Tech's looming battle against rising energy costs

Green is not enough: How IT can (and must) lead the energy-savings charge across the entire enterprise

IT's big opportunity: Lead the energy-savings charge

Focusing on managing the power consumption of the datacenter and IT functions misses the full opportunity, says Glen Hobbs, a technology advisor with PricewaterhouseCoopers. IT has a much bigger role to play in improving business sustainability and identifying cost savings by enabling different ways of doing business, he adds.

"To achieve a commercially realistic advantage, organizations should consider more than just computing device efficiency," Hobbs said. "IT's contribution to an organization's sustainability should not just look inward to the operation of the IT function but outward through the IT supply chain to the operation and use of technology across the whole business."

"The truth is, most companies use and waste as much energy outside the datacenter as inside," says Forrester's Mines. According to Forrester Research, IT is directly responsible for 5 to 50 percent of an organization's energy consumption, depending on the type of business. Gartner's research shows that IT accounts for a mere 2 percent of global carbon emissions, much of which comes from energy consumption.

"True, there is a lot IT can do to fix its own 2 percent and make it more efficient, but the big opportunity for IT is to take a leadership role in tackling that other 98 percent across the business," says Simon Mingay, a Gartner analyst.

"Reducing energy consumption really represents an opportunity for IT to change their relationships with the rest of the business," Mines says. "Now, IT can pull their chair up to the table of strategy making for the firm, becoming an enabler at a strategic level for the company."

There are several areas where IT can lead the charge, including applying energy-savings lessons from the datacenter to the entire corporate facilities, enabling effective telework and virtual meetings, and reducing the need for and helping to make more efficient physical product delivery.

However a company decides to address its energy costs, IT will be involved to a significant extent. Whether tackling the initiative on its own or partnering with departments such as facilities, real estate, and human resources, IT has an opportunity to improve the company's bottom line by helping decrease energy expenditures.

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Betsy Harter

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