Attention IT managers: If you're not thinking about the implications of your technology infrastructure to affect the sustainability strategy of your entire organization, you might be out of synch with executives higher up the food chain within your organization.
Market research firm Gartner suggests that sustainable business practices will be a top five priority for more than 60 percent of Western European and North America chief executive officers in the year to come. The concern isn't just about risk management or compliance, it is about spurring innovation, driving productivity and enabling the business to perform differently than in the past, according to Gartner.
Said Gartner Research Vice President Simon Mingay:
"Sustainability is no longer a ‘soft’ and tangential aspect to organization performance. A sustainable approach to business activities is generating tangible business benefits for organizations today, through a combination of operational efficiencies and market growth opportunities.”
The reason this is important to your IT organization is the following: increasingly, technology increasingly will be the means of monitoring and managing all the different sustainability metrics that concern businesses, such as how resources are being used, how waste is being handled, where energy prices are tracking, how much water the business has withdrawn, and what greenhouse gas emissions are being produced. Why else would companies like Oracle and SAP be talking about this category so publicly?
The other thing that businesses are seeking to manage more effectively: All the financial data and metrics that might aid the corporate sustainability cause, such as fluctuating electricity prices and peak demand events, utility company rebates and incentives, and the tax implications of certain courses of action (or inaction).
It's like the problem that IT departments were asked to solve over the past two decades with ERP systems, only magnified across a company's entire supply chain and across every resource bucket.
There absolutely still is an opportunity for IT teams to concentrate on energy efficiency and on responsible disposal of electronics gadgets and hardware, which has been the main thrust of most green IT programs. But if you haven't dedicated someone to thinking through how business intelligence and management applications can be applied holistically across your company's facilities portfolio and supply chain, you might be out of step with senior management.
The Gartner declaration echoes those of Forrester, which has been covering this shift closely over the past year. If your organization manages IT budgets on the calendar year, this is probably a good time to reflect on how this shift will affect your spending plans in 2012.