Why Don’t Businesses Green IT?

Updated: Mar 26

No, I’m not talking about going green, as in becoming environmentally mindful. I’m talking about a different idea called greening, which means to prune, weed, eliminate stuff that no one is using, find that there are already existing solutions in house, or see that a product is of no value and the money it cost could be better used elsewhere.


I applied the idea of greening to technology, borrowing the theme from two of my favorite authors, John McPhee and Calvin Trillin (Omission by John McPhee and This Story Just Won't Write by Calvin Trillin). They discuss greening during the writing process: editing and determining (1) do I need all these words to tell this story? and (2) can I eliminate some? 


The greening process invariably improves a story. Too many words confuse and distract, diluting the reader’s focus and squandering his time. The skillful writer uses only those words, phrases and sentences that capture the message they wish to convey. What has this got to do with the business environment? Too much technology, like too many words, distracts the staff because it requires a lot of time to support and integrate. It also drains financial resources.


When I worked at Forrester Research, we conducted surveys on workforce technology experiences and usage patterns. We asked if the client had a certain technology, if they used it, how often they used it, did they like it, and do they still need it. Too often, they indicated that they did not need it. This knowledge can be leveraged during IT renewals and negotiations and can yield significant savings.


Many of the IT organizations we work with have unintentionally become the “kitchen drawers” of the enterprise: there have a tool for every challenge within the IT landscape… sometimes two! To be clear: this is not the IT organizations fault. It’s the business partners and vendors. IT supports every department in the organization, which requests applications targeted at their specific needs. Combined with vendors marketing to every esoteric problem in the large organization, selling directly to directors of HR, Finance, Sales, Marketing departments, and so on. So, just like in the kitchen, IT is told to buy an application that solves one specific problem, it gets used only once, but then it keeps getting renewed. It’s like the melon-baller in my kitchen drawer: it makes the nicest melon balls at the block party, but I only use it once a year, it takes up valuable space, and a spoon can get the job 90% done. 


When we review a typical ServiceNow or Salesforce deal, or an IBM ESSO or Oracle ULA, we notice that most firms over license, or have redundant products within their vendor portfolios. I suggest that clients ask themselves if they really need all those Fulfillers. Often, if we take the time to do a little greening, we discover that 50% of the licensed users are not using the product at all. Why does this happen? Maybe because IT deal makers fear if they reduce the number of licenses, their discount will be reduced. But is a discount on un-used product really a discount? Or, like the melon-baller, they believe they might need these licenses at some nebulous future date. Or, they think if they buy extra licenses, they’ll be safe in the event of an audit. (Since we support so many clients during audits, we know that this is magical thinking.)


Forgive the pun, but in greening your IT assets, you can save stacks of green, and use it to invest in needed innovation (not to mention freeing up time for IT to focus). Just as tossing that rarely-used melon-baller unclutters your kitchen drawer, greening IT will help you identify where – and where not - to direct IT dollars and empower your staff with spends aligned with your business’ goals… or enable you to buy that much-needed bread-maker you’ve been eyeing.