In a recent webinar titled Digital Transformation: Monitoring your path to Sustainable IT, organised by iTnews Asia in partnership with Paessler, experts delved into the relationship between digital transformation and sustainable IT practices and explored the critical role of IT monitoring in bridging the perceived gap between both.
As per Keeping Watch: Monitoring Your Path to a Sustainable IT, a report from Germany-based IT network monitoring expert Paessler, conducted by Intuit Research, businesses across the ASEAN and ANZ regions view digital transformation (66 percent) and sustainability practices/ESG (61 percent) as top priorities for the next three years. However, sustainable business practices do not emerge as the top five business challenges for businesses surveyed in the study.
This implies that businesses view sustainability and digital transformation in silos and not as two interconnected business problems, which set the tone for an insightful discussion.
Felix Berndt, Regional Sales Manager for Asia Pacific at Paessler, said the reason for the disconnect is that businesses tend to pursue simplistic goals, such as energy efficiency or net-zero strategies, rather than developing a comprehensive sustainability framework. This approach fails to recognise the complexities and interdependencies of sustainability within the broader digital transformation strategy. As a result, there is a need to bridge this gap, he added.
Digital transformation and sustainability are two sides of the same coin, with digital transformation providing the tools and capabilities to enable sustainability where sustainability drives the need for digital transformation, said Berndt. He also provided a quick background on how Paessler provides monitoring solutions for over 500 businesses worldwide, across all industries and all sizes, to support their sustainable IT strategy.
Lack of holistic integration
Sharing his views, Amit Phatak, Research Director at Intuit, said 90 percent 90 of surveyed businesses anticipate a positive business environment in the next three years. This optimism signifies available resources, he added, and a budget for tackling sustainability and digital transformation. However, businesses allocate these resources independently to each initiative, resulting in piecemeal solutions rather than holistic integration.
Berndt echoed this by highlighting how Paessler’s customer engagements always reveal a prevailing issue - disjointed departments pursuing individual objectives. He cited an instance where the facility management department of an organisation aimed to enhance ESG metrics by reducing energy consumption, the IT department was dedicated to ensuring 24/7 service availability.
To showcase the other end of the spectrum, Berndt added that some customers understand the link and that Paessler often proposes solutions that showcase tangible results, helping customers visualise the benefits and recognise the value of the end result.
Adding to the context, Phatak shared that the disconnect is not always definitive. Businesses that seamlessly integrate sustainability and digital transformation tend to remain ahead of the curve and ensure cross-team collaboration and alignment.
Both Berndt and Phatak made an important observation here about business perceptions - some view sustainability and ESG goals as costs, while others understand the potential for cost reduction and growth through the right frameworks. They debunked the notion that working on ESG goals was purely a financial burden and highlighted that it is possible to achieve a balance between driving positive impacts and ensuring financial gain through ESG initiatives.
Path to optimisation is simpler than anticipated
The moderator raised a question about challenges that impede businesses from seamlessly integrating sustainable practices into their operations - Is the hindrance due to a lack of technical know-how, perception of cost, or perhaps a blend of both?
Phatak underscored that skill gaps and a lack of understanding regarding sustainable frameworks are primary hurdles and emphasised the importance of having a clear roadmap and skill sets. He explained that until these objectives can be quantified across sectors; companies approach them opportunistically, treating them as KPIs (key performance indicators) rather than anchoring them in a robust framework.
Drawing from the instance of energy consumption monitoring, Berndt explained how existing resources, like energy meters in facility management, could be leveraged to gather essential data for optimisation efforts. He also emphasized how Paessler, in light of the growing complexities in modern technology stacks, enables resource optimization by helping businesses monitor their complex IT, OT and IoT infrastructures through one sole solution.
Disparity among ASEAN region
When it comes to the ASEAN region, the report revealed that sustainability (58 percent) is the topmost business priority for Singapore organisations followed by digital transformation (55 percent).
In Malaysia, 78 percent of the businesses already have a sustainable IT strategy in place; nearly 48 percent of Thailand organisations are currently developing a sustainability framework, while Indonesia lags behind other markets in its sustainability journey.
A clear disparity among ASEAN countries prompted the moderator to understand whether this divergence could be attributed to the region’s varying stages of economic development.
Phatak mentioned that while mature markets like Singapore exude a well-defined roadmap, developing markets in the region are playing catch-up, as the ripple effect of financial capitals like Singapore helps spread the sustainability message across various industries. Berndt added that digital transformation, economic maturity, governmental policies, and evolutions in influential sectors contribute to the divergent sustainability landscape in the ASEAN region.
During the discussion, it was emphasised that sustainability, once seen as a preserve of larger corporations, has become a financial imperative even for smaller players. SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) today perceive both digital transformation and sustainability on par with larger enterprises, differing primarily in in-house skill sets and budgets. This is why Paessler offers monitoring solutions for businesses across all industries and all sizes, from SMEs to large enterprises. Paessler comes together with renowned partners across scales to tackle the monitoring challenges of an ever-changing world.
End customers and investors consider ESG
Eventually, the conversation arrived on whether businesses would prioritise ESG initiatives during the imminent economic slowdown and the implications it would have for digital transformation strategies.
Phatak responded by acknowledging the budgetary constraints that might arise during such periods but stressed that even in adversity, smart businesses recognise that sustainability and digital transformation can lead to cost savings and growth. Businesses, where top management understands that consumers now demand greener and sustainable practices, would likely persevere even during economic challenges. This strategic approach could lead to differentiation and a distinct market advantage, he added.
Drawing on his experience of interacting with companies across regions, Berndt elaborated that customers and investors look for companies prioritizing environmental sustainability. The trend, already well-established in Europe and the US, is also making inroads into Asia, including the ASEAN region, Phatak said.
Overall, the webinar underscored that ESG is no more just a buzzword but a strategic compass that businesses can use to navigate a competitive landscape. Aligning with global trends, companies in the ASEAN region realise that ESG commitments are integral to identity and the perception of brands.