Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Information Systems and Decision Sciences

Major Professor

Anol Bhattacherjee, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Norman Johnson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Walter Nord, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ellis Blanton, Ph.D.

Keywords

Building Energy Conservation, Case Study, Environmental Sustainability, Green IT, Qualitative Analysis, Sustainable Value

Abstract

This study examines the environmental and economic effects of green information technology (IT). Green IT describes two sets of IT innovations: one set includes innovations that are implemented to reduce the environmental impact of IT services in organizations; and the other IT to reduce the environmental impact of other organizational processes. The two sets respond to the call for more environmentally friendly or “greener” organizational processes.

I developed and tested a preliminary model. The model applied the resource based view (RBV) of the firm (Wernerfelt 1984) the stakeholder theory (Freeman 1984) and included four constructs: (1) BAS implementation; environmental value conceived in a novel way as the conservation of electric energy in buildings; economic value -- from energy cost savings; and BAS complements. These four constructs formed three propositions: (1) BAS implementation is positively associated with environmental value; (2) environmental value is positively associated with economic value; and BAS complements moderate the relationship BAS implementation and environmental value.

The model was used to guide the investigation of three research questions:

1. What are the environmental and economic values of green IT?

2. How do green IT create the above values?

3. Are other dimensions of value created? If so, what are they?

The focal IT investigated was the building automation system – a system designed to conserve electric energy and decrease operational costs. The unit of analysis of the study was the facilities management team – the implementers of the system.

I collected data on a sample of six diverse cases of BAS implementations. The cases were diverse in terms of the BAS types, the building purposes, the building locations and the building occupancy and management. Two types of BAS were involved in the study, each with a different level of artificial intelligence: the more intelligent BAS self-reconfigured when changes in setpoints, for example, were necessary; the less intelligent BAS must be reconfigured by an engineer in similar circumstances.

There was also diversity in terms of the buildings in which the systems were implemented and the occupancy and management of the buildings. The buildings include: the corporate headquarters of a global telecommunications firm; university classrooms; a residence hall in a university; and three multi-tenanted office complexes. The building occupancy and management differ in that some buildings are owner-occupied and are managed in-house, while the others are leased and their management outsourced.

Data collection involved recorded semi-structured interviews of three sets of users in the organizations: building engineers; chief engineers; and property/facilities managers. The interviews were prearranged and were conducted onsite using an interview protocol. Each interview lasted approximately one hour and was conducted in one session. The data were transcribed and analyzed in Nvivo 10.

The findings showed support for the presence of the four constructs within the preliminary model as well as for the three propositions in the preliminary model. The data also revealed contextual details of the BAS implementation and BAS complements constructs. There were also new dimensions value including: unanticipated types of economic value (including savings from reduced labor demand; social value (comfort and safety for building occupants); and strategic value (knowledge used to position the organizations for greater efficiency and effectiveness). Overall, the value outcomes of the implementations can be summarized as short term social, environmental and economic value as well as strategic value – consistent with the concept of sustainable value defined by Hart et al. (1995).

Also, consistent with Zuboff’s (1985) description of the duality of intelligent IT systems -- the ability to informate and automate, the BAS implementation construct was found to include two distinct sources of value: equipment automation; and equipment information. The unanticipated value dimensions and types, as well as the sources of value were used to refine the research model.

The study therefore a preliminary theoretical model – the resource based view of the sustainable organization (RBV-SO) -- as well as contextual implementation details that can be used to guide future investigations of the value created by intelligent green IT systems such as the BAS, as well as measurement items that can be used to inform quantitative studies of these systems. The study also adds to the practical body of knowledge concerning green IT implementations in general and implementations of the BAS in particular, concerning: details of the information value – for example, for measuring the environmental impact of the system and for substantiating claims in the application for green funds available to organizations; and details of some key complementary resources that enhance value creation within the context.

Two major limitations of this study are: (1) a single coder was used in the analysis process and therefore no inter-coder reliability was established for the results; and (2) user perceptions rather than actual quantities were used to validate the findings.

Some future research prospects include: use of these findings to conduct a quantitative study of an intelligent system extended with, for example, investigation of the impact of external forces such as government regulations, environmental issue salience, and market forces on the value created by green IT (such as the BAS); and investigation of the impact over time of the development of the strategic capabilities enabled by the BAS on creation of value.

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