Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where did Green IT go?

Green IT has run out of steam, for now, because too many people have failed to make the conceptual leap from cost savings to sustainability. Some time ago, I and others moved on to emphasizing Green IT 2.0*, in which IT makes everything else more sustainable. But, people mostly aren’t seeing the connection. The worst is the guy at a recent VMWare event who’s proud of all the money he’s saving by virtualizing his data center, and still thinks climate change is a hoax.

No, scratch that story. I made it up. I'm sure that kind of dichotomy exists out there, but I don’t have any actual evidence. I probably should just start asking around. 

Picture Saturday Night Live pointing their camera at a random person in the audience, and the caption saying “Cut 1200 tons of carbon a year by virtualizing her datacenter, still thinks Global Warming is a hoax.”  

This is shaping up like a stand-up routine.

Here's a related dichotomy:
Many big info-driven corporations, like IBM, Microsoft, Starbucks, Proctor and Gamble, Toyota, and even Wal-Mart are grasping the need to become more sustainable, and the inherent risks in not doing so. So why are they so silent around the noisy Congressional climate change denialists, and the business leaders that support them?  

* I think Forrester Research coined that term.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sustainability without KM is like Engineering without Math: KM supports green initiatives worldwide

Sustainability without Knowledge Management is like Engineering without Mathematics. Could it be more simple?

Drastically reducing its energy consumption is absolutely vital to any enterprise that expects to survive in a fuel-constrained future. And, doing that depends totally on capturing, organizing, making sense of, and applying a far vaster array of environmental and operational details than ever before.

Read the KMWorld article that inspired this essay.

THIS IS KM. If you're uncomfortable using that term, get the heck over it. Without acceptance of the term Knowledge Management, and a firm grasp of the principles that constitute it, your environmental initiatives will be more likely to fail. It would be like trying to do Engineering without accepting totally the discipline that is Mathematics.

Unfortunately, the "Green KM" discussion almost always starts by chasing away its most significant audience, the general business community. It does this by first addressing sustainability in the classic KM domains of imaging and document management.

In this sense, it’s just like the argument for Green IT, which always seems to start out self-referentially-- how it makes IT itself more sustainable-- before moving on to what IT can do to make everything else more sustainable.

In both cases, as in any conversation that opens with "me-me-me," the audience is lost before it even became an audience.

In the same issue, see also Following a Greener Path: Data centers, power distribution companies and construction firms all try to conserve energy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do we embrace Green IT 2.0, or will the planet spit us out like a watermelon seed?

I've been pushing the idea that Green IT 2.0, Forrester's term for using IT to green everything else, will make Green IT 1.0, making IT itself more sustainable, look like a rounding error.

Actually, that's what Cisco founder John Chambers once said comparing e-learning to email. I hope this prediction's more accurate than that one.

Effective use of information, whether we call it IT, or KM, or whatever, is the key to making it possible for humans to survive on this planet. Nature will do fine; losing a hundred thousand species is chump change to Her. But unlike all those other species, we get to choose whether we're one that stays or goes.

Like I said, Nature doesn't care whether we take it or leave it. Humans mean about as much to nature as a million brain cells matter to an all-night binge-er.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do more, better sustainability ideas come from Imagination, or Experience?

People can come up with more uses for technology than IT can imagine. That's the crux of idea #2 in an Information Week article about Randy Mott, recently departed CIO of Hewlett-Packard.

From the article: "To really understand a technology's potential, IT needs to put it in end users' hands." From Mott, in 2003: "It's tough to imagine fast enough. You have to experience it to imagine what's possible."

I believe this applies doubly to using technology to enhance sustainability. People who care about the planet are intrinsically motivated to excel where their work involves enhancing sustainability. The experience of imaginative, engaged people creates more solutions than imagination alone.

Most technology that reduces waste or saves energy, for example, also reduces costs. That's good for the company. Enhancing sustainability is good for the planet, which matters to the employees who made it happen. This combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation should, at least in theory, get workers super-engaged in making sustainability efforts work.

But of course, this line of thinking in itself contradicts my key point, in that it has risen completely from my imagination, and not from experience.

So, let's put some substance into it. If you've been engaged in sustainability efforts at your company, does your experience bear out my premise?