Hybrid Risk Management with AWS Systems Manager

This post was written by Chris Coombs – Cloud Architect at Datacom, and Samual Brown, Senior Technical Account Manager at AWS. Datacom is an AWS Premier Partner providing migration, transformation and managed services across Australia and New Zealand.

At Datacom our Cloud Ops team now use AWS (Amazon Web Services) Systems Manager as the default task runner and desired state configuration tool for all new managed services customers. Our on-premise solution had served us well for many years, but required multiple platforms, each with its own licensing costs and scaling challenges. The previous solution also had a significant operational impact, requiring frequent updates to maintain vendor support and complex infrastructure for high availability. With AWS Systems Manager, we don’t need to worry about licensing or the underlying infrastructure, it just works.

Our transition to AWS Systems Manager was born out of a desire to focus more on the customer and less on the tooling. Once we migrated to AWS Systems Manager however, we have found that it provides even more value thanks to its extensibility and ease of use.

Whilst AWS Systems Manager has many uses, this blog post focuses on our hybrid implementation and the risk dashboard we built on top of AWS Systems Manager.

Activating AWS Systems Manager

When setting up the AWS Systems Manager agent on AWS EC2, you would usually create an instance profile to allow the agent to run. An often overlooked feature of AWS Systems Manager is that it will also run outside of AWS; however, as your on-premises hypervisor doesn’t understand IAM (Identity and Access Management), AWS provides another mechanism for configuring AWS Systems Manager – activation codes.

With activation codes, you can install the AWS Systems Manager agent prior to a cloud migration or as part of a multi-cloud strategy. What’s more is that you can also use the AWS System Manager activation codes in AWS itself, providing a standard setup for your entire fleet, whether it’s on AWS, on-premises or within other public cloud platforms.

Naming Instances

If we add an instance to AWS Systems Manager using activation codes, it appears in the management console with a funny looking ID, something like mi-1234. Don’t be fooled by the bit after the m (i-1234), that isn’t the AWS instance ID! So how do we map AWS Systems Manager IDs to AWS instance IDs (or some other on-premises ID)? Simple, we give it a name!

screenshot 1Managed Instances tab of the AWS Systems Manager console

We don’t give the instance a name during registration though, we actually have to specify the name during activation code creation. As such, we have to generate the codes in real time. We do this using an API backed by Lambda which we run as part of the instance UserData (or similar bootstrap script on non-AWS resources).

screenshot 2 code adjustedIt might seem odd not to use the native IAM integration with AWS Systems Manager in AWS, but this method doesn’t require development teams to mess around with IAM, and treating all instances in the same way ensures that we have a single workflow for all instances, regardless of their location.

Stating the Risk

AWS Systems Manager provides a lot of power to operations teams for running scheduled and ad hoc commands against entire hybrid workloads at once, which is a time saver for Ops. Where AWS Systems Manager really excels is in its flexibility, for example we also use it to report on compliance and security risk in near real time, which provides huge customer value.

screenshot 3Datacom risk dashboard

With AWS Systems Manager we can run State Manager (a scheduled command of sorts) in either of two modes. First we run in a report only mode. This allows us to gather patching, anti-virus and compliance information from the entire fleet without breaking anything. We can then discuss this data (using our risk dashboard) with the business, who may accept some risks (e.g. a legacy application, which the vendor won’t let you patch) but may mandate others (e.g. AV). With this information we can then move some or all workloads into enforcement mode, and it’s as simple as switching the AWS Systems Manager tag from report to enforce!

This is great for migrations. We can run the agent on-premises, analyse the results and remediate any gaps (e.g. missing AV) using the Run Command prior to relocation, reducing both the risk of rollback and the duration of the migration window. It also has the benefit of providing real time insight into born in the cloud workloads, which disappear at night or scale massively during the day. What’s really powerful is that the business can see what the risk profile looks like at any point in time, they can set alerts and take action with their development teams as things change.

What’s Next?

The extensibility of AWS Systems Manager is one of its greatest features. With AWS Systems Manager you can build a solution using cutting edge AWS technology and run it anywhere, from AWS to traditional tin. What Datacom build next is up to you. The idea for our risk dashboard came from customer feedback, and we’d love to hear what challenges you’re facing and how we can help.

What makes local government data so valuable? Accessibility, big data and analytics to inform better decision making

Group of cheerful students teenagers in casual outfits with note books and pdas are studying outdoors, sitting on a plaid on a green grass in park, enjoying

By Mark Matijevic

Imagine a world where core local government data was easily available and accessible. What radical changes could this create in the way councils deliver services to people in their community?

