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ITSM is the key to sustainable IT

Sustainability is a topic writ large in most areas of our society these days. Companies and organizations are aware of this and take environmental goals into account in their long-term strategies. This of course relates to changes in work practices at all levels, including IT, which produces around 2% of global emissions, comparable to air transport, for example. With the growth in digitization and automation and the wider use of IT in general, this effect will surely grow further in times to come. The way forward lies in more rigorous control and more efficient use of resources.
Adam Sima

24. 10. 2023

Visible IT is sustainable IT

As organizations become more reliant on their IT services, keeping track of the essential aspects, such as the number of devices, licenses, maintenance needs, and efficient use of resources becomes more demanding, yet more necessary. Up-to-date information is an essential prerequisite for the transition to a more sustainable operating model. However, according to a survey by Capgemini, most companies currently lack this information, with only 46% of IT managers having the necessary data. As part of the strategy to minimize the organization's environmental impact, the CIO should be able to answer the following questions:

How many devices are currently being used by the organization, and what is their configuration and age?

What is the energy consumption of the equipment and how is it being reduced?

How can the proportion of recycled e-waste be increased?

Do our suppliers meet the appropriate environmental standards?

How does IT contribute to the organization’s overall environmental goals?

Some information can be found just by looking up some tables in Excel, but others require well-established processes and data. Yet with the implementation of appropriate ITSM tools, finding answers to these questions can be easier than might seems at first glance.

Manage your IT assets lifecycle more efficiently

The first step is to keep procurement, maintenance, and disposal of the hardware under control. 

Hardware has a significant carbon footprint and most organizations (89%) recycle less than 10% of it

ITSM tools offer a wide range of lifecycle management automation tools that not only save IT work but also help to significantly stretch the life of the hardware. From a sustainability perspective, the lifecycle can be divided into three steps:

1. Procurement – make data-driven decisions

When choosing hardware, IT must weigh up not only price and performance but also how to recycle or upgrade the kit while in use (its modular design). Taking this into account may prioritise suppliers providing commensurate services. ITSM will help standardize the supply chain, not only based on this input data but on known prior history most of all. When assessing further cooperation with the supplier it becomes simple to check the reliability and quality of the services provided. You immediately know how many computers from a specific supplier have had issues, which ones needed to be repaired, and how many of them broke down after warranty, as well as establishing what were the most common causes. You can easily keep track of the length of the warranty service period and so give preference to a supplier who takes care of you longer.

2. Regular maintenance will stretch your hardware lifespan by up to 50%

Taking care of your hardware pays off not only in terms of improved ROI and more efficient use but also in terms of sustainability. Regular servicing can stretch hardware life by up to 50% and reduce downtime by up to 70%. Extending service life, even by a single year, means a significantly lower carbon footprint. While the hardware is in use, all events are automatically recorded, which in turn allows for faster resolution of reported incidents, repairs, and device reliability assessment, when it comes to deciding on its further use.

3. Create a comprehensive IT asset disposition (ITAD)

When it comes to disposition, it's important to have an ITAD plan in place that considers financial, information security, and environmental considerations. Quite often, due to missing information and poorly set up processes disposition occurs prematurely, without the actual state of the assets having been evaluated. This leads to discarding still reusable devices that could at least be deployed on less demanding tasks. 

An important factor to consider is the fact that recycling is up to 20 times more energy-intensive than further operation.

If disposition is due, the ITSM tool provides a clearly defined workflow with a complete audit trail of the steps performed. Processes set up in this way also increase overall security, as hardware cannot be disposed of without first erasing sensitive data.

Maximize usage and reduce energy consumption

The energy consumption of the IT sector accounts for almost 10% of the world’s total annual production. ITSM can help identify energy-intensive equipment and thus support the transition to more energy-efficient alternatives. For example, older hardware typically consumes more electricity, which also produces excessive heat, which requires additional cooling. It is not uncommon if an organization to run systems on in-house servers, which will tend to be newer and more powerful, to still keep older ones in operation for no good reason. By using a configuration management database (CMDB), IT gets an overview of the currently used infrastructure and the services running on it. This makes it easy to evaluate which servers and devices are truly needed.

Create a paperless workplace

Although there is much talk of digitization on a daily basis, many company documents still exist only on paper. In a larger organization, handover protocols and dockets can generate thousands of extra papers per year. This means not only unnecessary extra costs but also a significant burden on the environment. For example, the production of 1000 pages requires approximately 2000 liters of water and 1m³ of wood. ITSM tools can solve this problem with complete digitization. When hardware is being handed over, the user is sent an electronic handover protocol, which can be signed digitally from anywhere, a significant advantage in itself, especially with the rise in home working.

Measure, analyze, and evaluate

An ITSM tool is an invaluable assistant in gauging your strategy’s success. For example, the CIO/CTO can report a reduction in incidents due to switching vendors, or an increase in hardware life through better support and more rigorous lifecycle management. The report can also list how the proportion of recycled hardware is increasing or reducing the amount of electrical waste, e.g. through purchasing modular solutions. By monitoring hardware energy consumption through asset records, especially when it comes to servers that run continuously, one can easily extrapolate the annual consumption. This can be crucial when considering switching to more energy-efficient models or moving to a cloud-friendly mode of operation that is more environmentally friendly, thanks to more efficient power distribution and consumption. All this information can be important not only for stakeholders and customers but also for obtaining sustainability certification (e.g.ISO 14001).

How do I get started?

To build an effective greener IT strategy, you need to ask yourself a few basic questions:

What is the current status?

Using the ITSM tool, the CIO can easily find out how much and what hardware the organization writes off annually, which services are done in-house, how much it costs to run them and how much it would cost to move to the cloud, or what security risks are associated with it. When planning for change, s/he can more easily see potential impacts on customers and stakeholders.

Where do we want to be?

Based on current and historical ITSM data, the CIO can build a vision with realistic goals that can be achieved in a given time period.

How do we achieve this?

ITSM will also help the CIO and their team develop an appropriate strategy. This might comprise setting up more efficient processes, more accurate evaluations, identifying new opportunities for improvement, and so on. In addition, the strategy should align with the organization's overall goals, and an ITSM tool can help far beyond IT scope in this regard.

Get started today

It’s not a question of ‘whether’ to focus on sustainability, the key thing is ‘when’. Those who wait for regulations to force them to do so are merely letting their competitors get a head start. For IT, implementing ITSM tools is the easiest and fastest way to begin the green transformation.  It is not only a technological change, however; it is also a cultural one that may at first meet with resistance throughout the organization. In the long run, though, the change toward greener and more efficient running of IT and the entire organization is certain to pay off.