7 Tips to Make the Most of Enterprise Carbon And Energy Software

There are many reasons why firms are turning to carbon and energy software providers. It could be pressure from stakeholders to take a more sustainable approach to business, or an obligation to comply with environmental regulations, or simply a cost cutting exercise implemented from the board. But there is a considerable gap between identifying a need for suitable software solutions and meeting that need.

At Verdantix, our research has found that firms are stumbling over common issues when selecting software suppliers. It doesn’t matter which industry we researched, executives always identified the same hurdles: budget constraints, immature carbon strategies, concerns over energy management and ineffective cross-functional communications. The problems don’t stop here, either.

Having interviewed 44 key suppliers of carbon and energy software, only 19 percent said that they had contact with CIOs or IT directors. Instead, in 93 percent of cases, their clients were Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) or VPs for Sustainability -- in many cases individuals in newly created posts who typically have much smaller budgets to play with, as well as a lack of experience in purchasing software. Add over 100 software providers to the equation, many of whom can count their years’ experience on one hand, and decision-making is complicated further.

In all but a handful of firms, carbon and energy management strategies are still very much in their infancy. When investigating the sector, Verdantix found that only 9 percent of 1,833 billion dollar firms in the U.S. were even aiming for leadership in sustainability; the U.K. fared slightly better, with 18 percent of the 457 firms analysed making this assertion, but in both cases, this figure is far too low. Sustainability cannot afford to sit at the bottom of executives’ priority lists -- it’s an issue that isn’t going to go away and what’s more, is one that can bring widespread benefits if approached strategically.

As part of the research for the Verdantix report, "Green Quadrant Carbon And Energy Management Software 2010" (covered here on GreenBiz.com), we spoke to 15 energy, carbon and sustainability professionals from top-tier firms to put together a profile of typical clients. At the suppliers’ end, we observed carbon and energy software product demonstrations by 28 providers. Piecing the two sides of the story together, we identified seven best practice recommendations for potential buyers:

  1. Map out users. If a buyer -- remember, these are typically CSOs, many of whom are new to their roles -- fails to pinpoint who will be using the chosen software, then it is unlikely they will be able to identify the best software solution for those users.
  2. Consider how as well as whom. Buyers must have a clear understanding of how the software will be used. If users envisage relying upon carbon software for anything above simple reporting, then the programmes must be able to meet these advanced requirements.
  3. Link software to business plans. Carbon and energy software use must be able to evolve with the business. This is crucial as deployments change from being tactical to strategic.
  4. Shortlist on key functionality. There is no single supplier that can deliver best in class functionality for all usage scenarios. Buyers must shortlist suppliers upon their ability to provide key functionality requirements today and in the future.
  5. Past clients count. Keep an eye on your competitors. Buyers need to examine client lists, as similar customers have similar problems. Make sure any teething problems have already been solved elsewhere.
  6. Do a demo. Once buyers have a supplier shortlist, put these firms to the test by providing them with historical data. Let them demonstrate their software’s potential using utility bills, Excel sheets and any other energy consumption figures.
  7. Partnerships matter. Suppliers can maximize value through their partnerships, so buyers should find out who they are. Suppliers with extensive contacts are better prepared for global roll-outs, domain expertise and process change support.

Verdantix research identified service providers such as Capgemini and Deloitte who have partnerships with leading software suppliers such as CA Technologies and Hara as key performers in this confusing market, although specialists might provide a better fit in some industries.

Matching the right software provider to the right firm is not an easy goal, but following these recommendations will certainly help buyers save time and money as they seek the appropriate application for their firm.

Photo CC-licensed by racheocity.