How Sustainability Software Enters the Corporate Bloodstream

How Sustainability Software Enters the Corporate Bloodstream

There are fewer and fewer questions about the role of corporate backbone software systems as a prerequisite for meeting sustainability goals like reducing energy consumption and reporting GHG emissions. I speak with companies practically every week who are swimming in Excel spreadsheets and dealing with input errors, slow turnaround, and manual reconciliation of disparate data sources. They want OFF of Excel — the question is, and ON to what?

There are currently more than 70 vendors eager to offer their answer to that question. They come from a variety of directions: IT systems, building/asset management, enterprise software, environment health &safety (EH&S) specialists, and startups.

What’s fascinating these days is how similar the stories coming from these vendors are. During a quick trip to the SF Bay Area last week, I met with three suppliers of enterprise carbon and energy management (ECEM) systems: Oracle (enterprise software), C3 (startup — see Paul Baier’s profile of C3 here), and IHS(EH&S). I heard startlingly similar stories, with all three agreeing on the basic outline of ECEM market requirements and adoption:

  • ECEM is part of a consolidating enterprise software landscape, incorporating increasing functionality into integrated suites. All three explicitly used the CRM software landscape as an analogy for what they see happening in sustainability software over the next several years; it was especially interesting to hear this analogy from C3 CEO Tom Siebel, who of course knows that landscape as well as anyone in the industry.
  • Connecting, aggregating, and normalizing data from disparate sources (ERP and procurement systems, instrumented assets, and people) is the hardest and therefore differentiating function of ECEM products.
  • Adoption drivers will evolve quickly from tactical ones like energy cost reduction to more “transformative” efforts that incorporate sustainable operations into a customer’s business model, brand perception, and strategy.
  • Alliances with integrators and consultants like Deloitte (IHS) and Accenture (C3) will be crucial in helping customers adopt and implement ECEM software.

Now that said, the strategies of these 3 vendors differ substantially. For example:

  • Oracle is aiming exclusively at its installed base of enterprise software customers. A firm buying Oracle’s Environmental Accounting & Reporting software needs to have its enterprise business suite or JD Edwards software in place (and at the right release level), and have Oracle’s B.I. software in place as well. As such, Oracle is aiming its sales efforts at IT organizations in its customer base.
  • C3 is taking a clean-sheet-of-paper approach, building a model of enterprise resource usage by linking with existing software and reporting systems. In keeping with this big-picture strategy, C3 is typically selling directly into the executive management of its target customers like Dow Chemical and Cisco.
  • IHS positions itself as coming from “bottoms up” rather than top-down. Its systems have strong connections – especially in heavy-emitter industries – to what it calls “floor systems” like factory automation and building management; now its push will be upwards and outwards to other data sources (and other industries).

Taking any of these approaches, the goal is the same: become the corporate system of record for managing resource consumption and GHG emissions. The need, the buyers, and the business cases are jelling rapidly; the landscape of vendor leadership will come next.

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