Software & IT Services

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The Software & Information Technology (IT) Services industry offers products and services globally to retail, business and government customers, and includes entities that develop and sell applications software, infrastructure software and middleware. The industry generally is competitive but with dominant players in some segments. Although relatively immature, the industry is characterised by high-growth entities that place a heavy emphasis on innovation and depend on human and intellectual capital. The industry also includes IT services entities delivering specialised IT functions, such as consulting and outsourced services. New industry business models include cloud computing, software as a service, virtualisation, machine-to-machine communication, big data analysis and machine learning. Additionally, brand value is important for entities in the industry to scale and achieve network effects, whereby wide adoption of a particular software product may result in self-perpetuating growth in sales.

Relevant Issues (6 of 26)

Why are some issues greyed out? The SASB Standards vary by industry based on the different sustainability-related risks and opportunities within an industry. The issues in grey were not identified during the standard-setting process as the most likely to be useful to investors, so they are not included in the Standard. Over time, as the ISSB continues to receive market feedback, some issues may be added or removed from the Standard. Each company determines which sustainability-related risks and opportunities are relevant to its business. The Standard is designed for the typical company in an industry, but individual companies may choose to report on different sustainability-related risks and opportunities based on their unique business model.

Disclosure Topics

What is the relationship between General Issue Category and Disclosure Topics? The General Issue Category is an industry-agnostic version of the Disclosure Topics that appear in each SASB Standard. Disclosure topics represent the industry-specific impacts of General Issue Categories. The industry-specific Disclosure Topics ensure each SASB Standard is tailored to the industry, while the General Issue Categories enable comparability across industries. For example, Health & Nutrition is a disclosure topic in the Non-Alcoholic Beverages industry, representing an industry-specific measure of the general issue of Customer Welfare. The issue of Customer Welfare, however, manifests as the Counterfeit Drugs disclosure topic in the Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals industry.
General Issue Category
(Industry agnostic)

Disclosure Topics (Industry specific) for: Software & IT Services

Energy Management
  • Environmental Footprint of Hardware Infrastructure

    With the growth of cloud-based service offerings, entities in this industry own, operate or rent increasingly more data centres and other hardware. Thus, managing the energy and water use associated with IT hardware infrastructure is relevant to value creation. Data centres must be powered continuously, and disruptions to the energy supply can have a material effect on operations, depending on the magnitude and timing of the disruption. Entities face a trade-off between energy and water consumption because of data centre cooling needs. Cooling data centres with water instead of chillers improves energy efficiency, but this method may create dependence on significant local water resources. Data centre specification decisions are important for managing costs, obtaining a reliable supply of energy and water, and reducing reputational risks, particularly with the increasing global regulatory focus on climate change and the opportunities arising from energy efficiency and renewable energy innovations.
Customer Privacy
  • Data Privacy & Freedom of Expression

    As Software & IT Services entities increasingly deliver products and services over the Internet and through mobile devices, they must carefully manage two separate and often conflicting priorities. First, entities use customer data to innovate and provide customers with new products and services to generate revenues. Second, entities have access to a wide range of customer data, such as personal, demographic, content and behavioural data creating associated privacy concerns. This dynamic may result in increased regulatory scrutiny in many countries. The delivery of cloud-based software and IT services also raises concerns about potential access to user data by governments that may use it to limit the citizens’ freedoms. Effective management in this area may reduce regulatory and reputational risks that may result in decreased revenues, reduced market share and increased regulatory actions involving potential fines and other legal costs.
Data Security
  • Data Security

    Software & IT Services entities are targets of growing data security threats from cyberattacks, which puts their own data and their customers’ data at risk. Inadequate prevention, detection and remediation of data security threats may influence customer acquisition and retention and result in decreased market share and reduced demand for the entity’s products. In addition to reputational damage and increased customer turnover, data breaches also may result in increased expenses, commonly associated with remediation efforts such as identity protection offerings and employee training on data protection. Meanwhile, new and emerging data security standards and regulations may affect operating expenses through increased compliance costs. Additionally, entities in this industry may be well-positioned to capture revenue opportunities by providing secure software and services to meet the demand for ensuring data is kept secure.
Employee Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Recruiting & Managing a Global, Diverse & Skilled Workforce

    Employees are important contributors to value creation in the Software & IT Services industry. Entities commonly find recruiting qualified employees to fill these positions difficult. A shortage in technically skilled employees can create intense competition to acquire highly skilled employees globally, contributing to high employee turnover rates. Some entities contribute to relevant education and training programmes to expand the availability of domestic, skilled employees. Entities offer significant monetary and non-monetary benefits to improve employee engagement and therefore retention and productivity. Initiatives to improve employee engagement and work-life balance may influence the recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce. Since the industry is characterised by relatively low representation from women and minority groups, efforts to recruit and develop globally diverse talent pools may address the talent shortage and improve the value of entity offerings. Greater workforce diversity is important for innovation and helps entities understand the needs of a diverse and global customer base.
Competitive Behaviour
  • Intellectual Property Protection & Competitive Behaviour

    Entities in the Software & IT Services industry spend a significant proportion of their revenues on IP protection, including acquiring patents and copyrights. Although IP protection is inherent to some entity business models and is an important driver of innovation, entities’ IP practices sometimes may be a contentious societal issue. Entities sometimes acquire patents and other IP protection to restrict competition and innovation, particularly if they are dominant market players. Because of software complexity, its abstract nature and increasing IP rights protection related to software, entities in the industry must navigate overlapping patent claims to operate. As a result, entities in the industry may find themselves constantly in litigation or subject to regulatory scrutiny either because of allegations of patent violations if they engage in unethical business practices, or are perceived as doing so, or because they engage in IP infringement litigation. Adverse legal or regulatory rulings related to antitrust and IP may expose entities in the industry to costly and lengthy litigations and potential monetary losses as a result. Such rulings also may affect an entity’s market share and pricing power if its patents or dominant position in important markets are challenged legally, with potentially significant effects on revenue. Therefore, entities that balance the protection of their IP and its use to spur innovation while ensuring their IP management and other business practices do not unfairly restrict competition, may reduce regulatory scrutiny and legal actions while protecting their market value.
Systemic Risk Management
  • Managing Systemic Risks from Technology Disruptions

    With trends towards increased cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS), software and IT service providers must ensure they have robust infrastructure and policies in place to minimise disruptions to their services. Disruptions such as programming errors or server downtime may generate systemic risks, because computing and data storage functions move from individual entity servers in various industries to data centres of cloud-computing service providers. The risks are increased particularly if the affected customers are in sensitive sectors, such as financial institutions or utilities, which are considered critical national infrastructure. Entities’ investments in improving the reliability and quality of their IT infrastructure and services may attract and retain customers, thereby creating revenue and opportunities in new markets.

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