IT, Integration and Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

Loraine Lawson

Nick Carr's at it again. In his most recent book, he predicts the disappearance of IT divisions and pronounces journalists extinct.


If this annoys you, think about how I feel: Effectively, in one swift move, he's made my entire household an anachronism, dooming my husband (an IT staff programmer) and myself (a journalist) to financial ruin. I feel like Mark Twain: News of my death has been greatly exaggerated.


My question is, if IT divisions are on the way out, why do corporations keep asking them to do more?


The latest trend: Businesses are recruiting IT to help manage the corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, according to this piece from Industry Week.


I know. It strikes me as an unlikely match, too. As it turns out, this is about integration -- specifically, CSR programs need more information from the corporate ERP systems. So, manufacturers want IT to integrate and automate the CSR processes and information, according to Jeff Frank, the VP at Lawson Software - and, in case you're wondering, there is no relationship between myself and this company, except we share a last name.


Now, I have to say -- I was a bit suspicious about this article, especially since Lawson Software sells CSR services and solutions. I wondered if the piece was really a trend -- or a clever PR piece.


I did a bit of digging, and I think it's a little of both.


Obviously, it's true that more companies are focusing on CSR -- particularly when it comes to environmental issues. And as it turned out, AMR Research did a study on this issue last year and discovered more companies are trying to integrate IT systems with CSR programs.


In a March, 2007, column, Nigel Montgomery, the director of European Research, wrote that 89 percent of U.S. companies and 62 percent of European companies "plan to use technology to manage their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives," within the next two years -- which, at this point, would be within one year.


He and co-author, research director, Derek Prior, noted that nearly half of U.S. companies claimed to have some or fully integrated systems to provide information on CSR and another 32 percent claimed to have "just started the integration process." In Europe, the process was even farther behind -- 47 percent of European companies said they received no CSR-related data from IT systems or received data from disconnected system. Only 17 percent reported a fully integrated system.


But what's more telling is how few companies tie CSR to ERP, according to the column:

Disappointingly, less than one-third of the respondents are using their ERP systems to help them manage these big issues. Yet because they are integrated and enterprise-wide, ERP systems should form the foundation for managing to environmental and social business objectives, a fact backed by numerous surveys that show companies wish to use their enterprise systems.

So, I don't think this is just a clever marketing ploy. Rather, it looks like Lawson has identified a need and cleverly dedicated itself to providing a solution.


In a series of blog posts in November, Lawson Software Vice President Jeff Frank shared his views on how IT can integrate CSR programs with ERP systems and other business software. Although it's (obviously) heavy on promoting Lawson's offerings, it's a good resource for understanding the problem and how IT can help.


Part one discusses the problem and why integrating ERP can help solve it. Part two explores an internal control system, which is where Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) software comes into play. Finally, in part three, Lawson looks at the final piece of the software puzzle - enterprise performance management (EPM) -- and how all three pieces fit together to help with CSR.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 31, 2008 2:19 PM Jeff Frank Jeff Frank  says:
Loraine,Thanks for covering my blog and Lawson's efforts in the area of corporate social responsibility(CSR). We (Lawson) have learned a lot during the first year of this initiative. There are a lot of exciting things happening around the role of IT in CSR -- I'll be sure to keep you updated on Lawson's efforts.Jeff FrankLawson Software Reply

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