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  • Article
  • ITIL Practices
  • Digital transformation
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Author  Leif Andersson – Owner, coach at Illumineight

May 13, 2022 |

 6 min read

  • Article
  • ITIL Practices
  • Digital transformation
  • ITIL

How much of a problem do IT and digital pose to the environment – and why do we need an ITIL 4 module covering Sustainability in Digital and IT?

Until now, so-called “green IT” has mostly been about hardware - the computer, its components and power consumption.

“Green IT refers to environmentally sound IT. It’s the study and practice of designing, manufacturing, using, and disposing of computers, servers, and associated subsystems—such as monitors, printers, storage devices, and networking and communications systems—efficiently and effectively with minimal or no impact on the environment. Green IT also strives to achieve economic viability and improved system performance and use, while abiding by our social and ethical responsibilities.”

Murugesan, S., 2008. Harnessing green IT: Principles and Practices

However, we now need to turn our attention to the business side: how does IT affect an enterprise, regarding waste? And as IT services are a more intangible element in the business and sustainability conversation, this is where the new ITIL module comes in.

Making IT/digital sustainability a real thing

When talking about sustainability, the typical focus has been on the macro, global problems of greenhouse gases and carbon footprint on a global scale.

From an IT/digital perspective, this is more difficult to connect with on an organization level. So, sustainability training and awareness helps to give context and is probably a success factor for integrating sustainability in day-to-day business operations. The good thing, in my view, about the ITIL 4 Specialist: Sustainability in Digital & IT module is how it uses the triple bottom line model: this extends a business’ bottom line accountability beyond finance to include both people and the environment. (Elkington, J., 1998. Accounting for the triple bottom line)

By measuring all three, organizations will have a better picture of how the business is performing and how these factors are stimulating growth or not.

Providing sustainability skills via ITIL 4

Why is an extension module in ITIL 4 a good place to start organizations and service management professionals on a pathway to better sustainability?

When talking about sustainability in digital and IT, ITIL 4’s service value system, service value chain and practices map well to the topic. Above all, it enables a clearer connection between sustainability and other organizational issues. In very practical terms, ITIL 4’s seven-step continual improvement model offers a practical approach: asking “where are we now?”, “where do we want to be?”, etc.

The training course I undertook for the sustainability module took us through this model towards a vision, potential strategies and operational impacts.

Incident management and sustainability

How can we use ITIL 4’s incident management practice to support our sustainability goals?

Think about the healthcare context of the Covid-19 vaccination. Each vaccine dose is temperature sensitive and has a limited shelf life. Therefore, if an IT system for registering patients goes down and there is poor incident handling, it could potentially cause a lot of vaccine waste.

How does this connect digital/IT and sustainability?

Wasted vaccines caused by IT failure means ordering more, consuming raw materials and requiring transport in the process. This affects the organization’s bottom line and its ability to improve operational sustainability. Understanding what is causing incidents through the value chain, how many there are and within which systems needs more than business intelligence and reports. The use of AI and Robotic Process Automation can help clarify the relationships. Not least because data analytics often gets lost in the data management team

The knowledge contained in the ITIL 4 Specialist: Sustainability in Digital & IT module can help change mindsets to understand the connection between business, IT and sustainability.

Sustainability is a business value

Achieving sustainability goals needs a mindset change.

Defining services from a business value perspective – and including sustainability as one of the values – will help people understand what sustainable behaviour looks like. Then, reinforcing and rewarding this behaviour is scientifically proven to work.

The ITIL 4 Specialist: Sustainability in Digital & IT course has given me useful guidance for how to break down sustainability at an operational level and identify the behaviour needed to make it a reality.