Data IntegrationData Integration is one of the most difficult of the activities covered in this series because it involves most of the different activities working in concert with each other. For example, it is implicit in Data Movement between systems where the Data models are different. Suppose we have data in our Accounting system that will be used in a cost calculation algorithm (method) in our Sustainability Software. To do this, we need to copy the Accounting data, then reshape it to conform to the load utilities for our package and proceed with the load. This setup entails numerous subtleties including the cross referencing of the source data model in the Accounting System with the format of the import utility. This is called Field Mapping and it’s not just an easy matching question where you can get the first few right and guess the rest. Examples will help us here.
- Suppose we need to deal with quantity shipment data and the target model is asking for unit prices and volumes. We might need to deduce the carbon content per gallon from the available carbon content per fifty five gallon barrel, or just divide by 55.
- A more complex example involves translation from the English System to the Metric System (raise your hand if you can do this without a calculator).
- Another example would be the rules concerning the potential for rounding errors for large quantities.
- A final classic example is how to deal with Asian names (commonly listed with the surname first) being transferred into a system with a European paradigm (where the surname is listed last).
Data MiningData Mining is the last major topic to be introduced. It also involves smatterings of the others, but has a unique ad-hoc character at its essence. Suppose we have a database that describes product production events in a manufacturing setting. Suppose also that we wish to learn more about root causes of some recurring problem that has escaped previous attempts to solve it and choose to “look at all the occurrences at once”. Someone who is expert in the data itself, as well as all the business processes it describes could attempt to construct queries that will reveal common conditions that led to the problem occurrences. For example, he might notice they all tend to fall in the first half hour of their respective production runs. Further drill down might reveal they all involve late shipments from the same raw material vendor, while production runs with timely shipments from the same vendor seem to go without mishap. This would lead us to suspect potential spoilage or lack of maturity in the late arriving material. Data Mining is a spiral learning discipline. One spirals in to a common cause, or spirals out to learn the nature of the Cosmos.
ConclusionWe hope that as a result of this information, albeit somewhat high-level, you’ll find a greater degree of ease in approaching Data Management problems and their solutions with any Sustainability Software package that you may be considering. As with the rest of this series, our goal is to guide you through each of these complex topics and bring them safely toward a solution that will provide you with robust and accurate data and data management practices that will last for years to come. Now that you’ve read this article, tell us what you think! And be sure to check out the full white paper.
Data ManagementThe definition provided in the Data Management Association (DAMA) Data Management Body of Knowledge (DAMA-DMBOK) is: "Data Management is the development, execution and supervision of plans, policies, programs and practices that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of data and information assets." This term is the most general description of the collection of activities involved with data and broadly includes all the areas that we’ll introduce in this article. If you’re really interested in more detail, check out the DAMA site at http://www.dama.org.
Data ProcessingThis is another very broad term representing the collection of plans, processes, people and technology tasked with the collection of transactional data (e.g. item sales in a company's retail outlets) and the subsequent calculation of summary data that has meaning to your business such as periodic sales reports. This includes the routine computational work performed by your company's people and computers that generate output like your monthly customer invoices or accounting reports, for example. Your Sustainability Software, in the ongoing state, would be supplied with data such as rigorous measurements of weights and volumes of raw materials and products (Collected Data) and the software installation will calculate the various indicators and reports for their respective uses (Calculated Data). When discussing Data Processing, it is always a good grounding exercise to distinguish the Collected Data vs. Calculated Data being considered. The two have different types of rules around them, which brings us to the next category of Data Management.
Data GovernanceData Governance is the management aspect of Data Management and has to do with identification and life cycle management of Business Rules connected with Data Management. These rules might be driven by law, profit motivation, social norms or a myriad of other factors, but the establishment of definitions of terms and their existence in your company's soft assets is the foundation of Data Governance. Examples of such rules include the following:
- Meta-data Management is the collection of rules and definitions of the data elements used in your company. It could be stored in a rigorous set of spreadsheets, or in an exotic, purpose-built system like Rochade from ASG Software. Meta-data should have a dedicated team devoted to its maintenance and secure distribution to interested parties. This team should include representation from both the technical side and the business side of your firm.
