GreenIT: What will it take for mainstream companies to allow their employees to work when, where and how they choose?

I’m working at London’s GreenIT09 conference today and during the keynote I asked the question shown in the title to this post.

As was the case at last year’s conference there is much talk of great progress being made by suppliers and their customers in reducing the electrical power requirements of data centres. The following quotes were referenced:

  • “50% of hardware acquisition cost is expended in cooling and power in 2009” – an analyst 
  • Power cost will equal server capital cost by 2010″ – an anyalyst

I have read similar quotes from a variety of sources and rather than focussing on the details I think it’s fair to say that data centres consume a great deal of power – supposedly equivalent to the airline industry – the cost of power is likely to continue to increase – power is a significant Operational Expense

Paul Coby (CIO, British Airways) gave a very interesting talk during the keynote – the highlights of his talk were:

  • 14% global CO2 emisions Worldwide due to transport, same as agriculture
  • emissions from cars and vans comprise 45% total transport, rail is 2%
  • BA are “finding the happy conjunction of cost saving, IT efficiency and GreenIT”

I’ve spoken (both online and in person) to many people from businesses across a wide range of organisations (businesses, public sector and charities) over recent months asking how people do their jobs.

Paul’s reference to the incredible percentage (14%) of CO2 emissions being due to transport really illustrates the a key aspect of my findings – most organisations mandate that their employees work at specific locations at specific times using prescribed tools.

We should free people to work when, where and how they choose thereby enabling the following benefits:

  • reduce travel times, frequency, cost and stress – enabling people to choose whether to travel in rush hour when they choose to collaborate face to face can reap these benefits. A hybrid of working from home at the start/end of the day can bring significant benefits – preventing people meeting face to face by expecting excessive working from home can be detrimental to productivity. It’s all about choice though as some people will still prefer to work in the office all of the time.
  • improved work life balance – being able to “time shift” and “location shift” work can bring significant benefits to both the employee AND their productivity levels. Parents may be able to take their children to/from school and also remain productive (depending upon the age of their children!) when sickness prevents their children from going to school

The technology required for effective remote working has existed for many years – there are innovative products and services that can be purchased to enhance the experience but the basics of a laptop, headset and a broadband/wireless/3G connection can be used by normal (non-technical/specialist) people across the land TODAY without significant additional cost.

Going as far as Voice over IP and video conferencing (using personal/often built-in webcams) can improve the feeling of connection with your remote counterparts. I’m particularly partial to innovative solutions such as Microsoft’s Roundtable device as I blogged about in detail here though don’t get hung up on buying additiona hardware and software – these may make sense once you’ve freed your employees to work remotely simply using webcams.

Clearly some tasks are best carried out in person and some roles/jobs are physically oriented hence are unable to take advantage of “time shifting” and/or “location shifting” – good examples being driving a bus, serving in a restaurant.

In my experience in order for work to be something you do not a place you go it’s critical for the entire management chain to buy into measuring their employees productivity by their results and both parties being clear upon the deliverables and time frames – this is cultural change though as @tebbo pointed out “cultural change starts with individuals”.

People coming into work (typically the so called “Millenials”/”Digital Natives”/”Generation-Y”) are not encumbered by the legacy of how work is traditionally done and hence I’m confident over time the barriers will be removed.

Your comments are much appreciated


How to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7

There’s a twelve minute video on Microsoft’s TechNet site that shows how to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 – it demonstrates the User State Migration Tool (USMT).

The short form is that installing over the top of XP/Vista will result in the personal data from your “windows” directory (for each profile) will be moved to a folder named “windows.old”. P0st-install you can move the data by hand into the corresponding directory structure for the new operating system – there are two problems with this approach:

  • you’ll have to accept many file over-write messages and elevation prompts
  • you’ll have to re-associate the data with each application – going into Outlook for instance to make it aware of the location of your personal folder (.pst) files

The User State Migration Tool is a command line utility which can be used to automate the operations listed above – it’s really intended for managed IT enviroments as it requires some effort in the form of a script – if you’re doing this for a one off machine you’d probably be quicker to move everything and re-associate the data files with applications by hand.

Windows 7’s Release Candidate is available for all

You can now download Windows 7’s Release Candidate (for free) from here – bear in mind that it’s not the finished product hence you need to make your own call regarding whether to use it with critical data – it is very unlikely to go wrong though it is a possibility hence you should consider keeping live data elsewhere or at least implementing a comprehensive/frequent back up regime.

