How to set and execute your sustainability IT and data strategy

Series: How to set up your ESG data, technology, and people for success

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Sustainability transformation often involves fundamental changes to information and technology, but they should be guided by the organisation’s broader vision for sustainability. An effective IT strategy supports the enterprise to make a long-term difference, internally and externally, and should be integral to the business strategy.

It’s impossible to think about the role of technology without also considering how the organisation works, and an important starting point is a business architecture, at two levels. The high-level architecture gives a clear overview of all business areas, to identify how sustainability impacts capabilities and interdependencies. The functional architecture details the specific capabilities in each business area. Although complex to develop, such architectures can reduce duplication, promote cross-functional working, and improve consistency and quality.

A sustainability transformation framework then guides change in each business function, by identifying the changed and new capabilities needed to move from the “as-is” to the “to-be” state. Our IT architecture model codifies the whole system, including functional and enterprise-wide elements, to help create a roadmap for action. In particular, enterprise-wide aspects – integration, technology and data – are crucial for sustainability, as they support cross-functional KPIs, and help escape functional siloes.

Sustainability will also impact the data aspects of the framework, because each new business metric requires new data to be measured, stored and processed. This might involve physical changes, such as installing sensors and communication technology, or new collaboration arrangements to secure data from across the supply chain.

Transformation uses technology to support the nuances of how people and processes work, throughout the organisation. As such, the focus must be on aligning more than implementing technology, an approach that’s now being adopted at functional, but rarely enterprise, levels. Sustainability capabilities can be added piecemeal through other functional transformations, but they won’t bring the benefits of enterprise-wide transformation. Nonetheless, an incremental approach can succeed, given a clear aim and roadmap.


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