- Business and technical ownership of data quality standards for things like customer mailing addresses and formulae used in reporting.
- The clear specification of things like sales transactions and revenue classifications in the company's data streams.
- The identification and lifecycle management of your company's master lists such as store locations, product names and their reporting rollups, and a consolidated customer contact list across all lines of business. This activity is referred to as "Master Data Management" and has taken on a life of its own by numerous software companies and consultancies but it is based on the common sense notion to "Keep your lists straight."
The Springs Resort and Spa
Colorado’s 1st LEED® Gold Certified Hotel
The Springs Resort and Spa is home to the newest building, the EcoLuxe Hotel; a 29-room, luxury green-built building designed and constructed and certified to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards. LEED is a national building rating system that encourages green building and sustainable development practices through specified criteria. Gold is the second highest LEED rating. This is the first LEED-built hotel in Colorado and one of only 22 in the nation. In addition, the resort is also a TripAdvisor GreenLeader Platinum level.
Their sustainability bragging rights include using 31% less energy than a standard hotel. This is likely due to 35% of their electricity coming from green sources such as 100% geothermal heating and 100% cooling through ground water systems. In addition, they are saving 174,630 gallons of water per year, consuming 30% less water than a standard hotel, as a result of high-efficiency plumbing while Occupancy Sensors control the thermostat when a guest is gone saves even more energy. The hotel was designed to take advantage of natural lighting which results in less need for artificial lighting during the day. Artificial lighting is provided with CFL light bulbs that use far less energy and last 5 times longer than incandescent. In total they are realizing a 28% savings on energy costs!
Also built into the design consideration were low VOC carpets, adhesives and paints providing higher interior air quality. Raw construction materials were sourced locally and contain recycled content.
You can see a full-list of The Springs sustainability efforts here.
1) Don’t think of a pitch as a sell, think of it as an educational opportunityDon’t worry so much about whether or not the client is going to hire you at the time you are meeting with them. Instead, treat it like a customized webinar or mini-conference where you are showcasing your knowledge about sustainability, the realities of where the economy is heading, their specific opportunities in relation to sustainability, and what they will need to do to get ahead and effectively adopt sustainability in their corporate strategic framework. You are just showing them the raw ingredients, while keeping a hold of the recipe.
2) Start at the very beginning, a very good place to startSo, you know all about sustainability. And you know all about your prospective client. Unfortunately, your audience, be it the CEO or a mid-level executive, may not know much more about sustainability than “I think it costs a lot, but everybody seems to be doing it.” Clear that up right away with a brief definition of strategic sustainability – use the definition you use for your own consultancy. Make sure the client know that sustainability is a business framework, not a philanthropic or public relations gesture. Drop a few names, too – Wal-Mart, GE, Nike, Rio Tinto, Toyota. It doesn’t hurt for your client to know that they are joining the ranks of commerce’s elite.
3) Stress the long term and a future of change“Fundamentally, corporate sustainability is about exploring the next way your company will be successful, because almost all the things you currently rely on -- energy, supply chain, consumers, investors, regulation -- are going to change,” said David Bent from the non-profit sustainability organization Forum for the Future in a blog series for Greenbiz.com. Changing times demand that companies factor in future risks, such as rising energy prices, increased regulation, and pressure from consumers, into their strategic plans. Since many of these future risks and market changes are going to stem from environmental and social concerns, integrating sustainability principles into the corporate framework now, to address these issues now, isn’t just a “cost” to the business, it’s an investment in the future risk management. “You can’t predict ‘the’ future, but you had better be prepared for possible futures with a portfolio of strategies – and a business case – that ‘future-proof the company’ by diversifying your risk going forward,” advises Gil Friend, founder and CEO of Natural Logic. You must stress this fact to prospective clients – they will probably have to become sustainable eventually, but they might as well make some money doing it proactively instead of reactively. Just be sure to avoid scare tactics or pressure. The fact is: the world is changing, and change can be good.
