The Green Pall

Last fall, I had the opportunity to moderate a roundtable discussion in which a group of CIOs and other senior executives gathered to share their ideas, experiences and priorities as corporate IT leaders. To prepare, I interviewed each participant ahead of time to get a sense of his top concerns so that I could create the agenda.

In light of the buzz we've all been hearing around green computing, I wanted to find out where that topic ranked on their lists. When I asked, I felt a surprising, but distinct, global cooling.

"It's not a high priority," groaned the senior vice president of IT at a medical services company in the Midwest.

"It's minor for us," yawned the vice president of enterprise architecture and planning at a West Coast entertainment firm.

Before I had made it through even half of my pre-roundtable interviews, I stopped asking the question. In the end, there was no discussion of green computing on the agenda.

I didn't get it. With energy costs skyrocketing, why weren't these guys more concerned with finding ways to cut their power consumption? Why did they have so little interest in sharing experiences and best practices so they could put those enormous sums of money to better use? What was I missing?

And then it clicked. I had cast a pall over the question by how I phrased it. The pall was green.

There was a time when "green" connoted something that was dear to the hearts of all corporate executives. Green was the color of money. Now it's the hue of tree-huggers' cheeks, and IT executives are dealing with far too many headaches to let themselves be led on an environmental guilt trip. When a CIO is trying to help steer the corporate ship through recessionary waters, and he's worrying about what will happen if it capsizes, don't start whining about oil spills. Right or wrong, he doesn't want to hear it.

It's as if green has become the poison ivy of the corporate IT agenda. And vendors are hardly providing any calamine. Instead, they're spreading the irritation in the form of green marketing hype, falling over themselves to be perceived as enablers of a green data center.

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