Users drive IT into the Green Age

Green IT solutions must fit the needs of the user to be a success

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Users drive IT into the Green Age IT departments and decision makers need to listen to users' needs around green IT, says Reina. (ITP images)
By  Lionel Reina Published  November 11, 2010

While it is really important to develop new technologies that can reduce our dependence on carbon-based fuels, we must also remember the responsibility of every company and citizen to reduce their own carbon footprints through energy efficiency and avoiding unnecessary travel.

An increasing number of companies have a strategic plan to reduce their carbon emissions, and execute this in all areas of their business activity (IT, logistics, production, supply chain, facilities and so on) and this is being driven by a number of internal and external factors including new regulations and increasing pressure from environmentally aware end-users and employees who now expect companies to behave in a socially responsible fashion.

Yes, the IT department may implement these ‘green’ processes but it is users across the organization who will be using the technologies, and other departments must participate to ensure the benefits are gained. We don’t have hard numbers at this stage but these green technologies are of growing interest to our customers across the globe.

Of course, senior managers are also recognizing both the strategic risk and potential opportunities that climate change poses to the business and its reputation and the wider economy; they are eager to develop policy and be catalysts for change. CxOs must make sure they are engaged in the sustainability debate at the highest level and demonstrate the business value of green IT technologies to gain corporate commitment to investment. CxOs have the knowledge and capability to bring the environmental agenda to the attention of the wider business, and they have the capacity to persuade peers of the strategic risks and opportunities that environmental issues present

Critically, CxOs need to avoid any disconnect between the strategists at the top of the organization and the IT department, focused on the day-to-day concerns of keeping systems running and saving money. IT professionals want to engage in the sustainability debate and they must force their way to the table.

And they must all listen to the IT users.

Telepresence has been one of our strongest green solution sets, because of the real reductions in travel costs it delivers and the demonstrable reduction in carbon emissions. This, combined with the increased productivity companies experience when their workforce has to travel less, builds a compelling business case. Most of our customers are enjoying an ROI within 9 to 12 months of deployment.

Telepresence and collaboration tools, such as ‘Business Together’, allow for flexible working through virtual meetings and remote collaboration tools which, in turn, can mean a significant reduction in air and road travel costs (typically 20-30%). Telepresence delivers rapid pay-back and productivity gains while reducing travel costs, saving time and avoiding important amounts of CO2 emissions, ranging from tens of kg to several tons of C02 avoided, dependent upon travelling distances Zurich Financial Services and Single Buoy Moorings are recent examples of our customers doing exactly that.

Unified Communications and collaborative technologies naturally follow the implementation of a Telepresence solution and it enables more people to work in a dispersed environment, for instance at home. Fewer journeys for face-to-face meetings means lower carbon emissions.

Through a single interface, users can access their mailbox, view voice messages as emails, read faxes, make Voice over IP (VoIP) calls, and access their contacts and calendar.  They can also communicate in real time through audio, video and web conferencing or instant messaging.  In addition, they can manage and share documents and calendars, using Microsoft's SharePoint. An encrypted link to their mailbox gives them access to powerful search functions.

We can’t talk about actual figures but we can state that this budget allocation for green IT solutions is clearly an increasingly key concern for companies. One trend we are seeing is towards the appointment of ‘sustainability officers’ by a number of our customers, a clear sign that they are taking the issue seriously.

Orange Business Services’ own employees use collaboration, teleconferencing and telepresence wherever possible and we have a travel policy across the company which states that employees travel to meetings only when absolutely necessary. Audio and video conferencing introduced across the group led to an estimated 1.2 million business trips avoided in 2006, 1.7 million in 2007 and 3 million in 2008.  Based on an average trip of 100km, this resulted in a reduction of more than 50,000 tons of CO2 in 2008 alone. In addition, the use of telepresence applications across the Group means many long-haul flights were avoided, further reducing CO2 emissions.

We have also already taken great steps to reduce our energy consumption with ambitious targets of reducing emissions from travel in 2020 by 20% by utilizing collaboration and mobility solutions such as Telepresence, Business Everywhere and M2M; reducing data center energy consumption by 50% by 2020 through consolidation, virtualization and innovative cooling; and reducing energy consumption by 20% in buildings by using centralized building management systems.

Lionel Reina is VP EEMEA, Orange Business Services

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