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Loos, Peter, Nebel, Wolfgang, Gómez, Jorge Marx, Hasan, Helen, Wat-
son, Richard T., vom Brocke, Jan, Seidel, Stefan, & Recker, Jan C. (2011)
Green IT : a matter of business and information systems engineering?
Business and Information Systems Engineering,3(4), pp. 245-252.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12599-011-0165-5
GREEN BUSINESS PROCESS MANAGEMENT AND A CALL
FOR ACTION
Seidel, Stefan, University of Liechtenstein, Fuerst-Franz-Josef-Strasse 21, 9490 Vaduz, Prin-
cipality of Liechtenstein, stefan.seidel@uni.li
Recker, Jan, Queensland University of Technology, 126 Margaret Street, Brisbane QLD
4000, Australia, j.recker@qut.edu.au
Introduction
In their paper in the March 2010 issue of MIS Quarterly, Watson et al. (2010) called Information Sys-
tems (IS) researchers to investigate how the “transformative power of IS can be leveraged to create an
ecologically sustainable society” (p. 23). In this context, the notion of “Green IS” has emerged as “the
design and implementation of information systems that contribute to sustainable business processes”
(Watson et al. 2008).
We wish to highlight the role of green business processes, and specifically the contributions that the
management of these processes can play in leveraging the transformative power of IS in order to
create an environmentally sustainable society.
The management of business processes has typically been thought of in terms of business improve-
ment alongside the dimensions time, cost, quality, or flexibility – the so-called ‘devil’s quadrangle’.
Contemporary organizations, however, increasingly become aware of the need to create more sustain-
able, IT-enabled business processes that are also successful in terms of their economic, ecological, as
well as social impact. Exemplary ecological key performance indicators that increasingly find their
way into the agenda of managers include carbon emissions, data center energy, or renewable energy
consumption (SAP 2010). The key challenge, therefore, is to extend the devil’s quadrangle to a devil’s
pentagon, including sustainability as an important fifth dimension in process change.
The Role of Business Process Management in Green Initiatives
In their efforts to manage and improve business processes to enable business benefits in terms of costs,
flexibility, time savings, quality or, indeed, environmental, ecological or societal sustainability, BPM
also involves the use of IT-based systems. It is at this intersection of IT-system enablement and
process change that we believe the potential for sustainability initiatives lies. Our key premise is that
business and IT managers need to engage in a process-focused discussion to enable a common, com-
prehensive understanding of process, and the process-centered opportunities for making these
processes, and ultimately the organization as a process-centric entity, “green”. Our reasoning goes as
follows: The consideration of only those potentials that come out of the so-called “Green IT” systems
is too limited to facilitate discussions that can help business executives in putting these Green IT solu-
tions into business work. At the same time, it is impossible today to think of undertaking a major sus-
tainability change initiative (involving the re-design of major business processes) without considering
what information technology can do to that effect. Still, it is equally impossible to think about any
major redesign that does not call for major changes in how employees perform their jobs. Employees
and the management of employees are just as important as information technology in the transforma-
tion to sustainable practices and solutions, and BPM provides just the perspective that enables an inte-
grated, holistic approach to the management of sustainability change.
The proposition that we put forward in this call for action is that only through process change, and the
application of process-centered techniques, such as process analysis, process performance measure-
ment, and process improvement, the transformative power of IS can be fully leveraged in order to
create environmentally sustainable organizations and, in turn, an environmentally sustainable society.
This will not only allow us to better understand the transformative power of IS in the context of sus-
tainable development, but also to proceed to more prescriptive, normative research that directly im-
pacts on the implementation of sustainable, IT-enabled business processes. Figure 1 encapsulates this
call for action.
supports
enables
Green IT Green Business
Process Change
Figure 1: The Role of BPM in IS-enabled Sustainability Initiatives
A Working Agenda for Green BPM
We identify the following exemplary working areas for IS research alongside a classical process man-
agement lifecycle (Hammer 2010). We do not claim that these issues are exhaustive, and instead just
one way to conceptualize relevant areas of BPM that may be considered when investigating the role of
process management in the context of enterprise sustainability.
1) Process design: In process modeling, for example, it will be necessary to accommodate sustainabil-
ity-related concepts, such as carbon emissions or energy consumption of business activities. This, in
turn, will allow for analysis and improvement that not only considers economic, but also ecological
targets. Diagramming business processes with an extended BPMN notation (Recker et al. 2011), for
instance, could be used to document and analyze data about the waste associated with each process.
2) Process measurement: In order to become green, organizations need to embed sustainability-
related targets at all levels of business, starting from the strategy level. Consequently, process mea-
surement needs to accommodate sustainability-related factors such as carbon emissions, energy con-
sumption, and paper consumption. The measurement of these factors not only allows for controlling
the accomplishment of sustainability-related targets, but also creates transparency and awareness that
is needed in order to reach employees throughout the organization. Consequently, it will be necessary
to develop a thorough understanding of the required measurement systems as well as to develop IT
systems that collect data and allow for detailed monitoring of sustainability-related measures.
