5 Tech Vendors' Different Views on the 'IT-for-Green' Opportunity

My analyst duties took me to a number of industry and tech-vendor events this fall; in fact, looking back at my calendar, I have been out of my home area in Boston for nine of the last 12 weeks. The upside of all that time in airplane seats is that I get to meet and interact with leaders across the technology industry, including supplier companies, large and small, and their customers and partners.

In the first 10 days of December I spent time with five important technology suppliers, each of which has very different views on the opportunity in the broad arena of IT-for-sustainability (i.e., how information technology products and services help corporations achieve their sustainability goals).

1. CA, which is building customer momentum in its carbon and energy management software business. The velocity of CA's business in the enterprise carbon and energy management (ECEM) space is accelerating. New customer wins in retail, government, transportation, and high-tech are confirming both the viability of this software market and CA's "vendor to watch" status in that market.

Importantly, CA is expanding its footprint in these customers beyond its traditional province of the IT organization and corporate data centers, creating linkages with facilities, operations, and supply chain executives. Its partnerships with Jones Lang LaSalle and Siemens are enhancing its credibility in operational and building management.

2. Deloitte, which sees growth opportunities in sustainability consulting services. The firm, which has long been a thought leader in green IT and sustainability consulting, made two acquisitions this week to expand its capabilities and market presence. ClearCarbon and DOMANI complement Deloitte's consulting capabilities, adding depth to its expertise in helping companies formulate and execute sustainability strategies.

In particular, Deloitte is keen on the opportunity to help its clients come to grips with their scope 3 carbon emissions; many companies are seeing their own customers requiring reporting of carbon footprints in their supply chains. These acquisitions are a material addition to Deloitte's goal of being a leading sustainability consulting services provider.

3. IBM, where the software group is not seeing sustainability driving customers' decisions. Sustainability was not on the agenda at two different IBM customer and analyst events in November. But the company continues its aggressive approach in developing several software capabilities that customers can and will use to improve their sustainability initiatives, including asset management, energy monitoring, and data analytics.

And IBM is pushing hard on its "Smarter Planet" marketing umbrella that encompasses many sustainability-related efforts including smarter cities, buildings, and computing infrastructure. Asset optimization, yes; energy efficiency, yes; better transportation systems, yes. But the "s" word was completely absent from IBM's marketing approach, customer cases, and product descriptions at the events this fall. IBM is not seeing its customers using sustainability as part of their business case for making software investments.

4. SAP, which is emphasizing sustainability as a growth business. At SAP's analyst event, sustainability was front-and-center, both as a key corporate value and as a driver of software and software-as-a-service sales.

The company is integrating its own sustainability strategy and initiatives with its overall corporate strategy, and will be following suit in its corporate reporting over the next several years. It makes a compelling case for being both an exemplar and enabler of sustainability in corporate operations. And it brings a broad portfolio of products to bear in areas including supply chain management, energy and resource management, and sustainability reporting and analytics. SAP's challenges are in integrating that broad portfolio and giving its sales teams and channels packaged solutions that are well-targeted to different customer stakeholders in operations, IT, finance, or HR.

And a fifth company that I can't mention yet, which is positioning to increase its presence in sustainability software. It is tuning its vision of the opportunity and gearing up for an important initiative in 2011.

In the coming year, Forrester's Vendor Strategy research team will be tracking these vendors and many others as the technology industry grapples with whether and how and when to capitalize on sustainability as a new driver of IT solutions and implementations. In the meantime, best wishes for a happy holiday season and new year.