4) Look to frame sustainability as a driver for innovation and opportunityFind examples of “play-to-win” organizations that have used sustainability to tap into new opportunities (destroying the competition in the process) to help sell the concept. Companies are inherently competitive, but often are mired in a “compliance mentality.” Remind your audience that business is a battlefield; you might be able to tap into that competitive spirit. Use what you know about the company’s competitors or industry to highlight how the sustainability program may get them ahead of the game.
5) Present the client’s customized business case in a language that everyone can understand – shareholder valueIt’s meat and potatoes time. You’ve briefly discussed sustainability, the risk of not acting, and the opportunity gained by taking action. Next is what they’ve all been waiting for – the business case. At this point, be fairly specific about what you feel the key “value drivers” of a sustainability program will be for this specific organization. First, present the business case. For example, an engineering firm with a zillion vacancies on its “careers” page and a reputation of an ‘old boys club’ may benefit from a sustainability program stressing competitive advantage – a program that will help its recruitment program, shape its industry, and help it become an early mover on new and emerging areas for growth (like green design, perhaps). Second, present the projected investment (in time and money) and the estimated return on investment (ROI). According to Friend, the business case has to provide a clear ROI in the financial, operational, and strategic dimensions. But be clear that ROI in sustainability isn’t only about short-term dollars and cents. When you are talking about elements like “recruitment” and “industry shaping,” be sure to clarify that these, albeit not short-term financial returns, are “indirect” returns. While direct returns include costs (lighting retrofits or waste-reduction), indirect returns ( impacts on brand reputational value, employee productivity and retention, product quality, community goodwill, etc.) can open companies to new business as much as any marketing plan while helping reduce risk. For an in-depth discussion on costing for sustainability, check out the book Making Sustainability Work by Marc Epstein. Third, use statistics, examples, graphics, and best practices, briefly but effectively, to back up your claims on how your proposed programs can directly affect shareholder value through direct and indirect returns. Finally, give the client a path on how a sustainability program for this value driver might be incorporated into their organizational framework.
6) Don’t frighten them offAlthough you may have made an amazing pitch with ROI analysis that just can’t be denied, a client may still balk. “But we don’t have $150,000 for a lighting retrofit, even if we know it will save us $300,000 over the next six years…” Yes, it may be ideal if you could tackle each value driver head on, re-write the strategic plan, and reorganize the company, but, more likely, the financial minds at your prospect’s firm are going to be reluctant to loosen the purse strings. To help ease them into the process (and help you begin to form a long, trusting relationship), break it down into steps. Begin with saying, “Now that I’ve presented the strategic sustainability framework that will eventually deliver the most value to your organization, let’s talk about where we begin. Every journey starts with a series of small steps…” At this point, have one or two programs that will work as small but effective pilot programs for this broader sustainability plan. Try to find the one or two manageable programs with the lowest-hanging, least expensive fruit, and suggest that the client give them a try first. The pilots will help you build credibility with the CFO’s office, as well as awareness throughout the rest of the organization. Hopefully by achieving documented success with the first few pilot programs, the company will continue to draw on your services to expand into the more complex strategic development of their sustainability program (that you were the architect of).
7) Be straightforward about the business relationshipOnce you’ve delivered the presentation (no more than an hour of their time) and have some concrete offerings available for them (green audits, waste audits, pilot ‘Green Team’ programs, stakeholder engagement initiatives, or whatever your other pilot programs were) be ready for questions. Know how long each program will take and what it may cost if they suddenly want to go whole hog. Be prepared to answer detailed questions about customer service, your ‘next steps’ in project development, your experience, your resources, costs of your service, as well as costs directly to them (retrofits, training investments, life-cycle-analyses, etc.) and the overall estimated ROI for each suggested program. Instead of spending your time trying to convince the client through testimonials of how great you are, just do what you do best: consult them. Show them what you know and use examples from research or from your past experience to illustrate how they, too, can meet their goals, transform their business, reduce their risk, and increase shareholder value through sustainability. You are simply the person with the tools to help them get the process started. Find out how you can become a better sustainability leader in one of our latest blogs.