3) Process improvement and process change: We suggest that the deliberate improvement and re-
design of processes can contribute to achieving sustainability targets. While some processes may be-
come more sustainable through rather simple improvements, others may require a fundamental re-
design. This, in turn, will assist organizations in fully leveraging the transformative power of Green
IS. IS researchers should thus further investigate the role of process change in the context of transfor-
mation towards enterprise sustainability.
4) Process implementation: Finally, sustainable processes need to be implemented. In order to do so,
organizations are required to allocate sufficient resources, provide training to employees, and put into
action the previously defined measures. Moreover, IT systems are required to collect data, monitor,
and create the transparency that is required in order to involve people across the entire organization.
Consequently, IS researchers need to investigate the factors and dynamics that are relevant in the con-
text of implementing sustainable business processes.
The Way Forward
Following our call for action, two main avenues for future research emerge. First, IS researchers need
to investigate the role of process change in the transformation process towards enterprise sustainabili-
ty. Such research can employ both qualitative methods for the generation of novel theory that explains
the underlying transformation processes, and quantitative research that aims at testing novel theory.
We are currently traversing down this path in our IT-enabled sustainability transformation and the
adoption of sustainable work practices (Seidel et al. 2010). Second, grounded in such theories of
change, and drawing on process-related methods and techniques, IS researchers should proceed to
more prescriptive, normative or design-oriented research that directly impacts on the implementation
of sustainable, IT-enabled business processes.
References
Hammer, M. "What Is Business Process Management?," in: Handbook on Business Process Manage-
ment 1: Introduction, Methods and Information Systems, J. vom Brocke and M. Rosemann
(eds.), Springer, Berlin, Germany, 2010, pp. 3-16.
Recker, J., Rosemann, M., Roohi Goohar, E., Hjalmarsson, A., and Lind, M. "Modeling and Analyz-
ing the Carbon Footprint of Business Processes," in: Beyond Efficiency: Business Process
Management for the Sustainable Enterprise, S. Seidel and J. vom Brocke (eds.), Springer,
Berlin, Germany et al., 2011, p. forthcoming.
SAP "SAP Sustainability Report," SAP AG, 2010.
Seidel, S., Recker, J., Pimmer, C., and Vom Brocke, J. "Enablers and Barriers to the Organizational
Adoption of Sustainable Business Practices," 16th Americas Conference on Information Sys-
tems, Association for Information Systems, Lima, Peru, 2010.
Watson, R.T., Boudreau, M.-C., and Chen, A.J. "Information Systems and Environmentally Sustaina-
ble Development: Energy Informatics and New Directions for the IS Community," MIS Quar-
terly (34:1) 2010, pp 23-38.
Watson, R.T., Boudreau, M.-C., Chen, A.J., and Huber, M. "Green IS: Building Sustainable Business
Practices," in: Information Systems, R.T. Watson (ed.), Global Text Project, Athens, Georgia,
2008, pp. 247-261.
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Googling the term “Business Process Management†in May 2008 yields some 6.4 million hits, the great majority of which (based on sampling) seem to concern the so-called BPM software systems. This is ironic and unfortunate, because in fact IT in general, and such BPM systems in particular, is at most a peripheral aspect of Business Process Management. In fact, Business Process Management (BPM) is a comprehensive system for managing and transforming organizational operations, based on what is arguably the first set of new ideas about organizational performance since the Industrial Revolution.
Chapter
Googling the term “Business Process Management” in May 2008 yields some 6.4 million hits, the great majority of which (based on sampling) seem to concern the so-called BPM software systems. This is ironic and unfortunate, because in fact IT in general, and such BPM systems in particular, is at most a peripheral aspect of Business Process Management. In fact, Business Process Management (BPM) is a comprehensive system for managing and transforming organizational operations, based on what is arguably the first set of new ideas about organizational performance since the Industrial Revolution.
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While many corporations and Information Systems units recognize that environmental sustainability is an urgent problem to address, the IS academic community has been slow to acknowledge the problem and take action. We propose ways for the IS community to engage in the development of environmentally sustainable business practices. Specifially, as IS researchers, educators, journal editors, and association leaders, we need to demonstrate how the transformative power of IS can be leveraged to create an ecologically sustainable society. In this Issues and Opinions piece, we advocate a research agenda to establish a new subfield of energy informatics, which applies information systems thinking and skills to increase energy efficiency. We also articulate how IS scholars can incorporate environmental sustainability as an underlying foundation in their teaching, and how IS leaders can embrace environmentalsustainability in their core principles and foster changes that reduce the environmental impact of our community.
Untersuchung des Potentials von rechenzentrenübergreifendem Lastmanagement zur Reduzierung des Energieverbrauchs in der IKT
  • W Nebel
  • M Hoyer
  • K Schröder
  • D Schlitt