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THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE

Five reasons why inactivity is not an option.

We live in uncertain times and balancing social and business growth with sustainability has never been more vital to the longevity of humankind. In January 2017, the UK Government’s UK Climate Change Risk Assessment acknowledged that climate change is not a distant notion, but something that is happening now. The same report documented that UK temperatures have already risen by 1 degree Celsius and that UK sea levels are rising by 3mm per year. As a result, the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan was cited as, ‘one example of how we are building climate adaptation into our plans and investments to ensure that we are resilient for the future’.

 

In times of uncertainty our reaction is often to do nothing – to plan but not to act.  So is that our best option today – to wait and see what happens next?  In this post I set out the key reasons why taking the right action now has never been more important.

  1. We Suffer More from Ignorance than Uncertainty

It may seem to us at the moment that we live with the greatest uncertainties ever, but the reality is very different.  While change and disruption may be common place, we can be more certain of outcomes than any previous period in history, as we have access to far more data, analysis and precedent.  Of course, what we choose to actually access, and what we do with the information when we have it are very different matters.

The reverse is true of ignorance.  There’s a temptation to think of villagers in the dark ages surrounded by woods with no knowledge of events outside a 10 mile radius as “ignorant”, however they lacked the information on which to act.  In fact it is us, armed with the information but choosing not to act on it, who are truly ignorant.

We can reduce uncertainty by arming ourselves with the right information, but to avoid ignorance we have to accept that having the information gives us a responsibility to act.

  1. We Need to Prioritise Actions Which Benefit “Us”

As a species we are very often guilty of defining ourselves by identifying our differences from others, rather than our similarities to them.  At its most basic level we need to extend out from a purely selfish view of what affects me, not just to family, friends and colleagues but to a greater world view.

This is not a simple ask.  To define us as all the inhabitants of the planet requires a huge cognitive, cultural and attitudinal shift.  Placing “planet” in our thinking at a personal, group and business level is essential, however, if we are to make the changes necessary to keep the world viable for future generations.

  1. Time Can’t Heal an Escalating Problem

The reason that a fundamental shift is needed now is quite simply that we continue to make the problems worse.  From climate change to pollution to population growth and food shortages, the situation will not improve without action on the part of individuals, businesses and governments.

Our actions are directly causing the problems, so our actions are needed to bring about more positive outcomes.

  1. It’s the Selfish Economy, Stupid

Money matters.  Promoting an agenda which ignores an individual’s aspirations for improvement in personal circumstances or a business’ drive to make profits is naive and ultimately unlikely to succeed.

Equally if we continue to pursue goals which are based purely on the acquisition of material wealth and EBITDA growth we are promoting activities and behaviours that are incredibly damaging for ourselves, society and the environment.

Ultimately it’s a question of balance.  Px3’s priorities of people, planet and profit exist in that order for a reason.  From a sustainable leadership perspective our people must be our first priority, and we need to encourage them to consider what we can all change to reduce harm to the planet.  If we can do these two things and make the organisation more cost effective, more productive and more efficient then we believe that is a goal worth investing in.

  1. We Must Become Our Own Heroes

Humankind has made huge impacts on our planet and has assumed the role of rightful owner without taking any of the associated responsibilities.  Today we idolise and celebrate those who achieve success in business, culture, sport and politics.

We must take a longer, wider view.  Success is not embodied in others, and responsibility for the planet does not rest elsewhere.  A fundamental shift is needed to take joyful ownership of “making a difference” in every decision, whether business or personal.

The uncertainty of our current situation needs to drive us to take positive action based on the information we already have and to seek new information to make better decisions in the future.

About the author:
Ewen Anderson is CIO of Px3, a company which provides analytics and consultancy to help organisations improve the efficiency and ecological impact of their ICT operations. Ewen has a background in management services, enterprise IT and executive leadership. Over the last 20 years he has worked as a strategy consultant for many FTSE 100, public sector and Not for Profit organisations.

 

People, Planet, Profit – Why 3 is the magic number

Why have we chosen to focus on People, Planet and Profit, using them as the major axes for our analysis? The answer lies in the inter-connected nature of the work we do and our interest in helping clients gain clear visibility of “the bigger picture”. In this post, we explore why People, Planet and Profit all play key roles in transformational change.

A Word of Explanation
After decades spent working on justifications for particular projects and spending I can confirm that most of that time was really spent pursuing a series of mostly pre-determined, objectives. Whether the underlying driver is technical upgrade, cost saving, career progression or keeping up with peers, the justification accompanying projects is often something of an afterthought. It’s a bit like seeing a destination on a map, fighting your way through dense jungle to reach it, then drawing the route map after you reach your destination.

This approach has three key flaws. Firstly, the journey may never reach its intended destination. Secondly, the destination may not be worth reaching given the time, distance or cost. Finally, you may reach the destination and discover that you are alone. Equally, the organisation that expends too much budget on analysis, preparation and planning may expend too many critical resources (time and/or budget) compromising the ability to complete the project itself.

The trick is therefore to understand the planned destination and gather enough objective data to allow key stakeholders to make informed decisions about the “whether” as well as the “what, why, who, how and when”.