1. Go online and readRead the press releases (Is the prospect always giving money to local charity groups? They might respond to reputation-building pitches.). Google the company looking for news stories or legal troubles (Fined for improper handling of chemicals in 2009? They might benefit from an EMS plan.). Poke around in industry news, scour the website, and look at the employment opportunities. You never know where you might find a hook.
2. Know who their stakeholders are and what they wantIs the company selling primarily to one large organization (like Wal-Mart) that has sustainability at its core? If so, you’re going to need to know where the client’s client is headed. Is the company working in controversial areas, such as mining, where stakeholder engagement is going to take precedence over things like waste auditing or employee engagement? Knowing who is pushing and pulling on a client can help you find key indicators in developing a sustainability pitch.
3. Drop in to say helloSo, you’ve done a bit of homework and made a few calls, and the client seems interested. If you think this could be a big fish, take your time. Phone up your contact person and tell him or her that you’re interested in visiting the manufacturing facility, taking a tour of the HQ, or meeting virtually with a few key people to get a better idea of how to make more relevant and customized suggestions. Ask questions. Lots of questions. But don’t get in the way and don’t try to sell them anything. “Learning how to make the case for sustainability needs to be situational. I customize my ‘making a case for sustainability’ style by asking a lot of questions,” said Pauline S. Chandler, director of the MBA in sustainability at the Antioch University of New Hampshire, Keene, in a recent article on Triple Pundit. Chandler recently took 16 MBA students on facility tours at three New England businesses to illustrate how different organizations will spark different lines of questioning, which then lead to different approaches to sustainability planning. So, take a lesson from academia, and go pay your client a visit. Your pitch might benefit from the day trip. Once you’ve gathered all the information you think you need, it’s time to develop your presentation. A central tenet in getting an organization to adopt sustainability planning is making the business case for sustainability. Looking for ways to become a better sustainability consultant? Check out our blog post that talks about 8 steps to improving as a sustainability consultant!
Use a Devil's Advocate to Fight Confirmation BiasConfirmation bias is a well-documented tendency for people to draw conclusions and interpret events in a way that conforms to previously held beliefs--leading to poorly reasoned decision-making based on incomplete information and judgments. (Wikipedia has a great write-up on the phenomenon here.) "When you have a theory about someone or something, test it. When you smell a contradiction – a thorny issue, an inconsistency or problem – go after it. Like the orchestral conductor, isolate it, drill deeper. When someone says – or you yourself intuit – 'that’s just an exception,' be sure it’s just that. Thoroughly examine the claim." Whether you are predisposed to believe that the CFO will never get on board with your sustainability plan, or that your fellow employees care deeply about sustainability, it's essential that you incorporate a way to test those assumptions before investing too much time and resources into a plan of action. Regularly sit down with executives to better understand their priorities and pressures. Survey employees to determine which sustainability issues are most important to them, and how they rank in comparison to other workplace concerns. Test your beliefs and predispositions. And then test some more. "Dealing with confirmation bias is about reining in your impulses and challenging your own assumptions. It’s difficult to stick to it day in and out. That’s why it’s important to have in your circle of advisers a brainy, tough-as-nails devil’s advocate who – perhaps annoyingly, but valuably – checks you constantly." If your team is big enough, incorporate a devil's advocate. If it's just you, set aside time in your schedule (or in your process) to wear the devil's advocate hat yourself. Ask questions like:
- What are we missing?
- What could go wrong?
- What alternate approaches can we take?
- What are the unintended consequences that might pop up?
