • How do your stakeholders see the world? Look through their eyes, and tailor your arguments accordingly. If the stakeholder is concerned primarily about staff satisfaction, your argument should show how Green IT initiatives can hep to galvanise and motivate staff to ‘do something bigger’ than the normal confines of their job roles. If your stakeholder is all about cutting costs, focus on that.
  • Choose how to present your information. I remember trying to convince my boss of the benefits of a particular approach to managing IT infrastructure. It didn’t seem to matter what I said, she wouldn’t budge. Then someone came along and showed her a nice, colourful picture – and everything changed. I had been giving her facts and figures in writing and with the spoken word (my preferred ways to take in information) while she had been processing the world visually.

I cannot over-emphasise how important it is to match your means of expression to the way your stakeholders process information. Big and bright is usually a good rule, even when convincing the most intelligent people. As a piece of inspiration in this area, take a look at how this amazing Nobel prize winner presents statistics…

  • Make your arguments live and breathe. Script writers and novelists always advise -”show – don’t tell”. It’s better to take stakeholders to see a successful company who have ‘gone green’. It’s better to show them positive publicity for Green IT initiatives than to just tell them about it. It’s better to have your CEO feel the high temperatures in your Data Centre aisles, than just to put the figures in a spreadsheet.
  • Mobilise supporters. Enlist the people who are already on your side. Make sure they have the facts straight, know the business benefits, then get them to evangelise Green IT.
  •  Identify opponents and turn them into supporters. Use the the techniques above.

So Exactly Why Should Your Organisation Plan and Implement Green IT?

General influencing techniques won’t get you far without a solid understanding of the benefits of Green IT for your organisation. You need to get these benefits across powerfully:

  • Financial savings (which will be explained in more detail in the business case) from items such as lower energy costs, more effective procurement policies, longer equipment life, rationalised Data Centres, more efficient processes etc
  • The cost of doing nothing
  • The benefit to the environment
  • The positive publicity for the organisation
  • The opportunity to engage with new groups of consumers or markets
  • The opportunity to galvanise staff and improve the culture of work
  • Peripheral benefits. Only you can know the details of what these might be, depending on your circumstances, but they might include…
    • better security
    • less reliance on a single vendor
    • less exposure to a single energy source

You also need to get across features of the plan. These are elements that will assure your stakeholders that a Green IT implementation will be delivered effectively and skilfully by people who know what they are doing, within time and cost constraints and with extra features that will magnify the benefits. You don’t need to go into these in detail at this point, but your stakeholders have to know they are in place.

Win hearts and minds to make the Green IT changes needed

Win hearts and minds to make the Green IT changes needed

  • Appropriate skills and expertise
  • A draft project plan that covers all the angles
  • Green IT process improvement methodology that will ensure that benefits are long-term and built into the culture of the organisation, rather than just a series of quick wins
  • A communication plan that maximises positive publicity for Green IT efforts both internally and externally, using Social Media where appropriate
  • Buy-in and support from CSR staff

Get these pieces in place and you will have built firm foundations for Green IT. In the next article, we’ll look at aligning with CSR in more detail.