Trendlines from 5/15/08: New, Hot, Unexpected

In this issue: Sesame Street and Open Souce; More demand for wireless; Xerox goes green; ROI vs. TCO; Starbucks seeks feedback; Hacking the election; BPM obstacles; and Unified Communication by the numbers.

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Saving Trees, One Printer at a Time

Want to reduce the environmental impact of your office's printers and copiers? A new software calculator shows you how.

Xerox says its "Sustainability Calculator" uses proprietary algorithms and document assessment research to suggest ways to reduce energy and paper consumption from office devices. The calculator includes input fields to describe a printer or other office device, noting the kind of cartridges used; if the device is color or mono; how fast it produces pages; how many of those pages are printed per month; and whether the device uses the Energy Star power-saving guidelines. A second set of fields asks how an office manager would like to see the machines perform. The calculator then shows bar graphs covering energy consumption, greenhouse gases and the solid waste produced from empty ink cartridges through to retiring the machine. The calculator is "a response to customers who wanted a more tangible way of seeing what the impacts would be of some of the document management solutions that we were bringing to the marketplace," says Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy.

Defense manufacturer Northrop Grumman test-drove the calculator. After using the tool, the company dropped the number of printers and copiers in one division to 1,100 from 2,000, Xerox says. Subsequently, energy consumption fell 27 percent, greenhouse gases by 26 percent and solid waste by 33 percent.

The Sustainability Calculator will be offered through Xerox Office Services. A more advanced version of the calculator will offer suggestions based on usage patterns, Xerox says.

-Jeremy Kirk and Nancy Weil

ROI vs. TCO

Return on investment (ROI) metrics drove more IT project decisions in the past year than did total cost of ownership (TCO), an exclusive CIO survey finds. Which metric is used more often signals how the IT department is viewed inside your company.

An ROI calculation quantifies both the costs and the expected benefits of a project over a specific time frame, usually three to five years. TCO includes only costs. "When you think TCO you don't see IT as a business driver or an asset that can increase revenue, profit or customer value," says Anthony Giannino, a business development executive at Cornerstone Solutions, a value-added reseller.

In an online survey of 225 technology managers, 59 percent said that ROI influenced whether they pursued a project in the past 12 months, compared to 41 percent who reported that TCO justified the decision. In the coming 12 months, the relative difference in importance between the two measurements is more pronounced: 62 percent of respondents favored ROI, compared to TCO's 38 percent.

According to Wayne Sadin, CIO at Loomis USA and a survey respondent who chose ROI, "TCO only looks at one side of the equation." TCO, Sadin says, works well for must-do infrastructure projects, such as upgrading an e-mail system. But e-mail doesn't typically uncover new sources of revenue that ROI can measure, he says.

ROI or TCO may help companies choose how to spend their money. But Erik Dorr, senior business adviser at The Hackett Group consultancy, points out, "A lot of healthy business judgment is [still] involved. You can prove anything you want with a spreadsheet, but good managers have good intuition in judging how solid their assumptions are."

-Kim S. Nash

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