Councils hold a vast range of data on licences and permits (food, swimming pools, trade waste, outdoor dining for example), to applications for development approval, to property attributes, to parking, valuations, requests for services and rating information, to events, library services, geospatial and assets (roads, pipes, sewerage, parks, community halls).

But currently this data is often hard to access. It may be locked up in legacy systems making integration a time consuming and expensive proposition.

Why is it important to have better access to council data?

If this data was unlocked it could be linked to other available data such as real estate information, travel information, police, fire, health services, schools, social media sources, and environmental information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices. IoT works by using sensors through devices and objects, which are connected through an IoT platform that sends critical data. This data can be used to identify patterns, trends and make recommendations and highlight issues before they occur. Many councils use IoT information now, but it’s not joined up with other sources of information. That lack of connectivity limits the ability of the councils to make effective use of the data.

Typically a councils’ information strategy is reliant on having access to multiple data-sets and sources. The core council data, such as rating information, parking, valuations and requests for service etc provides a substantial foundation for including the community and assets in the information strategy. It also allows councils to include partners, such as not-for profit organisations that are providing services to their community.

With council data more accessible, the information could be used to provide big data analytics, utilise Artificial Intelligence, and potentially integrate with third party providers allowing a community to be innovative. The real benefit would come from breaking down the barriers between data silos, merging massive amounts of pertinent information from numerous sources, and then using available technology to analyse it and then take appropriate action.

The impact of technology

Being able to use different data sets has been difficult in the past, due to various systems storing data, making it more difficult and time-consuming to get a complete and accurate picture.

The challenge for councils is having data stored in various systems which has created silos and difficulty merging data to aid in the decision-making process. The problem for many councils is most legacy systems have very limited APIs and to create them would take significant time and money.

How to fix this issue?

New technological solutions developed natively for the cloud use Application Programming Interface (APIs), which means the system is open to receiving data from any source and system. Councils can use any systems they like and connect easily through APIs. 

New solutions are being developed for local governments, and they have the potential to transform how a community operates and interacts with local councils.

We’ve got a great example of how councils can collect, use APIs and IOT devices, store data in one cloud-based system and provide better services to the community.  Read all about it https://www.datacomlocalgovt.co.nz/products/enterprise-resource-planning/datascape.aspx or contact us at lgsales@datacom.co.nz or lgsales@datacom.com.au


Here’s the tech that will change your local government organisation in 2018


By Caroline White

Want to be ahead of the game? We asked experts at Datacom what’s going to be big in local government organisations in the year ahead.

Firstly it is important to be aware of the exciting, ‘behind the scenes’ types of technology which make these solutions possible. Here are the ‘big four’ main types of tech, how they intertwine and the solutions they can provide.


1. Artificial intelligence (AI)

What is it?

AI, essentially intelligence displayed by machines rather than by humans or animals,  is a word most people have heard of,  even if just from cult movies such as The Terminator or The Matrix.

Why does AI matter to me?

It has become much more mainstream with many organisations worldwide starting to work out how they can use it to improve the bottom line. As well as being scalable, portable, adaptable and fairly cheap, the main benefit is that it frees humans up to do more important tasks. In fact PWC has estimated that AI could contribute an additional 26% to local economies by 2030.

It also allows organisations to cater to customer demands outside of working hours. In this busy, modern world, people want  immediate support, personal service, and around the clock availability. AI can help with all of this so over the coming years we will slowly see a change from a service economy to an AI economy.

Top uses within local government:

There are some really incredible uses for AI across the world. IBM Watson can tell you what your personality type is based on text or speech. Auckland University students are currently researching how this could be used to help with disabilities and mental health.

A machine has also managed to lip-read with 46.8 per cent accuracy after being trained from BBC footage. Machine learning, a technique involving AI where machines can learn by themselves without being programmed, was used to achieve this.

Within local government, uses haven’t been quite this spectacular, but there are still exciting developments:

    • Video analytics are already installed and operational in some cities. Not just for 24 hour surveillance but also for town planning such as roading infrastructure
    • Analytics of data and reports
  • A group of researchers from the US and the UK have used AI to predict natural disasters such as earthquakes
  • Customer service chat bots –  they can be trained on the job with crowdsourced learning and be encouraged to be particularly proactive around popular topics. There are now multiple bots in local government worldwide including Enfield Council’s  Amelia, their virtual assistant who was the first UK council chatbot when launched in June 2017. Datacom also developed an award-winning virtual assistant called Alex with IP Australia.

