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Tracking Green Initiatives via Business Intelligence

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsWednesday, April 27, 2011

Company priorities are shifting towards cost savings and becoming more environmentally aware and business intelligence can help to achieve these goals. BI’s ability to monitor performance and alert decision makers about changes in behavior makes it a complementary approach to organizations wanting to become more eco-friendly. Although BI applications are well poised to fill this need, businesses still require a roadmap to successfully tie-in their BI use with their green initiatives.

This article identifies the importance of green initiatives within operations and how to link them to available BI solutions. By specifically looking at analytics organizations can assess how they are meeting targets and monitor their performance in relation to their “green” goals. This article also discusses considerations related to expanding BI use to include green initiatives.

Why Going Green is Important

Green Business IntelligenceWith natural resources being depleted and corporations having large energy requirements, becoming environmentally aware is more important than ever. Green initiatives not only save costs, meet compliance requirements, and reuse resources, but they also help create brand recognition among customers. Being seen as an organization that is sensitive to the environment and has concern about their environmental footprint creates a vision of care. But more importantly than that is the ability to save money by lowering power and energy usage. For businesses, this provides the benefit of perception as well as practicality. Broader affects are also beneficial and extend well beyond the organization.

Outside of technology adoption and lowering energy consumption, organizations also support social action initiatives and invest in R&D efforts that work towards more environmentally friendly products and internal processes. This in turn has a broader effect on the environment at large. The benefits that expand beyond the organization include what occurs within the company as well. Whether managing recycling programs, reusing raw materials, lowering consumption, etc. businesses require a way to monitor these initiatives and to identify ways of becoming more efficient over time. This is where the use of BI and analytics comes in.

Using Analytics to Become More Environmentally Aware

One of the chief benefits of business intelligence is its ability to consolidate information and provide greater insight into operations.  In addition BI helps organizations monitor performance across business units and can be applied to a broad variety of problems. For organizations looking at applying this to energy usage, managing emissions, or electricity consumption in data centers, BI expansion provides a good way to start the process.

Dashboards provide one example of how businesses can manage and maintain their green initiatives while taking advantage of current IT infrastructure. Information that identifies data center power usage or natural resource consumption can be used within an analytics framework. This can be achieved by identifying current usage, desired usage and putting practices and processes into place that allow for the required changes and then using a dashboard to monitor these new goals. In addition, by tracking usage over time businesses can identify opportunities for usage reduction, thereby leading to greater efficiency. Businesses can also use analytics to identify why they are not meeting compliance goals and develop algorithms to look at what factors will lead to better performance in the future.

Green BI Considerations

Companies that are thinking of expanding their BI to include green initiatives should consider the following points:

  1. Current BI infrastructure and data preparation. Very few organizations adopt BI as a way to implement a green initiative. For most the goal of managing a green BI application results from a mix of environmental awareness and mature BI use. Consequently this means that a large number of businesses will already be familiar with BI and what their current solutions have to offer. Even so, as with any new project, data sources and required business rules need to be identified. With green initiatives organizations may be looking at how to capture the right data as well as thresholds that are essential to develop an effective way to monitor and react to events appropriately.
  2. Comfort with dashboard use. The level of comfort with any solution will affect the design of the solution. Who the dashboard end-users are will affect the design and level of dashboard interactivity. For instance, if those managing a green initiative are familiar with dashboard use then higher levels of interactivity will be possible. Otherwise, dashboard designers need to be flexible and sensitive to the needs of end-users and combine level of expertise with the goal of the project.
  3. Current green initiatives. Organizations can be divided into two categories: the first being those new to green initiative implementation; and the second being companies that are expanding their environmental awareness through BI use. The first requires trial and error and communication with stakeholders to identify goals and business rules. The second requires the transference of current practices to a BI framework to make sure that initiative goals are properly defined and captured.
  4. Setting realistic goals and expectations. As with any BI initiative, organizations need to identify what they hope to achieve and why. By setting realistic expectations businesses can avoid scope creep (this is true for both types of groups).

Takeaways

Not all businesses manage environmental initiatives or choose to go green. For the organizations that do go this route, business intelligence can help them to achieve their goals. Even though many companies choose to overlook the value of implementing a structured set of green initiatives, as environmental factors become more interrelated with operations and as businesses are forced to increase their efficiencies, business intelligence will become a key tool for achieving these objectives.

About the Author

Lyndsay Wise is an industry analyst for business intelligence. For over seven years, she has assisted clients in business systems analysis, software selection and implementation of enterprise applications. Lyndsay is the channel expert for BI for the Mid-Market at B-eye-Network and conducts research of leading technologies, products and vendors in business intelligence, marketing performance management, master data management, and unstructured data. She can be reached at lwise@wiseanalytics.com. And please visit Lyndsay's blog at myblog.wiseanalytics.com.


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