Green IT: Great intentions, no budget

Why doesn't this surprise me? Forrester Research is reporting that barely one-quarter of all businesses have any kind of budget for what would be considered green IT activities, even though 45 percent are embracing a strategy related to green IT and another third are considering it.

Why doesn't this surprise me? Forrester Research is reporting that barely one-quarter of all businesses have any kind of budget for what would be considered green IT activities, even though 45 percent are embracing a strategy related to green IT and another third are considering it.

As I reported about two weeks ago, Forrester's regular surveys on green IT issues find that there are certain pockets of support for things that you would classify under the green IT umbrella. For example, businesses are really interested in extending their enterprise software applications so that they can keep better track of their carbon footprint or so that they manage their energy usage. Purchases or intended purchases of these applications have risen as a result. They also are including green features and technology considerations as part of their corporate procurement strategy.

The new report, "Green IT Plans and Activities Persist in 2010 Despite Lack of Formal Budgets and Priorities," suggests that CIOs and IT managers keep in mind the role that green IT strategies are irrevocably linked to other key priorities, such as server virtualization and consolidation. So, even though there typically isn't a separate line item for green IT in your budget, green IT considerations could play a role in your ability to get the buy-in or sign-off for other projects. The latest report is based on Forrester's survey of 2,803 enterprises and small businesses in the second quarter.

Here's an example of what Forrester is talking about in the report: only 21 percent of IT budgets include electricity costs, but 60 percent of IT organizations are focused on improving data center energy efficiency. So, even though the strategy makes sense in the larger scheme of things, the IT side of the house might find it hard to become empowered to take action. (Pun intended.)

According to Forrester's separate green IT survey, IT professionals say that the biggest opportunities to bring green IT into the conversation surround server virtualization in the data center and printer consolidation in the distributed IT environment. Power management of client devices is also a big deal (not as much, so far, on the server hardware side).

The lead analyst on this report, Doug Washburn, has several recommendations for helping IT professionals create awareness for green IT within their IT budget. They include:

  1. Linking green IT projects -- such as videoconferencing or building automation -- to corporate financial returns.
  2. Showing how green IT, especially the ability to measure and manage energy or water usage, can help reduce overall operations costs.
  3. Demonstrating how green IT initiatives, even recycling or hardware refurbishment, can improve overall efficiency of technology infrastructure.

It's the middle of 2010, so it's highly likely you're in the process of playing the budgeting game for 2011. Doubtless your staff is on the line for some kind of green initiative. So have you figured out how to make green IT part of the line items?

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