The Release Candidate will be fully functional until June 2010 when the license will expire and you will have to re-install. If you’re already running Windows 7 Beta then you’ll have to perform a clean install – make sure you back up your data before doing so! There’s a detailed post here explaining the rationale upon requiring a clean install together with a word around for anyone who absolutely insists that they need to install over the top.

Jeff Alexander’s blog includes a great post that gives details and shows screenshots of Windows 7’s Release Candidate in action.

How to install Windows 7’s Release Candidate without burning a coaster (DVD) first?

How is Windows 7 RC different from the Beta? What are the new features?

Microsoft’s Windows 7 development team have made a large number of tweaks to the product based on feedback from the millions of Beta testers around the World. The Windows 7 Team Blog is a great source of information on the product as a whole. The question on many people’s tounges is “What’s changed from the Beta” – the team have written two detailed blog posts to drill into the improvements in the Release Candidate – you can read them by clicking here and here.

I’ve been running Windows 7 since October – I spun up the PDC (Professional Developers Conference) Alpha release as a virtual machine while at the conference and tried it on a test machine upon returning to the UK. I was so impressed by both the speed and stability of the alpha that I upgraded my main machine to Windows 7 a couple of days later.

The improvements from Alpha to Beta 1 were significant – the Beta felt like a finished product.

The Release Candidate (RC) is still a pre-release – meaning that while many people (myself included!) will run it in production it’s not quite finished hence it’s critical to make sure you have an effective backup regime.

As you can see on the Windows 7 Team Blog the RC was published to both TechNet and MSDN on the 30th April and it’s due to be made available for public evaluation from the 5th of May.

To move up to the RC you will have to perform a clean install (unless you really insist on doing it the hard way) – there’s a good reason for this – the details are on the Engineering7 blog at this URL – this is another blog that’s a great source of information on Windows 7.

An amusing moment at Europe’s largest Information Security Tradeshow

I enjoyed participating in InfoSec 2009 yesterday at Earls Court in London.

I was amused when a pop-up message was displayed (during the “Global Credit Crunch” session) on the keynote presentation machine as you can see below:


Fancy joining me for a run around London? (broken link fixed)

I started running last year having enjoyed the challenge of completing an NSPCC 5Km (fun) run at work last June. As it was just meant to be fun I hadn’t bothered doing any training – hence I sufferred for the following four days with really painful knees and general aches and pains.

I really enjoyed the challenge of the 5Km though and decided that with some training I’d be game for running it again next time around. Shortly afterwards an old friend of mine mentioned that the London Parks Foundation’s  inaugural half marathon was due to take place in October – she was one of the organisers – it didn’t take much effort for her to pursuade me to sign up.

I learned from my experience in the 5Km that I really had to get down to some training if I was to have any chance of running 13 miles in one go – I gathered that spreading it out over a week wasn’t the done thing!

I didn’t train as hard as all the guides recommended though started off with a good level of basic fitness due to the other sports I engage in – my pre-race total mileage was just fourty two miles – it was enough though and I thoroughly enjoyed the half marathon.

I found the run particularly difficult from mile eight which is hardly surprising as that’s the furthest I’d run before. It was such an interesting and rewarding experience to participate in such a huge event – over ten thousand people who’d dragged themselves out training in the weeks and months before the day itself.

I’m hopeful that on my second attempt I’ll receive a place for the London Marathon.

Here’s the correct link to the ballot site – go for it if you’re brave/mad/stupid/enthusiastic enough!

I’m running for UNICEF in a number of other races in the meantime hence would rather not be tied to a minimum fundraising amount for a guaranteed place – chances are I’ll do it anyway if I hear back in October that the only option is to do so.

I’ve thumbed through the creative commons licensed images on Flickr (as I often do) and particularly like the following shots:

Go on – you know you want to!

If the marathon seems like a barmy idea then perhaps it’s worth thinking about the London Parks Foundation’s half marathon as there’s plenty of time to train for it – six whole months!

I travelled to homecamp on my board, guided by GPS

If you’ve ever met me you have probably seen one of my skateboards. This morning’s journey was the first time I’ve guided myself to a venue via GPS (on my phone) while riding my board.

I like the irony of the mains plug shown in the picture above given my eco-friendly transport.

I’ve been riding my board in preference to riding the tube for over a year – it’s more fun, less hassle and probably quicker too!

I’m somewhat frustrated that it was much more expensive for me to take the bus to the station (for the first leg of my journey) than driving there and paying (the weekend rate) to park!