Energy Woes? Blame The CIO! - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
6/9/2008
03:39 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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Energy Woes? Blame The CIO!

A new survey puts responsibility for managing an organization's energy consumption primarily on the CEO, then on the CIO. There's a difference between responsibility and liability, but either way CIOs have to do more to influence corporate energy use.

A new survey puts responsibility for managing an organization's energy consumption primarily on the CEO, then on the CIO. There's a difference between responsibility and liability, but either way CIOs have to do more to influence corporate energy use.The survey, by a U.K. firm called 1E, which sells software and services for managing Windows-based PCs and servers, and conducted by Harris Corp., found that 154 executives in the United States identify C-level executives as those responsible for their companies' energy usage.

Across the board, the greatest proportion of the executives, who were interviewed last March and April, point to the CEO as the energy (32%) czar. The CIO comes in second, with 15% of the vote.

However, things get more interesting when companies are broken out by size.

"In larger companies, the greatest proportion of executives (21 percent) report the CIO as most responsible for managing power consumption," according to a statement on the survey from 1E. At those companies the CEO was identified as the energy maven by 18% of the surveyed executives.

"Though facility managers have traditionally owned the power bill, we are not surprised to see executives at large companies identifying the CIO as most responsible for power consumption," said Sumir Karayi, chief executive officer of 1E, in the statement. "Increasingly, energy is becoming an IT issue."

My question is this: Do they mean responsible as in having decision-making power over, or responsible as in liable, which implies causing that power usage but not necessarily having decision-making power over it?

It's an important distinction. As with the above quote from 1E's CEO, it's the facilities manager who historically has been in charge of a company's power plant and energy usage -- the person's whose desk the energy bill lands on. Now, increasingly, CIOs are being thrust into that position, mainly because IT systems are being characterized as the corporate world's biggest power guzzlers, almost the equivalent of a fleet of Hummers.

But do CIOs have the wherewithal to do anything about it? Besides trying to make their IT systems more efficient, can they influence energy consumption in other ways? Can they dictate corporate energy policy?

What about at your company -- does the energy bill land on the CIO's desk? Should it?

Whether or not that's the case, CIOs need to step up and take (more) responsibility for the way their companies use energy. First, it's the right thing to do, and second, it's better to take on that responsibility proactively --- while it's still an option -- than have it land on their desks with a thud.

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