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Consulting Room: Carbon tax, customers and the channel

Consulting Room: Carbon tax, customers and the channel

Carbon Tax introduces uncertainty into the business environment leading to no decisions being made, which is bad for the channel

As the saying goes, two things are certain in life: death and taxes. That’s maybe correct, but I think a more relevant quote given the current headlines might be:

[italicise pls Fletch]“Any change, even a change for the better is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts” – Arnold Bennett

Whether or not the carbon tax legislation gets through parliament is not up for debate here, what does matter is that the current debate is introducing further uncertainty into the business environment, and specifically the IT sector. However, what is certain is that electricity prices are already rising rapidly, regardless of if, when, or what format a carbon tax eventuates.

Business uncertainty often leads to no decisions being made, which is bad for the channel.

Therefore, it is the channel’s responsibility and opportunity to set aside the politics of the current carbon tax debate and present their customers with some clear options for reducing their customer’s power consumption and carbon footprint, as it will save them money, now and even more so in the future.

That should get their attention, regardless of their political or environmental beliefs.

The approach and tactics will change depending on if customers are SMB, mid market or enterprise, but if I look at the general ideas we are seeing across our vendor, distributor and reseller clients these could be summarised as:

1. Conduct an audit to understand if there are any redundant machines or devices (or gaps/vulnerabilities) and what the power, cooling, running costs and possibly carbon footprint of the current IT infrastructure. What needs to run 7 x 24 versus as required (i.e. workstations after hours).

2. Is the current design (regardless of size, single cupboard based rack or old raised floor) have room for improvement with current thinking and more efficient technology, both hardware and management software.

3. Replace old physical servers and virtualise as much as your clients are comfortable with.

4. Consider “outsourcing” some of the equipment or a process to a third party datacentre or service provider that can gain further efficiencies with economies of scale, and redundancy as a bonus.

While some of these ideas are technology centric, many are a combination of business planning, common sense, people and process management.

The reality is a lot of IT equipment is not upgraded, replaced or even scrapped as the customer perception is “it is not broken”, but it would be far more productive, secure or cost effective if it was. The forecasts around running costs under a carbon tax regime mean that many IT items or processes that are considered “not broken”, may already well be.

A forced step change such as this is a tremendous opportunity for the more professional and entrepreneurial resellers to reassess their own business model and potentially start a discreet “Carbon/Energy Practice”. Today many partners have professional services, security, unified comms and even datacentre “practices” which they use to drive incremental margins and also differentiate their businesses due to the specialist skills required to implement the solution.

Implementing an energy efficient and low carbon footprint business goes beyond the datacentre and the IT department, but these are the logical starting points; however most businesses will need considerable help to achieve the beyond the datacentre refresh.

In summary, the opportunity for the channel is to step up as their trusted advisor to demystify and depoliticise the carbon tax. This means helping their customer’s make an informed choice about technology options not only around traditional IT and business needs, but also their overall environmental impact and sustainability needs.

Cam Wayland is a director of Channel Dynamics (cwayland@channeldynamics.com.au).


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