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Using Environmental Factors To Make Better BI Purchases

by Lyndsay Wise, President, WiseAnalyticsMonday, April 18, 2011

Whether an organization chooses to implement green BI or not, the reality is that many companies are starting to look at their environmental footprint and identify ways to limit their impact on the environment.  In addition to recycling programs and looking at ways to get more out of the resources being used, IT shops are also considering how to lessen energy consumption and get more from less when managing their data centers.  Because BI provides a common way to monitor performance, companies are starting to use business intelligence tools to manage green initiatives and power use with the goal of decreasing energy consumption and overall costs. 

green bi decisionMaking the right BI choice by combining lower energy and saving costs enables management to make better choices that extend beyond the features and functions of the solution towards better long term efficiencies.  This article looks at some of the considerations required when looking at greener BI solution choice.  This includes identifying internal green goals and thresholds, looking at data warehouse and server requirements and differences, anticipating future energy requirements and limitations, and government regulations. Identified below are some of the considerations to look at in relation to BI implementations:

Going green - developing realistic goals for software selection

Even if not a current priority, organizations should still include environmentally aware considerations when looking at increasing their BI use. This means identifying current initiatives, satisfaction with those initiatives, existing gaps, and forward-looking goals.  Each of these areas may have a direct relation to metrics being monitored or to future planned initiatives. Current green initiatives may fall within or outside the scope of BI use but should still be seen in terms of how BI might overlap with these initiatives, where these projects originate from, and benefits that BI can add to the current process.

Looking at these areas aid in general software selection by tying in current use with future goals, and by looking at the proliferation or lack of environmental concerns. For instance, lower solution price points may offset higher energy costs or larger resource requirements, thereby making price considerations short sighted.  Overall, even for organizations that do not see the importance of maintaining a greener IT infrastructure, the reality is that tying environmental initiatives with BI selection and hardware considerations not only helps with becoming green, but also with maintaining lower costs over time.

Data warehouses and energy use

Data warehousing represents a large portion of energy consumption in relation to BI.  On the business side, organizations can use BI tools to manage green initiatives, but in terms of direct impacts, the hardware infrastructure and energy used to maintain aspects within a data center are more directly related to a businesses’ environmental footprint. Various servers and their amount of storage will directly affect how much output of energy is created through the use and maintenance of these solutions.  In addition, the amount of data that can be stored and used before having to consider additional servers and storage options adds to the potential effectiveness of the hardware.  The more data capacity and the greater growth available means that organizations will be able to use the current infrastructure for a longer period of time without adding additional hardware. The benefit of these considerations is that the more growth possible with the same resources means that not only is the data warehouse potentially better able to satisfy broader business and storage needs, but also provides more business value for a longer period of time.

Internal growth and expansion

An additional aspect of software selection involves anticipating the expansion of a data warehouse environment. Although not always realistic for an organization, the better able a company is to estimate future use, the better able they will be to tie in storage requirements with market options.  The anticipation of data growth may help with overall software selection because companies will be better able to identify appliances or traditional data warehouses that provide support for the future data storage required.

Aside from data center management, anticipating green initiatives may help companies identify whether dashboard use may also provide benefit in terms of managing related green initiatives. Identifying desired outcomes of initiatives and tying them to potential BI use can help companies identify the potential benefits of BI use.  For organizations using BI for other purposes, expansion to include green BI and to manage environmental related initiatives may be a an essential next step for companies to maintain competitive advantage or future compliance.

Green compliance and future incentives

Environmental controls exist in limited industries and applications.  Depending upon environmental legislation, availability of natural resources, etc. might make current voluntary initiatives mandatory.  To anticipate these changes and to stay ahead of the curve, organizations should consider what they can do both practically as well as through the use of BI to create a strong approach to efficient consumption and management of the resources required to manage the company.

Overall, many businesses do not yet consider the green effects of their IT choices. The reality is that as more natural resources are depleted, and as the way in which society produces energy requirements change, companies may have limited ability to continue with an insensitive approach to both their consumption and contribution to pollutants and depletion.  Adding green considerations to software selection is a positive way to anticipate future changes and to gain competitive advantage by anticipating future approaches to data center management and overall solution use.

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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