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

What is it?

IoT is the driving force behind smart cities, which was the buzzword of the 2017. Will Laugesen, IoT expert from Datacom, describes it as a ‘network of interconnected devices which can collect and transmit data’.  IoT is now really affordable, even for organisations with the smallest budget and it is relatively easy to hook into existing systems and processes used, e.g. data collected from an ERP system.

Why does it matter to me?

There are so many benefits to IoT and it is being used frequently by councils worldwide already to solve issues within the community and to also give them some fantastic metrics on the people they serve.

Mark Macfarlane, Smart Cities expert at Datacom, says that 2018 will bring a strong growth in the collection of granular citizen data due to the increase in IoT smart city adoption. We will see a greater focus on the application of advanced analytics to look for citizenship behavioural patterns both within and between council jurisdictions.

The new focus for councils will be on how they understand this newly available data and how they can use smart city data to influence citizen behaviour and improve the citizen experience. Mayors throughout Australia have been trialling the GWI Smart City Matrix whereby councils can benchmark against each other to ensure they have the technological infrastructure in place to stay competitive in a changing economy

Top uses within local government:

  • Real-Time live data feeds for disaster prevention, such as water level monitoring
  • Automated road condition monitoring. Looking for potholes and other problems so they can be fixed before they cause issues
  • Automated underground infrastructure checking

3. Blockchain

What is it?

Blockchain has been around since 2008 and reached the public eye as the main technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It is essentially a ‘digital ledger of trusted transactions between multiple participants’ – dramatically increasing speed, efficiency and security in organisations with less reliance on intermediaries and manual record keeping and a reduction in costs. Transactions can nearly happen in real-time rather than taking days.

Why does it matter to me?

Deloitte says that governments in over 12 different countries including Canada, the UK, Brazil and China are developing block-chain based applications worldwide and this number is expected to rapidly grow. It is perfect for projects around open data and collaboration with other councils, third-party organisations and the community.

Top uses within local government:

  • Digital identity management to securely verify citizens when they use online services
  • Governments are exploring how blockchain can improve land registration in almost every continent worldwide. The registration or transfer of a land deed or title would be recorded on the ledger, making the process transparent and certain for everyone.
  • Voting is also an area currently going digital with pilots in New York, Texas, Denmark, Estonia, Ukraine, and South Korea and Australia in 2017. Blockchain makes the process cheaper, enhances security and increases the likelihood that people will vote as they can do it remotely. In Brazil they even have a web platform which allows citizens to participate in parliamentary debate and crowdsource legislation.

4. Autonomous Things

What is it?

A combination of AI and IoT, but a big enough deal in their own right, Autonomous Things incorporate any unmanned vehicle from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones, to autonomous cars to home robots.

Why does it matter to me?

Autonomous things have the ability to solve lots of common problems worldwide including traffic congestion, Co2 emissions and people having to enter unsafe environments. Auckland Transport has suggested that over half of Auckland’s traffic will be driverless by 2055.

Top uses within local government:

  • Processes such as building consents can be sped up by using drones to perform property inspections, particularly on tall or difficult buildings
  • Drones can be sent into unsafe environments to come back with critical information and an aerial view of the area
  • Drones can also be used to filming tourism videos to attract people to the region
  • Driverless vehicles are currently being piloted by multiple councils worldwide including in the UK last year where the local government in Milton Keynes collaborated with an outside agency to pilot a driverless car scheme and show citizens that it could be safe, convenient and reliable.

Interested in how some of these solutions could work for you? If you need some inspiration, email us at lgsales@datacom.co.nz or find out more about our local government products including some impressive case studies here.

Image: Creative Commons christmashat

Transforming New Zealand’s Agile Training Industry

Datacom is now a certified Agile training provider!

We recently received our accreditation from the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile). Our fresh new approach to Agile training combines classroom theory with hands-on experience gained from using Agile in real-world projects every day across NZ. In addition to this new generation of certified courses, we also offer upskilling and refresher training, Agile coaching and mentoring, project facilitation, project health checks and organisational maturity assessments.

ICAgile is the largest accreditation and certification body in the industry. ICAgile works with corporations and training organizations to accredit courses based on their comprehensive and proven learning objectives. ICAgile’s rigorous accreditation process ensures that every ICAgile-accredited course will help people acquire the knowledge they need to build agile competence in a specific discipline.

Datacom’s new Agile training, coaching and consulting services create a unique and pragmatic approach that can be applied both in a classroom, and on the job with live projects.

