RESEARCH & RESOURCES

SAS Helps Organizations Sustain Their Green Initiatives

Data warehouse practitioners, IT users, and employees in general may find that being "green" is much easier than ever before.

With the end-of-April launch of SAS for Sustainability Management, the privately-held BI giant is now offering a BI platform to help organizations monitor and better manage their efforts to make help the world a little greener.

Green seems to be the favorite color of data warehouse vendors these days. For example, almost all data warehouse appliance vendors highlight their small footprints and reduced power requirements while a recent Oracle advertisement focuses on how the advanced data compression features of Oracle Database 11g reduces physical storage requirements which in turn decreases power requirements. At its annual Insight Americas User Conference in October 2007, Business Objects, now an SAP company, took several measures (such as the extensive use of recycled materials) to help reduce the carbon emissions associated with the event.

Going green is more than just an economic or environmental concern; it is also a marketing issue. While energy costs can represent a significant proportion of the overall lifecycle costs of a product, some prospects are looking beyond the pure energy cost savings and are beginning to consider the "greenness" of the vendor and its products as one of their selection criteria; in some instances (albeit still relatively rare), prospects may seek to avoid vendors with a poor reputation on environmental issues.

The SAS platform consists of several components for performance management, time-series forecasting, statistical analysis, and activity-based management as well as a pre-built sustainability reporting template which conforms to the reporting guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), an organization whose purpose is to establish a common framework for sustainability management reporting. The activity-based management capabilities allow organizations to choose among alternatives and its predictive analytics capabilities assist in foreseeing future results and managing associated risks.

Sustainability management is not limited to the environment; it includes financial and social measures as well. It encompasses, for example, KPIs for measuring voluntary employee turnover, anti-corruption training, and employee benefits. It can be viewed as a form of balanced scorecard that measures the social, economic, and environmental performance of an organization or its performance relative to the "triple bottom line" impact on "people, profits, and the planet."

Sustainability management is something that all organizations should take seriously because it measures both the current and future impact of their decisions relative to the environment and relative to social and economic issues. Furthermore, with the growing number of regulatory compliance regulations and mandates, the environmental impact of new initiatives needs to be considered as part of any go/no-go decision.

SAS, like many other data warehousing companies, has numerous sustainability initiatives going on internally. However, the company is now preaching what it practices and SAS for Sustainability Management is its product to evangelize the message and help organizations predict and measure the impact of their efforts.

Although my favorite Sesame Street character, Kermit the Frog, may have found that it wasn't easy being green, data warehouse practitioners in particular, and IT users and employees in general, may find that it is now much less difficult. While the IT mantra has always been to find a solution that is "cheaper, better, faster" it may now include "cleaner" as well!

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