From the book: Green Technology Strategies

Business process improvement

In Week 3 "Enabling ICT", we looked in general terms at how ICT systems can be used to make organisations more sustainable. Now we will look in more detail at Business Process Improvement (BPI): a systematic approach to optimising the functions of an organisation. BPI is a general purpose tool, but in this case we are applying it to the use of ICT in organisations to reduce energy and material use.

Three steps to BPI

  1. Define strategic goals: What is the purpose of the organisation? What business is it in? Why does it do what it does?

  2. Determine the stakeholders: Who are the customers and other important groups for the organisation?

  3. Align processes to goals: Identify business processes which can achieve the organisation goals.

Business processes

Business processes (methods) are related, systematically structured activities (tasks) to produce a specific service or product for a particular group of customers.

Three types of business processes:

  1. Management: governing the operation of the organisation. Includes "Corporate Governance" and "Strategic Management".
  2. Operational: The core business of the organisation. Can include Purchasing, Manufacturing, Marketing, and Sales.
  3. Supporting: Ancillary to the core processes, such as: Accounting, Recruitment, Technical support.

Each business process should address a customer need and result in need fulfilment. A process can consist of sub-processes. The analysis of processes and sub-processes can be carried on down to the activity level.

Analysis of Business Processes is intended to eliminate any activity which does not add value for the customer. A well designed business process should increase effectiveness and increased efficiency. Normally these are measured in terms of financial measures (cost reduction and revenue). However, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction and materials use can be used as sustainability measures.

Techniques such as Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN) can be used for diagramming business processes in a workflow. BPMN is intended to be readable for both technical and business users.

High level models are used purely to describe business processes, whereas detailed models may able to be executed using specialised software.

BPI for non-radical change

Claims have been made for BPI making radical changes in the performance of organisations. In the case of greenhouse gas emissions the target of, for example, a 15% reduction in emissions may be con performance of an organisation, rather than a series of incremental changes (compare TQM). Michael Hammer and James Champy popularised this radical model in their book 'Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution' (1993). Hammer and Champy stated that the process was not meant to impose trivial changes, such as 10 percent improvements or 20 percent cost reductions, but was meant to be revolutionary.

Unfortunately, many businesses in the 1990s used the phrase "reengineering" as a euphemism for lay-offs. Other organisations did not make radical changes in their business processes, did not make significant gains, and wrote the process off as a failure. Yet others have found that BPI is a valuable tool in a process of gradual change to a business.

BPI for Energy Reduction

BPI makes use of measurable results and benchmarks. The process owners, need to be identified and measures of success/failure of the process set. In addition to the success/failure levels, "control limits" for the process provide a check on if a process is meeting the desired customer objectives.

In the case of Green ICT, measures such as energy use or greenhouse gas emissions may be used. A problem with accountability energy measures for data centres has been the split in responsibilities between facilities management services providing the building and the ICT or data centre management who run the computers in the building. The facilities manager may be responsible for the electricity bill for the building the data centres is housed in, but unable to make decisions as to the computer equipment purchased and thus not make decisions to reduce that expenditure.

Methodology of BPI

  1. Define the existing structure and processes.

  2. Determine what outcomes would add value to the organisation.

  3. Reorganise processes, resources and work force.

ICT Examples

Telstra has estimated that use of telecommunications could reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions 5% by 2015. Three examples from Tesltra are:

  1. Efficient deployment of field work forces with GPS: Wireless broadband and GPS can be used to schedule personnel between jobs at remote sites to reduce the distance travelled. As well as reducing fuel used (and therefore greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles) this also reduces unproductive time while staff are travelling.

  2. Flexible working for knowledge workers: Knowledge workers can work remotely using broadband at home or a satellite office and use wireless broadband to work at customer premises. This saves in office space.

  3. Replacement of business air travel with video conferencing: Telstra claims that high definition video conferencing can replace business air travel. The widespread availability of higher speed broadband allows higher quality video and for companies to set air travel reduction targets.


  1. Business Process Improvement, Business process, Business Process Modeling Notation,Wikipedia, 2008.
  2. Using Telecommunications to Reduce your Organisation's Carbon Footprint, Turlough Guerin, Group Manager Environment, Telstra, for the Symposium on Sustainability of the Internet and ICT, November 2008.


  1. Business process issues with replacing paper invoices: On the face of it, replacing paper invoices with ones sent by email and paid with Internet banking should provide environmental benefits. In terms of business processes, in two paragraphs identify what needs to be considered before making this change?
  2. Energy saving from replacing paper invoices: In one paragraph consider what energy saving, greenhouse reductions and materials savings there could be from replacing paper invoices with electronic ones.
  3. Environmental downsides of electronic invoices: In one paragraph consider what might be the environmental downsides of electronic invoices.

From the book: Green Technology Strategies

This book is about how to reduce carbon emissions and achieve other environmental benefits by using computers and telecommunications technology. It is designed to be used within an online course for professionals, using mentored and collaborative learning techniques.

Title: Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions

Copyright © , 2009

Publisher: Tomw Communications, PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia. Website:

New edition available: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future, September 2011.

These notes are used for the courses:

  1. Green ICT Strategies (ACS25): offered in the Postgraduate Program of Open Universities Australia and available from 2010 to students of Curtin University, Griffith University, Macquarie University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University and the University of South Australia,

  2. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009), and

  3. Green Information Technology Strategies (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009).

The notes were first published as an electronic and paperback book in 2009 (Green ICT, Tom Worthington, Tomw Communications, 2009). Students can download or print their own copy of the e-book from the course learning management system, which is likely to be more up to date.

Green Technology Strategies: Using computers and telecommunications to reduce carbon emissions by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License, except for institutions covered by a Copyright Agency Ltd Statutory Licence.