The demand for a new approach to Agile training came from both inside our organisation, and via feedback from our customers. They struggled to find professional development for our project staff that was more than just rigid classroom theory.

Customer feedback also showed they were also unsatisfied with the current training options on offer, and wanted a more hands-on experience that could be delivered in conjunction with trained developers that could “lead the way” for their staff on live projects. Having actual developers and consultants on hand helps them bring that knowledge back into their businesses and embed it into their daily working lives.

A Datacom scrum team discussing their project during an Agile standup

Datacom’s specialist Advisory team worked closely with ICAgile to create a certified training course, that could be offered as part of an end-to-end suite of services alongside their consulting, assessment, coaching and development services.

These are now available to Datacom staff and customers in all of Datacom’s 21 locations across Asia Pacific:
• Certified Agile Professional (CAP) – ICAgile-accredited training course, resulting in the ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP) certification (2 days)
• Agile Refresher, Customised Training & Upskilling Courses (0.5 to 2 days)
• Agile Project Kick-off Facilitation (0.5 to 2 days)
• Agile Team Health Checks & Organisational Maturity Assessments (0.5 to 2 days)
• On-the-job coaching & mentoring of Agile teams, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Managers (POA)

What Is Agile?

Our world is constantly changing. The Agile development approach adapts to changes and manages uncertainties, by discovering and learning. This is achieved through iterative development, where the outcome and the solution to implement it are evolved through collaboration among self-organising, cross-functional teams. Agile has now moved beyond software development, making impact to the business and the entire organisation.

Find Out More

If you or your teams are not confident about what Agile really is or how to get the most out of it as a team, the Datacom CAP (Certified Agile Professional) course has been designed with you in mind.

Our goal is for your teams to feel comfortable holding Agile discussions with others, and to confidently and effectively take part in an any Agile projects. This is not “lecture-style” training; it’s fully hands-on and involves real-world applications to enhance the learning experience. We believe that Agile is best learned through ‘doing’, not just classroom theory.

If your organisation is already practicing Agile, but you’d like to learn how you can better streamline your development pipeline, then Datacom’s Agile Health Checks & Organisational Maturity Assessments are designed specifically for this scenario.

For customer training, consulting or coaching services, or for more information on any of our Agile services contact:
Ming Yii, Datacom Agile Practice Lead
Email/Skype/Yammer: Agile@datacom.co.nz
Phone: +6421533977
Course registration: Datacom Agile training web page

Building smart cities with Churchill



 VP of the Australian Smart Cities Association, Brook Dixon travelled the world as a Churchill Fellow last year, studying the drivers of digital transformation in leading global cities. In this extract of his report, which he has curated and prepared for Datacom, he looks at the principles, which need to be applied to be considered a smart city:

The digital revolution is ablaze in cities around the world.  The fires of big data, open government, smart city, digital innovation, cities 4.0, and the internet of things, burn bright.

But what is the object?  How can cities most effectively engage with digital?  And what lessons from international experience are there for Australasian cities?

These questions I explored last year as a Sir Winston Churchill Fellow, visiting eleven leading smart cities – Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Seoul, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Stockholm, New York, Raleigh, Lima, San Francisco and San Jose.

This study trip was a remarkable journey of digital city exploration and discovery.  From the evolution of civic democracy in Seoul, to partnerships in New York transforming 7,500 old pay phones into new digital hubs (unlocking billions of dollars in new value), to portable digital labs made from shipping containers for schools in Lima.

However, the key lessons relate less to such wonderful digital projects, which are specific to each city, but to the principles of purpose, planning and process, which can be applied in any city.

Principles such as – be a digital democracy.  Easy to say.  Much harder to do.  But in Seoul, they are making real progress with initiatives such as mVoting.  This digital platform (smart-phone app and website) allows rapid polling of citizen opinion through votes on policy and municipal matters.  Polls can be targeted by various demographic factors and citizens can set preferences for areas of voting interest.  mVoting has been used for hundreds of polls with direct influence on city policy, and enshrines Seoul’s philosophy of participatory democracy and ‘the citizen as Mayor’.

A second principle, and oh so important!  Get a smart city plan!  The digital cosmos is vast, its philosophy and technology concerns every part of the city – people, processes, services, administration, economy, and places.  It covers infrastructure, networks, data collection and analysis.  It can be applied to health, education, municipal services, utilities, justice, transport, the environment, and more.

Facing such breadth of scope, and depth of opportunity, without the focus and direction of a digital plan, digital actions will easily be fragmented. To plan is to examine the particular circumstances of each city, and to concentrate attention where digital transformation can make the most difference.

