By assessing the entire implementation cost of IT services, including environmental ramifications, IT managers can ascertain clear opportunities to drive down overheads whilst meeting environmental targets, argues Rick Firth, managing director, Parity Training.

Despite a lack of explicit support for green issues, ITIL®'s inherent focus on delivering best value IT services enables IT managers to incorporate environmental costs and considerations into the decision making process.

As environmental strategies increasingly take centre stage, organisations are facing a difficult juggling act between boosting their green credentials and adding untenable business cost. Yet IT service management is uniquely placed to realise commercial benefits from sustainable IT working practices.

By combining this value led environmental decision making with a close assessment of business processes using analytical tools such as Lean and Six Sigma, IT service management can drive excess consumption out of the business.

Green IT is not just about meeting environmental objectives; it provides a very tangible opportunity to drive down costs.

Green decisions

As yet no government has legislated that goods and services must be labelled to show the carbon emitted during their production, distribution and disposal. But it can only be a matter of time.

And a key component of that carbon footprint is IT equipment usage and associated information management costs - from paper and print to the power consumption of scanning technology and additional digital storage capacity.

As the world begins to take climate change seriously, the IT director or CIO will be under increasing pressure to incorporate the environmental impact into any decision making. And green versus cost is an increasingly complex argument.

It affects not only every aspect of the IT infrastructure, from the size of desktop equipment to the extent of remote disaster recovery sites but also IT process - can improving processes drive out unnecessary use of resources?

But how easy is it to build green decision making into the existing framework for IT service management? Specifically, can existing ITIL® best practice accommodate the new issues facing IT managers on a daily basis?

Is ITIL® enough?

ITIL® models itself as the definitive best practice for IT service management, applicable worldwide and relevant to both public and private sectors. Launched just a year ago, ITIL® Version 3 was designed to overcome previous shortfalls by providing guidelines on the co-ordination of the IT department with the wider business goals and direction.

And, in this respect, it provides significant benefits. ITIL® focuses heavily on the quality of service delivered to the business, its business relevance and overall return on investment. However, for all its advantages and advances, Version 3 still fails to be contemporary in outlook.

Whilst providing the tools and processes required to determine IT’s true corporate value, Version 3 failed to address arguably this decade's greatest corporate challenge, regardless of industry - the environment, and therefore represents a missed opportunity.

Business focus

As a growing number of organisations are now recognising carbon equals cost; reducing landfill, increasing recycling and reuse and driving down power consumption provide clear opportunities for financial gain.

It is, therefore, unfortunate, that the latest version of ITIL®, Version 3, fails to address the environmental impact on IT service delivery. These decisions require cross organisational planning and commitment. Any organisation that has made a strategic decision to make the IT service more environmentally aware needs to build new cost models in to business.

However, the focus on sustainability becomes just one more driver for continual service improvement, which is a key tenet of ITIL®. Indeed, ITIL® Version 3 provides clear guidelines on the co-ordination of the IT department with the wider business goals and direction.

However, there are some clear conflicts that organisations need to address. One of the primary considerations of a greener business environment is process reduction to reduce waste within an organisation. As a result, a number of organisations are combining the adoption of analytical tools such as Six Sigma, Lean and Agile to boost quality whilst driving down cost.

Add in the green factor and organisations need to assess the corporate value of taking waste out of the process as a whole, including human waste, by reducing unnecessary man hours and the associated waste of power, office space and heating required for that job to be undertaken.

To support the sustainability strategy the IT organisation will have to add new measures to its calculations and work out how best to allocate the costs of power, for example, across the business. It will need to assess the comparative cost of printing documentation to support a quality process versus the power consumption, disposal and recycling costs of scanning and storage equipment.

Making IT work

Critically, organisations need not only to consider and measure these issues but also work out the most effective way of allocating costs across the organisation. It is by creating a true calculation of each department's, even each individual's IT cost, including an agreed measure of environmental impact, that organisations can begin to drive changes in behaviour that will also reduce costs.

For example, not everyone needs the most powerful computers, with the largest screens and huge memory. It is by propagating this message that organisations can begin to deliver services and solutions that are both cost effective and sustainable without compromising corporate quality.

In reality, businesses should be looking at energy consumption regardless of environmental issues; this is a massive component of the cost of IT service delivery. When these costs are highlighted and communicated to staff, increased awareness will actually reduce consumption as individuals turn off equipment and monitor paper use.

Clear choice

The focus for IT is no longer just about hardware, software and personnel costs but the environmental cost of running IT services. So should IT service management strategies be more explicitly green? Or should organisations wait for clear legislation and guidance on how to calculate carbon footprint throughout the supply chain? Of course, such explicit processes may be hard to define.

Today the decision rests with each organisation to decide whether or not to factor in environmental issues into the cost of service provision. And until legislation is introduced to force organisations to demonstrate CO2 emissions, these decisions will remain business specific.

However, for those organisations keen to drive down costs and improve their environmental commitment, IT service management is well placed to leverage environmental concerns whilst delivering significant corporate value.

ITIL® supports the delivery of service excellence balanced with cost. It provides a framework for an IT manager, with in depth business and financial skills, to incorporate these diverse issues into the provisioning and support of IT systems.

Green does not mean expensive; indeed with the right approach and effective process management, an environmental policy across all IT implementations can deliver significant bottom line value.