Keep a Journal to Combat Hindsight BiasHindsight bias is also called the "knew it all along" effect, and causes "extreme methodological problems while trying to analyze, understand, and interpret results" (Wikipedia). It makes us think that things are more predictable, simpler, and more straightforward than they really are. For a challenge as complex as sustainability, this is a major concern. Here’s one way to check hindsight bias: Keep a diary. And record minutes from important meetings...What becomes painfully clear is that we failed to predict much of anything – claims after the fact notwithstanding. While acting as a mechanism to keep us honest about our ability to forecast the future, a detailed journal provides an added bonus: additional insight into how we make decisions. Once you've been using a journal for at least several months, go back and review it to see what patterns emerge. (For example, you may find that your boss is always grumpy in October, or that you have a tendency to lose your temper after a big success.)
Hire a Diverse Staff to Eliminate GroupthinkGroupthink is is "a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences." (Thanks, Wikipedia!) Fighting groupthink should start at the hiring stage. Look for people who share your basic values and purpose, but who are also tough, independent, and able to tell you what they think. Moreover: check that decisions at all levels in the company are being made on the basis of rationality, not merely flowing from authority or a tendency (however subconscious) to conform. While sustainability practitioners (in-house, or consultants) may not be in a position to control who is hired in a company, there are other ways to avoid groupthink. More importantly, make sure that you don't shut yourself off from people who don't see the world from your viewpoint. Just as many sustainability leaders bemoan the closed-minded and isolationist philosophies of climate-change deniers, we too can fall prey to "preaching to the choir" and focusing only on talking to other sustainability believers. This approach does NOT mean that you must engage and bring in people who are intentionally at loggerheads with you. But it is important to understand why people feel the way that they do, what motivates them, and what values you share with them. Take note- it not only applies to big topics (like global climate change), but also to more discrete topics (like how to approach the topic of Green IT for your next budget cycle). Make a point to intentionally solicit information from a wide variety of perspectives early on in your process--your ultimate success may depend on it. Looking for ways to become a better sustainability consultant? Check out our blog post that talks about 8 steps to improving as a sustainability consultant!
1. Isolating YourselfIt’s always tempting to go to your office, shut the door, and hammer away at a project. It can be an efficient way to get things done, right? While you might think you are just trying to be productive, you are also isolating yourself from your team members. You might be struggling to finish a carbon footprint, while trying to edit a sustainability report at the same time, but no one will know if you need help if you’re always cooped up in your office. Don’t be afraid to reach out when you need help, and be sure to keep your team members in the loop.
2. Setting Firm DirectionWhen it comes to sustainability, there is no “right way” to go about it. You might have a plan set for how you will report your company’s emissions data or have your 2020 goals set, but once you start moving forward, everything can change. It is easy to want to stick to what the original plan is, but don’t be stuck in the mud. Sustainability isn’t a linear path, and a good leader will know how to adapt.
3. Focusing on Day-to-Day TasksThere are certain times of the year when sustainability professionals find themselves a bit busier than usual. It could be because you need to approve the final draft of your sustainability report and you need to make sure everything is perfect, or you could be completing a massive data collection process. Regardless of what you are doing, it becomes very easy to just focus on what needs to happen by the end of the day. The problem is that sustainability doesn’t end when a project does; sustainability is a long-term process. By only focusing on day-to-day tasks, you can lose sight on the long road ahead.
4. Making ExcusesWhen something doesn’t go our way, we tend to make excuses (and even if we try not to, we’re only human, after all). There are always opportunities for excuses: half of the data you need for a carbon footprint is missing, or you’re assigned over oversee a new sustainability project when you’re just someone from finance. Rise above the problem, and demonstrate why you’re a good leader.
5. Working Too HardYou want to lead by example, so you show your coworkers how hard you work. That’s great, until you never take a break. Working long hours and skipping breaks will eventually catch up with you, whether it’s a lack of focus, increase in stress, or simply your physical health declining. No one wants to be around a leader that is constantly stressed out. Take a break every once in a while – your coworkers might thank you for it! Looking to focus your sustainability leadership? Find out how here!