One of the most common challenges companies face in implementing environmental solutions is intercompany competition. I know this is a bit of a cliché these days. Just the same, it’s become a cliché for a reason.
As companies grow and become large corporations, they need ways to manage the increased activity and headcount. The result is typically an organizational division, where roles with similarities are grouped together, rolling up to a single head who then reports in to a smaller senior management team. Internally, then, you find operational divisions like technology, real estate, procurement, and staff dining, among others. These are themselves then divided further. In the case of technology, you will typically find groups for infrastructure, engineering, risk management, and depending on the business, perhaps additional technology lines dedicated to each of the lines of business. Then these too are divided, and so it continues. While there is a single budget for internal operations, it is ultimately broken down into subcategories by division, and each division is responsible for managing against its individual P&Ls (profit-and-loss). To overspend or fail to meet an assigned budget reduction against your P&L is one sure-fire way to make yourself look bad. Which is where that other cliché comes in: money talks.
When it comes to internal operations, the facilities division typically pays the utility bills. This same group often implements a chargeback (aka: rent) to other company divisions for the building space they occupy. The chargeback theoretically covers the cost of managing the space and associated facility costs. It’s a pretty sound process if you think about it. It encourages each of the divisions to occupy the minimum amount of space required, or at least, the minimum that they can afford. This in turn helps to manage the company’s overall real estate expense. With this information, you can appreciate then why a divisional organizational structure is particularly challenging for the technology group looking to implement certain energy efficient strategies.
We hear a lot about data center energy consumption and the cost of running and cooling the electronics. It’s important to remember that focus is also required on the desktop area. If you are sitting at a computer reading this, take a look around your desk. Is there a phone, a hands free piece, a fan, a printer or radio? They are all plugged into the wall, pulling energy twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The desktop environment provides a perfect example of common challenge faced by a technology organization looking to support its company’s environmental policies.
One of the go-to methods for energy reduction on the client side, or desktop environment, is PC power management (PCPM). All computers have a native ability to reduce power consumption by moving into a sleep mode when not in use. At a corporate level, additional resources are required to ensure that sleeping machines can be accessed by system administrators (SAs), be it for system maintenance or patching. Hence the introduction of PCPM software, which enables SAs to wake machines in large groups and manage them remotely.
The beauty of PCPM is that it removes humans from the efficiency equation. For so many efforts, behavior change is required of the end user—one of the most challenging and head-banging efforts a person can engage in! With PCPM, everyone experiences a win: The technology group can manage machines remotely, ensuring system software and patches are up-to-date—that’s an important win from a risk management perspective; For the end-user, not only does it mean not having to remember to turn off a machine at the end of a long work day, but it also improves productivity and user experience, allowing the user to awaken a machine in seconds rather than minutes; And for the company at large, machines sleeping overnight, during weekends, and while an employee is on vacation means a significant reduction in the company’s energy consumption and expense.
No matter which way you look at it, it’s hard to describe power management as anything other than a ‘no-brainer.’ And yet… there is almost always resistance if not outright refusal. Why? Because the cost benefit, which ultimately supports the company as a whole, appears in the P&L of only one organization: the facilities group. Looking from the point of a view of a technology manager with his own budget to worry about, what he sees is a solution for which he is expected to pay for software, maintenance, manpower to implement, and manpower to manage on an on-going basis. What reward does he see for his capital investment? Zip. The facilities group, meanwhile, experiences a sudden reduction in electrical bills, resulting in a P&L surplus—which is to say, that divisional leader looks terrific to senior management. Throw in historical animosities or organizational politics, and you have one very big challenge in bringing all parties together. Albeit unintentionally, the divisional structure of corporations de-incentivises employees from doing what is best.
Credit Steve Jobs for realizing this early on. “[H]e closely controlled all of his teams and pushed them to work as one cohesive and flexible company, with one profit-and-loss bottom line,” writes Walter Isaacson in the recently released official biography. This is why program design is such an essential aspect of implementing any kind of company-wide sustainability effort. Because if you don’t have managers working toward a common goal, you’ve set yourself up for failure before the kick-off call has even been scheduled.