The past few years has seen the adoption by many firms of the new business mantra: "if you can’t measure it, you can't manage it".
This succinct truism neatly encapsulates how a failure to monitor how you are performing leaves you unable to optimise that performance, and it has ushered in a more metric-based management at many large firms.
It has also made business intelligence (BI) and ERP vendors with their various reporting toolsets a lot of money.
However, while it is now possible to get real time reports detailing your company's performance across all kinds financial, regulatory, supply chain, HR and marketing-based metrics getting clear visibility over your environmental performance remains an extremely difficult and often manual task.
The lack of solutions in this area was highlighted recently by Nigel Montgomery of analyst firm AMR Research in a report in which he explained how the lack of proper master data management software and enterprise dashboards for analysing and presenting environmental metrics was one of the key factors holding back the transition towards more environmentally friendly business models.
Speaking this week he said that a lot of current green business initiatives were guilty of "tokenism" because firms weren't able to properly measure their success. This same lack of visibility over performance meant they were finding it difficult to set clear targets for reductions in carbon emissions as they were unable to easily measure their progress towards those targets.
However, according to early results from a survey of 200 European companies carried out by AMR, firms are beginning to realise they need greater visibility over their environmental performance if they are to prepare themselves for future regulations and take full advantage of the business benefits green initiatives deliver.
Over half of respondents said an executive dashboard showing environmental performance indicators would prove "critical" or "very useful", while more than 70 percent said they will seek to incorporate a specialised management information dashboard to display environmental information within two years.
The results echo predictions made last month at a conference organised by BI specialist SAS where IT futurist Thornton May said that BI toolsets capable of reporting and modeling firms environmental impacts would prove a major growth area for BI software vendors.
Montgomery said such products would help dramatically improve firms' environmental sustainability, adding in his article that: "This approach to decision support provides data at all levels of the organisation, so people throughout the company can view potential waste and emissions inefficiencies before they commit to a process change, such as a line change, a delay in preventative maintenance, or when expediting an order."
In simple parlance this means that if you can clearly see that new servers will help lower your firms' carbon footprint (and impress your boss in the process) then you will be more inclined to buy them. While if you can see that a change in your supply chain, for example, is increasing emissions you are more likely to investigate an alternative.
The only problem with this scenario is that currently ERP and BI systems that enable business wide reporting on environmental performance indicators are all but non existent.
However, with customer demand for such systems rapidly emerging help is on the horizon, according to Montgomery, with several major business app vendors currently in a race to become the first to launch a full blown environmental reporting toolset.
Meanwhile, those vendors that haven’t considered developing environmental reporting and analysis systems to sit alongside the financial reporting systems now commonplace amongst many large firms should act now or risk missing out on a huge market opportunity.
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