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Don’t Underestimate the Power of Green Business Intelligence

by William Laurent, William Laurent, Inc.Monday, April 25, 2011

With each passing year, the world becomes more socially conscious. The global population explosion of the last one hundred years has caught up with us; environmentally sustainable living patterns and green business habits are now necessities, as our consumer culture has formally adopted a new mantra of “reduce, recycle, and reuse.” And although the U.S.A. has not yet climbed aboard the Kyoto Protocol, the last Presidential election (2008) in the United States had a distinctly green tint. This became even more pronounced in 2009, when then President Elect Barack Obama introduced his desire to allocate over 150 billion U.S dollars on green technology. The course of the recession, which had reached its zenith in 2008, was going to be reversed by “greenthink”. The economy would be jolted out of its doldrums by green jobs and spending on environmentally friendly infrastructure. Unemployment would plummet as the workforce kept busy by reducing the carbon footprint of every household and business in the land. It was a nice vision at the time, but the reality of green jobs has fallen far short of its initial hype and downright silly prognostications.

green business intelligenceWhile the widespread greening of the American workforce has been a slow motion endeavor, there has been encouraging progress in many areas of the green revolution. The adoption of green computing and green IT by businesses all over the country, and subsequently the entire world, has been increasing at a tremendous pace. And where there is green IT and a heightened effort to run a more eco-sustainable business, there must ultimately be green business intelligence (or green BI as we now affectionately refer to it at Dashboard Insight.) If business organizations are serious about reducing their carbon footprints and emissions, they must have a means to manage and measure their progress in doing so. This cannot be done without the assistance of state-of-the-art performance dashboards and analytic technologies.

As would be expected, BI vendors and large software companies have been the earliest innovators of green BI methodologies, as well as green BI’s most visible proponents.  Some of their recent product offerings have been nothing short of revolutionary in the green BI space, with at least one major vendor of BI dashboards gaining certification by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  When it comes to sustainability reporting (sometimes referred to as ecological footprint reporting), GRI produces the world’s most popular and consistent standards. Because it has codified standards (blending economic, environmental, and social factors) for sustainability reporting, GRI has been extremely influential in legitimatizing green BI. GRI seeks to make sustainability reporting as simple, routine and transparent as possible for all business organizations. In a very short period of time, sustainability reporting has become a big business for everybody: vendors of green business intelligence software are seeing their sales grow; green reporting standards committees are gaining influence; energy producers are able to better administer their supply chains and allocate resources; business entities that consume energy and produce environmental waste are able to more effectively manage their environmental footprint.

For the present time many green BI applications function on a local scale, one factory or physical corporate location at a time. And although the geographical scope of these green BI platforms is steadily increasing, the days of truly global “smart grids” are still a ways off. Vendors of green BI solutions must do a better job of showing their customers how investing in green BI technologies can pay off over the short, mid, and long-term. Companies understand the positive social ramifications of being kind to the surrounding environment; however, once they understand how green BI can save them money, they will jump on the green BI bandwagon in full force.

In study after study, a huge number of global businesses have stated that their environmental goals are among their most important goals i.e. to achieve massive reductions in their emissions and better manage their carbon footprint at all locations. Companies must not ignore or underestimate the power of green BI. After all, government regulations at the local, state, and federal level are increasingly addressing environmental issues and concerns. If business executives continue to be lackadaisical in drafting and enforcing company-wide green protocols, the policies of their governments will soon enough forcefully ensure that businesses embrace and promulgate greenthink throughout all areas of their enterprise.

In terms of corporate public relations, the importance of green BI is monumental. Enterprises that are quick to adopt green and sustainable business practices will be seen in a favorable light by consumers and government bureaucrats alike. Green BI will be the silver bullet that gives companies the ability to measurably demonstrate their commitment to sound environmental practices, thus reaping the approval and approbation of all. Yet while the business intelligence community has been singing the praises of green BI over the last few years, the fundamental and stubborn conundrums of green BI still persist:

  • How can the return on investment (ROI) of green BI be effectively measured?
  • How can green BI solutions be implemented in such a way as to maximize and leverage existing BI architectures, platforms and infrastructures?
  • How can green business intelligence be done “on the cheap”?
  • How can business leaders standardize green BI across the enterprise? How can they raise inter-departmental awareness about green BI and make sure that everybody is talking the same language when it comes to sustainability reporting and analytics.

If vendors of green business intelligence solutions (and professional services companies that help implement these solutions) can figure out the answers to these questions they will achieve great success.

About the Author

William Laurent is one of the world's leading experts in information strategy and governance. For 20 years, he has advised numerous businesses and governments on technology strategy, performance management, and best practices—across all market sectors. William currently runs an independent consulting company that bears his name. In addition, he frequently teaches classes, publishes books and magazine articles, and lectures on various technology and business topics worldwide.. As a Senior Contributing Author for Dashboard Insight, he would enjoy your comments at wlaurent@williamlaurent.com

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