Shifting The eBay Mindset For A More Naturally Integrated Energy Management System

By Gabrielle Maguire, Environmental Defense Fund

My EDF Climate Corps at eBay is coming to a close, and amid the flurry of project deadlines and presentations, I’m taking a moment to reflect on the past 2.5 months. I’ve been tasked with analyzing the best way to make our on-campus data rooms more efficient, and I outlined many of the barriers in my last post (How do you shrink while you grow?).

I’ve found that my colleagues have been making the best decisions based on their given parameters determined by silo-ed ownership and a shorter-term focus—even though they desire a better overall solution. In short, the system is forcing them to make less than optimal decisions from both a cost and energy efficiency perspective. Ultimately, my analysis focused as much on proposed efficiency changes as on the larger operational process changes that should occur.

image via Wikipedia/Coolcaesar

In my analysis and recommendations, I compared “business-as-usual” to incremental changes in the business model. To make a case for a process change, I expanded the financial analysis beyond savings from simple energy efficiency investments to some other critical components in this system:

Operational Risk – By incorporating the financial costs of continuing at business-as-usual, I was able to demonstrate that the current situation cannot hold. eBay is growing too quickly to maintain the status quo. These risks were compared to the varying investments that the changes would involve, and the risks quickly outstripped the initial costs.

Budget Allocation – I looked at the overall costs to eBay Inc., rather than to each business unit. This would allow us to find the best decision for eBay, regardless of where the cash from investment would come from. As a secondary step, I considered how the future decisions would be affected by aligning budget, expenses and responsibility. This is where a process change would promote energy efficiency decisions for years to come.

Employee Experience – In an industry that heavily competes for top developers, the employee experience is a critical part of eBay’s culture, and impacts on this experience must also be included in the analysis. Certain changes I analyzed would negatively impact developers’ daily functions. By calculating this impact in terms of potential losses in retention and recruitment, it is clear that although they may be financially sound from an efficiency point of view, they are too expensive overall. On the flipside, other investment decisions would enhance the employee experience and lead to higher returns on investment.

With these aspects in mind, I worked to quantify the previously uncalculated risks and returns that play into eBay’s current model and compare them to costs of creating a process change. With this information eBay will be able to inform (and shift) a larger process mindset so that subsequent efficient energy decisions from here on out will occur within a more naturally integrated system.

Editor’s Note: This column comes to us as a cross post courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund. Author credit goes to Gabrielle Maguire, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.