Cloud, BPM, and going green

August 2017

Green considerationsTo go ‘green’ requires changes to how people work, interact and use technology. Ian Gotts, CEO and founder of Nimbus, argues there are business and environmental benefits to business process management (BPM) and cloud computing.

Having spent the past year in San Francisco establishing our US office, it is pretty difficult to miss the ‘greening’ trend. Northern California is the green heartland. Everything and anything is recycled.

There is a rising consciousness driven by companies wishing to be seen to be green, for example oil companies transforming themselves into energy companies and car companies pushing more efficient electric and hybrid cars. IT companies are touting their green cloud credentials.

Governments, not wanting to be outdone, are spending millions printing and distributing booklets telling people how to save the planet... Surely not printing and distributing them would help save trees and transport costs?

Cynical green

How much of this green activity really makes a difference? Is it just a cynical marketing ploy for companies clearing their conscience?

It is kids, with their beautifully innocent view of right and wrong, who make you think. Walking along the edge of the bay recently with our two children, aged 9 and 12, we noticed one of the houses had very prominent solar panels. The discussion got onto saving the planet and how businesses consume natural resources and electricity.

And then the discussion got onto my company, Nimbus. ‘So daddy, if we are all meant to be saving the planet, what does your company do to help?’ It got me thinking - far beyond recycling and turning lights off. What do we do, what more could companies do and what stops them?

Show me the green

The issue is that building a business case for green is difficult: planet versus profits. Short-term tactical often wins over long-term strategic. Does it have to be that way? Clearly some initiatives cost money and the tangible benefits are difficult to quantify. Equally, there are changes that can give a return in hours, days or weeks.

What is true is that virtually every change requires some change in business operations. People need to work differently, interact with each other and use technology differently. And that means it needs to be communicated clearly to those affected. This is why a consistent, company-wide business process management (BPM) platform is a cornerstone to a green strategy.

Committed green

There are lots of changes that companies can implement that make both financial and environmental sense. At Nimbus for instance, we’ve invested in web-conferencing and a VoIP phone system, to enable staff to work from wherever is best for them. This has been helped massively by implementing a social media / micro-blogging platform. Even early sceptics now see the benefits of increased collaboration.

We also use web-conferencing far more and fly less than we ever did. The knock-on effect of reduced expenses is a welcome by-product, plus less wear and tear on our staff. In fact, now we are getting so good at web-conferencing, we are more effective in some cases than in face-to-face meetings.

It’s not just technology where companies can make a difference. In the UK, for instance, a government-sponsored Cycle to Work Scheme gives employees a tax break on buying a new bike, while companies fund the cost of the bike over 12 months. In addition to participating in the scheme, our office installed showers and now the courtyard is full of bikes.

Our IT is cloud-based - covering sales, marketing, operations, HR, procurement, asset management and finance operations. That means we’re not running on-premise software on our own servers. Recently we participated in a study to evaluate the environmental impact of cloud computing. I was staggered by the results. Over ninety (91) per cent of computing power is saved by using a cloud solution. And that’s because a multi-tenant cloud model enables thousands of businesses to be consolidated onto far fewer servers in the cloud.

But it’s far more than just being green. The cloud approach gives a level of business continuity and resilience to our systems that would be unaffordable. Our ability to scale rapidly to the increasing demand we are seeing is far easier. We can now open up new offices in new cities and countries far faster and more cost effectively. No longer are we limited by the time to install and configure servers and systems. There is a strong business case for the green cloud.

Big Green

By far the largest impact companies can have is when they start to apply BPM analysis techniques to drive out waste, identify risk and look at how technology can help them change to be more effective. This may be driven by a green agenda, but it is surely a key part of corporate strategy. And there is a clear business case for doing it.

Currently it is estimated that 20 per cent of a person’s working life is wasted looking for the right information: document, policy, system. If we simply fixed that we could do more with less. Driving improved business performance can not only drive a business saving, unleash creativity in the organisation and engage the workforce, but also be greener.

We need to take a holistic approach to BPM and process improvement, so that all the initiatives dovetail. We need to make sure that the end-to-end processes flow smoothly. There is no point streamlining the quote process if there is a bottle- neck in reviewing proposals, or order management cannot deal with the increased workload, or finance is unable to raise invoices.

A governed and integrated process map enables all improvement initiatives to be kept in step. Collaboration and communication capabilities need to be integrated with that process map to engage the whole workforce in continuous improvement - both top down and bottom up. It’s key that everyone understands what they need to do (differently), has the tools to do it and can see performance metrics in this process context. That drives adoption of the required behaviour.

And with cloud-based BPM technologies it is easy to start a project that can have a rapid return on investment, with fewer IT or procurement hurdles to overcome.

BPM can reinforce, support and nurture green initiatives, which are still only delicate green shoots in many organisations. It can make the intangible tangible, the tactical strategic and a greener planet financially viable.


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