(This piece originally appeared on GreenBiz.com)
Companies are increasingly investing in carbon management or Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) software to better track, report and reduce carbon emissions, and to trim energy spend.
Much has been written about the benefits of software investment, but little has been shared about the do’s and don’ts of an actual implementation. To fill the void, I caught up with Mike Watson, senior manager of sustainability at Intuit.
In this Q&A, he shares five key lessons he learned from the company’s rollout of ECA software.
Paul Baier: Describe the scope of operations and carbon tracking at Intuit.
Mike Watson: Intuit is a software company with revenues of $3.5 billion and 7,700 employees. Intuit is a provider of business and financial management solutions for small and medium-sized businesses, consumers, accounting professionals and financial institutions. We have approximately 40 facilities and data centers in the United States and facilities in the U.K., Canada and India.
We started tracking carbon emissions in 2007, using a variety of tools and consultants. We track Scope 1, 2 and most of Scope 3, including our supply chain operations and marketing collateral. In 2010, we started tracking trash from facilities and water usage, and in 2011 we will add emissions from our point-of-sale hardware business.
PB: What drove the need for Enterprise Carbon Accounting software?
MW: Like many companies, we were using spreadsheets to track and report our carbon emission data. This spreadsheet was becoming onerous as our internal and external reporting needs increased, namely due to reporting for stock fund indices, such as the DJSI SAM, FTSE for Good, and Bloomberg sustainability index, as well as the Carbon Disclosure Project.
We also needed a way to track our progress of reducing emissions 15 percent from 2007 levels by 2012. We could not determine if our strategies to reduce emissions were working and we needed a system to track our progress.
PB: What is the current state of implementation of the ECA software?
MW: In early 2010, we completed the initial implementation of our current ECA software. We are very happy with the software and the software has improved productivity, reduced risk and helped us to identify focus areas for reduction of energy in our facilities and data centers. It also has helped paint a clear picture for our executives on how we are progressing against our emissions reduction goals.
PB: What lessons did you learn during implementation?
MW: We learned many things during the implementation, but I’d describe the top ones as the following:
1. Decide on your hierarchy and organizational structure before you begin.
This is a critical step because it determines how your data will roll up and the flexibility needs of your reports.
2. Know what are you solving for: reporting emissions, progress against goals, or initiative tracking.
Write these specific goals down and ensure management alignment on these before implementation. Our software tool, like many, has many configuration options, and trade-offs are sometimes required. A clear set of prioritized goals helps tremendously and reduced need for re-work.
3. Understand who is going to use the tool and what are they going to use it for.
Which departments and teams and, ideally, which specific people will be using the system for data input, data analysis and reports. What are their skills sets? Which implementations do they need to have access to?
4. Engage with stakeholders up front.
Review the data sets, reports, and capture inconsistencies before you load the data from your existing spreadsheet into the ECA software. Once the data is in, it is more difficult to fix errors.
5. Identify the sources of data and who is going to own the entering of the data.
What is the process and data ownership for this? This drives collaboration, engagement and ownership.
PB: How long did the initial implementation take?
MW: Because we had our organizational structure defined prior to implementation, which is a major step, it took us about four calendar months to implement from start to finish.
PB: How is energy usage tracked with the software? How frequently is energy use updated? Monthly? Quarterly?
MW: We update energy consumption monthly for all of our facilities and data centers.
PB: What are next steps?
MW: One of the reasons we chose our current ECA software was the ability to collaborate with other companies. What I mean by collaboration is as more companies load their strategies and initiatives into the tool, we’ll be able to share ideas on what strategies and initiatives are working and not working.