Sustainable Information Technology

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.