Let EAs lead your enterprise sustainability strategy

Enterprise architects are well positioned to advise the CIO when it comes to the sustainability strategy. Their choices cut across the corporate infrastructure.

When the time comes for an enterprise to activate a sustainability strategy, enterprise architects are well placed within the management hierarchy to advise the CIO.

EAs, and their tools, offer a holistic view that digests and models a complex idea in a simple way. These tools can find common ground across IT teams when making many architectural decisions -- such as encouraging the use of energy-efficient APIs or determining which non-critical app servers can be switched off at night.

"Once reports are entered through those [modeling] tools, you can better understand the impact and analysis of your decisions," said Gordon Barnett, an analyst at Forrester Research.

In an upcoming Forrester Wave Report, Barnett calculated a mindset shift by companies now keen to incorporate benefits from the full lifecycle of their technology assets, from procurement to disposal.

The study, to be released in January, reports the following: Of 563 IT professionals interviewed, 26% now look to reduce the organization's carbon footprint and/or e-waste. Another 23% want to launch new green products and services. And 23% said they want to adopt tech that helps with climate adaptation or environmental sustainability.

IT pros also want to obtain services to help with climate adaptation or environmental sustainability (20%), manage an energy transition from fossil fuel to clean energy (19%), and allocate budget for sustainability initiatives (15%). Forrester estimates there are in the EA market. The report looks at output from 12 vendors for the purposes of this WAVE .

Addressing sustainability within an enterprise architecture will force EAs to adjust some of their architectural principles, and some of their decisions will influence corporate standards across an entire supply chain. The road to achieving enterprise sustainability is a new one, and getting there won't be easy.

Control the uncontrollable

Digital technologies and communications rise exponentially every year and produce a corresponding environmental impact. "It's inexpensive, so it blooms," said Leslie Robinet, services director at Mega International, a Paris-based, EA tool manufacturer. "Every year it's tripling."

Robinet said her company has noticed a growing number of its clients expect their partners to address sustainability. Even more recently -- say, in the past six months -- those clients choose to work with only those who share their values.

Another EA software supplier noted growing interest as well. Christian Richter, a senior vice president at LeanIX, an enterprise management tool manufacturer based in Bonn, Germany, said he's noticed a growth in inquiries about sustainability during the past 18 months.

This uptick is encouraging from an environmental standpoint, but it can also vex IT pros. It challenges even those companies with the best of intentions to create a strategy with few standard measurements and guidelines to follow among partners as well as governments worldwide.

But there are places to start. In economically lean times, CIOs will scrutinize their budgets with an eye toward rationalization. They may retire old data center equipment, move more apps to the cloud, or check the efficiency of current cloud apps.

Today's tools can help rationalize applications. But don't think that if you put an application in the cloud, it will automatically result in a lower carbon footprint, as apps must be optimized for the cloud, Richter said.

Small steps first

EA's should look to architecture and technologies that meet the company's objectives, and should champion the small things first, said Isaac Sacolick, founder, and CEO of StarCIO, a New York-based advisory firm that guides CIOs who are undergoing digital transformations. Sacolick is a former CIO and CTO.

First ask what percent of workloads are migrated to the cloud and learn what is optimized for performance and reliability. Then turn to the business concern, which is optimizing against cost. At some point, sustainability becomes a leg of the stool around these decisions -- you operate around cost and at the same time work to lower your carbon footprint, Sacolick said.

Improving environmental sustainability
Forrester Research recently surveyed 563 IT professionals about sustainability efforts in their organizations.

Using today's tools

EA tools can collect data, measure the impact of decisions, and potentially show improvement. There are tools for discovery that scan the premises and SaaS, and even help reveal shadow IT. This alone can provide some visibility to build a model that can help a company create a roadmap to evolve, Robinet said.

Visualization features can show how technology changes contribute to sustainability objectives. These assessments view the lifecycle of those technology assets it deems to be a competitive advantage.

Cloud service providers have calculators that offer measures and metrics that gauge consumption and address equipment disposal. EA modeling tools model stakeholder impact, which addresses external partners as well as the financial impact to the business.

CIOs often put EAs in the role of solution architect because they cross all business units, Sacolick said. EAs can influence in the following ways:

  • Encourage the selection of storage tech that lets a company simultaneously archive unneeded data and reduce the carbon footprint.
  • Build a business case for installing a power management system, or put edge computing where there are more green energy sources
  • Drive DevOps teams to lower energy consumption by choosing more efficient APIs.
  • Create expectations in the company around sustainability and look for partners who share your view.
  • If not already doing so, use IT portfolio management for centralized control and cost reduction.

The special EA challenge

Many tools offer materiality assessments, but EAs are challenged to divvy up this information around a value in enterprise architecture. An EA may know a value of the carbon footprint in terms of energy consumed, but it's harder to determine what to place on one process versus another.

There will be pressure from stakeholders, [pressure] to hire and keep talent, and [pressure] from partners. It's no longer an option.
Leslie RobinetServices director, Mega International

"In enterprise architecture, you don't have the notion of a building," Mega's Robinet said. "You have the activities, organization and information system going on in that building. So, there is this intellectual exercise that has to happen to determine how that impact is distributed, and a method to imagine for it."

In the next few years, EA tools will offer more advances in terms of how they keep a sustainability strategy on track. But it is crucial to start a plan now. In fact, EAs ignore sustainability at their peril, as this is one area where the young generation is highly engaged.

"There will be pressure from stakeholders, [pressure] to hire and keep talent, and [pressure] from partners," Robinet said. "It's no longer an option."

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