REDMOND, Wash. — April 18, 2010 — As companies adopt IT solutions to save money and improve efficiency, they are discovering that the technologies bring significant environmental benefits as well, such as reductions in energy consumption, travel and carbon emissions. In short, being lean is good for the environment and being green is good for business.
One way companies are saving money and helping the environment is by finding better ways for employees to share information than shuffling stacks of paper back and forth.
Microsoft is helping achieve these goals through a variety of technologies. Some reduce the need to use paper, some make computing more energy-efficient, and others provide alternatives to using fossil fuels, but the overall goals are to help businesses run more efficiently and to help the planet run more sustainably.
For example, moving away from paper-based business systems not only reduces costs, but cuts down on environmental waste.
That’s what Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a law firm with more than 1,100 lawyers in 22 offices worldwide, learned. It adopted Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to help “dematerialize” many of its operations. Before installing SharePoint Server, the firm had to deliver paper documents to the firm’s many signatories via mail or couriers. Without that step, contracts couldn’t be finalized. In addition to the distribution costs and slow turnaround times, the firm had to maintain huge file rooms.
Now, an extranet based on SharePoint Server, along with a digital signing platform, has largely eliminated this headache. Orrick integrated Workshare Document Control, an enterprise server-based component, into the Office SharePoint Server 2007. Now, at any point in the document-approval process, a reviewer accessing a document on Orrick’s extranet can make revisions and use the legal blacklining features of Workshare’s service to see and audit exactly how the document has been changed, and by whom, since the original version was created. With this new system, Orrick saves about $1.1 million per year and uses less paper in the process.
WISE Group, a large mental health service provider in New Zealand, is also serious about its environmental impact.
Says Stuart Prendergast, CIO of WISE Group: “We firmly believe we have a responsibility to ourselves, our customers and New Zealand to make infrastructure investment decisions that will have a positive impact on the environment. The business processes we were using, particularly the reliance on paper forms, were at odds with this goal.”
To uphold its responsibility, the company deployed Microsoft Office Forms Server 2007 and Microsoft Office InfoPath. Prendergast believes the benefits of the new technology are outstanding.
“The production of hard-copy forms was a considerable expense, both environmentally and in terms of cost to the business,” he says. “The overall cost saving and productivity gains for WISE have assisted us in meeting our sustainability goals.”
A second way organizations are saving money and becoming more sustainable is through energy-efficient computing.
Last June, the city of Helsinki began an upgrade to Windows 7. Power-management capabilities in the new operating system give administrators better control over the power state of the 20,000 computers in their network.
Says Jari Taberman, IT specialist for Helsinki: “We can control when computer displays turn off and when computers enter sleep mode after a period of inactivity.”
Another city using Microsoft technology for energy-efficient computing is Miami, Florida. The city’s CIO and IT director decided to address the client side of the city’s IT environment by upgrading employees’ desktop and portable PCs to the Windows 7 operating system.
Even early in the deployment, city employees were working more efficiently and reducing energy costs. With the help of improved group power preferences in Windows 7, the city expects to cut more than $45,000 in energy costs in just the first year after deployment.
Telework and Presence
A great way for a company to cut its carbon footprint is to permit employees to work from home and avoid driving to the office. Microsoft’s unified communications solutions make it easier for employers to offer that option.
In 2007, European car manufacturer Renault signed an agreement with its unions offering some employees the opportunity to work from home. With their managers’ consent, technicians, engineers and other employees can work from home up to four days a week. This wouldn’t have been possible if Renault hadn’t integrated Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 with its existing VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system. Employees use Office Communicator’s intuitive interface on their PCs to direct calls to and from Cisco hard phones. Communications Server pulls in address-book and corporate-directory information so that employees can use presence indicators to share information about their availability, helping them communicate in real time. Users simply click on a person’s name in Office Communicator or any other Microsoft Office applications that shows presence information.
Employees can also communicate using instant messaging — an important business productivity tool for fast, direct collaboration.
Wireless communications provider Sprint Nextel also integrated Microsoft unified communications into its existing communications infrastructure to support its Mobile Workforce initiative.
Sprint has 4,000 employees who are designated as mobile workers. Based on rough calculations, it believes that its mobile sales force may be cutting two days per week worth of travel time — with an average of about 30 miles per round trip — reducing carbon emissions by 5,590 metric tons per year.
Scott Woodrome, strategy manager for enterprise real estate at Sprint, says: “When employees come into the office a little bit less, they save on commute time, which turns into gasoline savings. Over time, that saves a lot of energy consumption.”
Whether it’s digging out from under paperwork, cutting electricity usage or reducing the need to travel, Microsoft solutions not only solve business problems and save money — they also help protect the environment.