What New Skills and Relationships should IT Managers Acquire?

Thursday, July 23, 2009 |

By John Skinner
Alternate Board Member of Climate Savers Computing
Director of Eco-Technology Marketing at Intel Corporation


I was recently asked by an editor at Computerworld: in this “Green IT” era, what are the critical new areas of expertise and skills that IT managers must acquire? I thought to myself – IT professionals already have enough on their plate. But it got me thinking, what are the various resources that IT managers can tap into, who might become motivated to help them achieve their Green IT goals and who might ease some of the burden of research, funding and implementation? Specifically, which new partners can IT managers enlist to help them drive their initiatives around energy efficiency, energy cost savings and carbon-reduction?

One of the IT manager’s potential allies may be a relatively new one the scene. An increasing number of organizations have recently launched a tops-down, CEO-sponsored sustainability initiative. These actions may be motivated by a combination of factors: customer requirements, competitors, shareholder expectations, corporate reputation goals, existing or imminent government policies, etc. In response, many organizations have identified a “Sustainability Manager” to formulate corporate-wide goals, and to ensure they are met. Unbeknownst to many CEOs and their sustainability managers, the IT Department holds the key to some of the most immediate energy and carbon savings. For example, by activating and using power management technology that is largely already built into most computers, IT departments can cut the energy use of their desktop PC fleets almost in half. The IT Department would be wise to reach out to Sustainability Officers and related managers, comprehend the company’s carbon-reduction goals and offer to be one of the “heroes” who will help them (and the CEO) achieve those goals. If the sustainability officer has access to funding for projects and technologies that can deliver carbon-reduction, so much the better. It’s certainly worth asking if they do.

A second potential ally of the IT manager is the “Energy Procurement Manager.” In many organizations, the electricity bill for IT operations, such as data centers and PC networks, is never seen or paid by the IT Department, but rather by the “Facilities” Department. This Facilities Department, and the energy procurement manager, are always under pressure from the Chief Financial Officer to minimize energy expenses. They have also likely been enlisted recently by the new corporate sustainability manager (mentioned previously), to help reduce the environmental footprint of the company. As with the Sustainability Manager, the IT Manager would be wise to reach out to this Department, identify goals they have in common,and collaborate around reducing IT-related energy costs and carbon.

A third, but certainly not least, ally is the local electricity supplier, i.e. the local energy utility. While IT managers frequently interact with vendors of IT equipment and services, the Energy Procurement Manager interacts frequently with their local electricity supplier. In increasing numbers, and for a variety of motivations including environmental regulations and the availability of new government subsidies, utility companies are offering rebates and other support to large commercial customers, to help them implement energy-efficient IT solutions. Today’s IT Manager would be wise to research, perhaps with some help from their Energy Procurement Manager, the various incentives and other support that may be available from their local utility, for computer power-management activation, Energy Star computer purchases, etc.

These new relationships and collaborations may not be easy for every IT Manager to initiate, which is why Climate Savers Computing is trying to help. An important first step is to bring more utility companies to the table, to enlist them as partners in helping us all create a lower-carbon, more energy-efficient future for IT. As part of that effort, Climate Savers Computing and the US EPA are co-hosted an informational Webinar on July 21 specifically for utilities. The Webinar outlined the problem of IT-related energy waste, and discussed what role utilities can play in helping their customers eliminate this waste. If you’d like more information on this Webinar and other upcoming Webinars on this topic, click here.

I look forward to your comments, including any suggestion you have for actions that the Climate Savers Computing Initiative and others should be considering, as we move forward.

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