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Making Green BI Personal
Using Dashboards and Incentives to Ensure Success

by Lyndsay WiseTuesday, February 17, 2009

The use of dashboards to manage the consumption of resources is becoming a common way for organizations to govern their overall carbon footprint. Obvious uses include monitoring environmental impact, energy consumption, emissions, etc. with the goal being to cut costs and improve efficiencies. Whether they be oil and gas, manufacturing, or travel, these industries are required to work towards the control of consumption and the emissions they expend back into the environment. But emphasis placed on good corporate citizenship demands that all organizations do their part to limit their use of energy as well as harmful emissions. Consequently, all organizations can use some sort of tool to help create a greener environment within their own confines.

One way is through the use of digital dashboards. This article discusses how organizations can integrate BI within their green initiatives. In addition, it provides some current examples of dashboards that are being used to help measure energy and emission rates both within the non-profit and private sectors.

Developing a BI approach to managing consumption rates

Due to regular recycling initiatives, better lighting alternatives, environmental conservation programs and legislation aimed at reducing emissions, the general public’s sensitivity toward the overall impact on the environment around them is rising. These sentiments expand toward personal buying habits and how consumers choose to spend their money. Therefore, organizations that put an emphasis on being more green than their competitors can gain market share by addressing these facts of buyer sensitivity. Tying this to dashboards means that organizations can monitor how they are performing against set targets and identify potential roadblocks.

Maintenance of any initiative requires the development of a process. The use of a dashboard for managing an organization’s carbon footprint enables stakeholders to develop the necessary processes while setting goals and making sure that performance remains on target. Typically, during dashboard development targets are identified and the processes surrounding those targets are mapped so that organizations understand the steps that are required to meet and exceed the objectives.

A successful BI project involves the development of measurable targets and the transformation of a set of business processes into analyses to help monitor performance. Translating this set of goals into one that matches the ability to manage consumption rates and set targets is the aim of creating a greener BI platform. The utilization of a dashboard to do so is the easiest way to visually represent all of the required information and manage it in a way that is beneficial to the organization as a whole. These dashboards can then be customized for departmental or individual use and rolled up to compare consumption with other departments or against the company as a whole.

The development of targeted KPIs differs based on industry, target market, and business structure. However, organizations can still use general models of what should be monitored and what KPIs should be set. Whether these are based on regulatory requirements or internal standards, the metrics themselves should be measurable with consequences for not meeting defined targets. Without appropriate penalties or rewards for exceeding goals, any attempt to change the way organizations and the people within them do things will likely fail.

For organizations that currently use dashboards or some form of business intelligence, the expansion towards green monitoring is as easy as expanding a current initiative or developing a new dashboard. For organizations looking to implement a dashboard for the first time and applying it towards a green initiative, it becomes important to get the required buy-in, typically by tying the initiative to cost savings. Even though there is innate value in managing and reducing energy consumption, companies are not always prepared to invest in solutions unless they can tie actual ROI into their initial investments.

General applicability

Dashboard examples focused on increasing the awareness of consumption rates and emissions can be applied broadly across many types of organizations. The property management example below shows how organizations can use this approach to apply dashboards and decision management to the management of overall energy consumption. The use of energy by occupants is tracked through the measurement of their consumption with the ability to create personalized views. In addition, dashboards that are based on buildings and overall portfolios help show the macro level of energy consumption management. The ability to involve all stakeholders helps each person feel ownership for overall initiatives and the measurement of consumption.

Source: http://www.buildingsustainability.net/pdfs/dashboard_UK.pdf

The UK based company Building Sustainability uses their Footprint Tracker to help companies manage their property portfolios. This includes helping organizations identify current energy consumption, energy savings, and energy generation for people as well as properties and portfolios as a whole. Dashboards can identify right time analysis and trending data for reporting and alerting when appropriate. This type of application is one example of how organizations and specific industries manage environment related KPIs. The first benefit is the ability to cut costs. By implementing more efficient uses of energy and by setting goals and managing performance against those goals, property managers are able to identify whether use rises or lowers and continues to meet standards over time.

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