The Px3 mission is twofold. Firstly, we have an overriding objective to reduce carbon emissions associated with ICT and we track our progress on that by each engagement we complete. Secondly, we are committed to giving customers the best chance of achieving successful change by providing actionable insights across three key areas, People Planet and Profit.

People
Is it possible to effect change through technology alone? The chances are that most of us have been on the receiving end of a technology change that has not been well thought through from a user / customer perspective. Our reaction ranges from mild frustration to outright rejection, depending on our emotional engagement with the organisation responsible and the criticality of the service provided.

In subsequent posts, we will examine the people elements of change much more closely, but for now, we can identify the headline areas in which People aspects directly affect our chances of driving successful change. From the outset we need to have a good understanding of who the users are, what they do and what issues they may have today. At its simplest level, this gives a baseline for change. At best, it can give us a rich source of data to help quantify the potential benefits, risks and challenges to both the business and the People. Through this deeper engagement, we can also gain valuable insights from the users themselves about their suggested improvements and gain the support of “champions” to assist us in driving change. This element is important as positive change that nurtures culture and productivity through shared and desirable outcomes, such as improved work life balance, makes an organisation more attractive to talent, especially in the transformative age we live in.

Px3 research and live application highlights that applying a properly constructed engagement tool can simplify the process of monitoring how staff actually feel about the proposed organisational change. It allows a much more pro-active engagement with key groups based on categories often overlooked. An example of this may be ‘geography’ whereby instant and secure remote access to systems and applications scores highly in People satisfaction due to a reduction in unnecessary daily commuting and improvements to flexible working.

Planet
As responsible People, we all have a duty to cause as little harm as possible to the world we inhabit. As individuals this comes down to lifestyle and behavioural choices, plus, decisions we make about who to work for and where to spend our money. Organisations have the opportunity to make changes that both directly benefit the environment, but also set an example to the wider community of staff, customers and supply chain.
There’s a reason why ecological considerations are featured in the mission statements of most organisations. It is an indicator of their commitment and integrity. At its most basic it can be seen as “me too”, however those organisations that make a real commitment to the environment as part of their core mission and corporate and social responsibility policies do differentiate themselves.

In an increasingly competitive market where brand attraction counts, genuine expressions of integrity, ethical practices and ecological responsibility have real worth. In fact, our research highlights that over 67% of UK consumers stated they were more likely to buy a product or service with a low CO2 footprint. As such, it is true that ‘People’ are becoming more aware that the way we consume goods and services can either have a negative or positive effect on the ‘Planet’.

Extensive research highlights that improvements to ICT practices will enhance an organisation’s approach to sustainability. ICT is collectively ranked as the 5th largest electricity consumer in the world and as such produces excessive CO2 emissions. The constant need to refresh technology also drives consumption of precious metals and production of hazardous waste. However, it’s not all bad news when it comes to information technology. The industry is also cited as being capable of enabling global CO2 reductions of 20 times it’s current emission figure if utilised effectively and sustainably. Effectively means not only as an enabler for innovations such as IOT enhanced farming or smart road transport fuel reduction programs; but also everyday sustainable, ecological and practical IT consumption practices.

From an impact perspective, Px3 gathers data on energy consumption from both datacentre operations and devices. By measuring the consumption and efficiency of ICT equipment, we can look to make reductions through a combination of lower energy devices, cloud technologies and fuel sources. We also examine travel and premises considerations to determine whether improved flexible working could significantly reduce energy consumption from transport (such as commuting) and building (lighting, heating and cooling). The results are accompanied by Px3’s unique Carbon Car Indicator (CCI) rating that proves the level of CO2 emissions your organisation has reduced by transforming to sustainable IT.

Profit
Not every organisation is focused on making a profit, but every organisation is concerned with its costs and productivity. Getting these two elements right does however often increase profitability. Clearly there are cost implications for some of the areas discussed earlier, such as energy, premises and travel. Equally, most organisations have significant costs associated with infrastructure (hardware and software) support and operations management.

Our experience is that costs can be significantly reduced by a combination of simplification (right-sizing, standardising and converting complex on-premise solutions to cloud-based services) and optimisation (moving to the right devices and from purchasing for peak usage to an on-demand model).

Productivity improvements can be driven by giving people the tools they actually need to perform their role. Technology should be an enabler provided to the employee by the organisation based on a real understanding of what that person needs. Too often, we have seen technology projects fail and invested wasted because the driver was to change the technology, not the way of working.

Having a sound business case that considers cost reduction, cost avoidance and the business benefits of improved productivity is an essential part of the road map for change and will help all stakeholders determine the value of change, as well as the cost.

Conclusion
If we are serious about driving effective change in an organisation, then consideration of People, Planet and Profit is the optimum starting point for any transformational journey. Understanding strategic goals, current state in each area and the options for change are the key stages of forming and executing a successful plan that will take you in the right direction. When you arrive at that destination you will find that your People will be with you, your Planet will be a better place, and your Profit will have benefited from taking the time to investigate a sustainable approach. Surely, that’s a course well worth following?

About the author:
Ewen Anderson is CIO of Px3, a company which provides analytics and consultancy to help organisations improve the efficiency and ecological impact of their ICT operations. Ewen has a background in management services, enterprise IT and executive leadership. Over the last 20 years he has worked as a strategy consultant for many FTSE 100, public sector and Not for Profit organisations.