I recently recorded a podcast with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the global pharmaceutical company, and their success story of implementing a PC power management initiative that is expected to cut energy costs by ~$1 million per year. While these savings alone should impress any IT executive – especially IT infrastructure and operations professionals who manage PCs – what I found so unique about their story came through my conversation with Matt Bartow, business analyst in GSK’s research and development IT organization, who led this initiative. In particular, GSK is a great example of how “empowering” staff to innovate can industrialize IT operations leading to significant cost savings and green IT benefits.

GSK’s success with PC power management is an outcome of the inspired management style advocated in Forrester’s upcoming book, Empowered. By proactively calling on their employees to spur innovation, GSK tapped into one of their greatest inventive resources – staff, like Matt Bartow, who Forrester would consider a highly empowered and resourceful operative (HERO). But as Empowered explains, HEROes can’t succeed without support from management. By initiating the innovation challenge, GSK’s IT leadership not only identified HEROes in their organization but sourced innovative ideas at the same time. From there, the use of social media technology – in this case, using a wiki-type website with voting capabilities – made it simple for GSK staff to participate while giving them a “say” in the selection process.

So how exactly did PC power management become an IT priority at GSK?

As Matt explains in the interview, it was an “unusual beginning” prompted by a challenge issued by GSK’s CIO to the IT department seeking new and innovative ideas. Thinking about ideas to bring forth, Matt came across an article on PC energy consumption and how it is largely left unmanaged; Forrester finds that 43% of organizations are implementing PC power management in some shape or form. After some investigation, Matt determined that GSK’s current PC power management settings were overly conservative. His submission to the innovation challenge – calling for more aggressive settings – was voted into the top ten proposed ideas by his peers and ultimately received executive sponsorship to be implemented.

To ensure the project was a success, GSK enacted a two week pilot of these new settings on a diverse group of 550 volunteers with different working habits from different countries and lines of business. To refine the power settings, users were surveyed to understand if productivity, application use, or any other working behavior was impacted. This trial run also helped GSK develop their green IT baseline to assess their financial and environmental savings potential – which turned out to be significant. When implemented across GSK’s 92,000 PCs globally, these more aggressive PC power management settings are expected to save close to $1 million in energy costs each year, and a reduction in carbon emissions equivalent to taking 925 passenger vehicles off the road.