Can IT Become Too “Green”?

Green is good, but should a CIO approve every green IT project?
Green is good, but should a CIO approve every green IT project?

I’m green, you’re green, all of IT is going green. Ok, so this sure sounds like a good thing to do and I’m all for saving the planet and such, but is it really worth it? I mean we’re still dealing with the aftereffects of that global recession thing and should those of us in the IT sector insist that green IT projects pay for themselves? If the answer is yes, then how the heck can we determine if a green IT project is a good idea or not?

The Four Types Of Green IT Projects

So let’s talk about “green” IT projects for just a moment. First off, just what is a green IT project – does it even appear in the definition of information technology? I’m going to define this type of project as being an IT project that is designed to reduce the amount of electricity that either the IT department or the company as a whole is using.

Where we are currently seeing these types of projects show up the most is when we start to talk about the corporate data centers that the IT department uses. These monsters use electricity in quantities that are measured in mega-watts and any savings here can quickly benefit the company’s bottom line.

What CIOs are finding out is that not all green IT projects are created the same – some have immediate benefits while some will never pay back the investment that they required. What CIOs need to be able to do is to learn how to classify a new green IT project.

In order to do this, Dr. Robert Plant has come up with four categories that CIOs can place proposed green IT projects into.

You Gotta Do This

This is my favorite category of green IT project: the one that CIOs don’t even have to think about. The projects that fall into this category clearly need to be done and they need to be done right away.

These projects will result in power usage being reduced and can be implemented using technology that is both cheap and easy to obtain. Server virtualization program to reduce the number of servers being used is a great example of this type of green IT project.

Nice If You’ve Got The Cash

There is more risk associated with green IT projects that fall into this category. In this case, the technology that is required to implement the IT project is brand, brand new and still costs a lot of money.

This means that if you choose to go ahead and approve the project, you may indeed get the green savings, but you are also running the risk of spending a lot of money on technology that may not deliver what you are looking for. An example of this type of technology is software that allows you to track how much power every component of a data center is using.

The Green Lure

Once again, these types of green IT projects come with a fair amount of risk. In this case, the green IT project is designed to create a space or a configuration that will allow the company to generate more revenue by attracting more customers.

A great example is when you are building a new data center. If you are willing to make the extra investment into making it a green data center, then the company may be able to attract more eco-friendly customers and those who want to have lower energy bills.

Green Means Danger

The final category of green IT projects are the ones that as CIO you should stay far away from. These types of projects can sound enticing, but as you take a closer look at how they would be implemented you should start to see where the risk is.

Where I’ve most often seen this type of project pop up has been in the area of alternative energy sources. No matter if it’s a solar solution or some other way of capturing energy and turning it into electricity, there’s a good chance that your company can do without it and you should not approve this type of green IT project.

What All Of This Means For You

I think that we can all agree that even considering the importance of information technology, reducing the amount of electricity that our IT infrastructure uses is probably a good idea. The problem comes when we start to sit down and think about just exactly how we can make this happen.

It turns out that not all green IT projects are created equal. CIO’s need to be sharp enough to be able to determine if a green project is going to be worth the investment.
Some green IT projects are no-brainers: of course you’ll do it. Some require an investment, but will most certainly yield results. Some need to be done because they will allow the company to win new business. Finally, some green IT projects may sound good, but you should stay away from them at all costs!

As though the job of being a CIO was not tough enough, it turns out that there is an environmental side to the position. There is no question that your company will be undertaking green IT projects in the near future if they haven’t already started to do so. However, it’s going to be your responsibility to ensure that the IT department takes on only those green IT projects that can justify their costs.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that how “green” an IT project is should be a consideration when determining what IT projects to fund?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

A quick question for you: are you afraid to fail? Would you be willing to take on responsibility for an IT department that might not be a success? I’m willing to bet that a lot of us would say “no” – CIOs who are perfect are rewarded while CIOs who fail are kicked to the curb. However, I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong – get ready to fail if you want to succeed.