Beyond planning is dynamic reality, and the principle of innovation – being open to change, redesign, new ideas, doing things differently, and connecting things in fresh ways.  So to be a digital city is to embrace innovation, and to be innovative embraces digital.  This symbiosis is well understood by leading smart cities.  And their efforts to encourage, promote and support innovation are a pillar of smart city plans the world over.

Barcelona has a beautifully expressed innovation goal of “creating a dialogue and experimentation agora” where anyone can progress smart city innovation and research.

This goal is epitomised by the Barcelona Urban Lab, which facilitates use of public space to trial innovative products and technology to support commercialisation and improve municipal services for the community.  Pilot projects to date have included traffic lights adapted for the blind, remote utility meter readings, and smart street lights fitted with presence, vibration, temperature, humidity, sound and pollution sensors, GSM aerials, Wi-Fi Mesh access point and webcam for video surveillance functions.

Another principle, oh so important, but too dry for much attention here, is establishing strong leadership and governance.  Leading cities universally attested the value of this principle; and where it lacked, it was lamented, and where it was sound, it was lauded.

Now a final principle for those with smart city aspirations, and much more exciting than governance: to leverage new business models.  Think beyond the old paradigm of government spending and taxation, to new models of asset regeneration and shared value.

In San Jose for example, the Council recently partnered with Philips Corporation to upgrade 800 street-lights to modern LED luminaires, with big energy, financial and CO2 savings, and zero cost to Council.  How?  Because Philips installed micro cell equipment on 50 poles, and sold this data capability to the telcos.  And so we see improvements to lighting amenity, public assets, energy efficiency, commercial opportunity, mobile connectivity, and budget sustainability.  New value, created, captured and shared by leveraging a new business model and partnership.

Now that is a smart city!

Photo / View over the Passeig de Gràcia Avenue, Barcelona By Ralf Roletschek – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44339377

Closing the customer experience (CX) gap


Passengers motion

Photo / GraphicStock

By Caroline White

People worldwide are finally waking up to the importance of customer-centricity. Forrester estimates that 84 per cent of organisations aspire to be CX leaders and Gartner says that for the third consecutive year marketing budgets are on the increase in a bid to improve it

Mercedes-Benz USA President and CEO Steve Cannon described CX back in 2015 as ‘the new marketing’ and every year Gartner report that it is increasingly on people’s agendas.

Hundreds of CX events are popping up worldwide and they are attracting all of the C-Suite – not just the marketing teams.

Unfortunately there is a gap between customer expectations and what they are actually experiencing. Famous research by Bain and Company in 2005 highlighted the staggering difference – 80 per cent of companies believed they were delivering  a ‘superior experience’ whereas only 8 per cent of customers agreed with them. This gap has closed slightly but there is still a long way to go, particularly as nowadays customers expect to be able to interact with a brand via multiple channels.

But why does CX matter?

Forrester defines customer experience as ‘how customers perceive their interactions with your company’. Tony Hillson, chair at Auckland’s recent  Customer 3.1 Summit said the industry has changed a lot over the past few years due to a shift from focussing on traditional service design and delivery towards what was described by keynote speaker, futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson as a ‘transformation economy’’.

This transformation economy has been born out of a steep rise in the number of digital disruptors, e.g. Uber, AirBnB and shopping apps such as Wish. Digitalisation is making the world smaller –  another example is US retailer Amazon who is expanding across Australia and rumoured to hit New Zealand soon too.

These disruptors raise the bar for more traditional organisations who will need to enhance their CX to keep up – and that’s not just B2C but B2B too.

By implementing CX principles into strategy, technology, processes and people management, it is possible to keep up with disruptors, reduce costs and increase revenue. Forrester estimates that companies who excel at CX grow a staggering 5.1 times quicker than those who don’t.

And how do we improve it?

Here are ten top tips to taking your customers on a journey across mulitple channels:

  1. Plot the customer journey and work out where the most value can be added. Forrester says customers are willing to pay 4.5 times more for excellent CX. Look for ways to give them an memorable experience which makes them feel special. This doesn’t necessary mean the experience is bespoke but rather personalised on a large scale, e.g. Google remembers details such as where you visit frequently so it can provide you with updates and information relevant to you.
  2. Hone both the left and right brains. Left is the logical analytical side and right is the creative side. Both are needed to solve problems and communicate with everyone, e.g. when Benji Karsch first started working at US healthcare company, Cigna, there were no metrics relating to any CX initiatives. This meant they had no idea what was successful and what wasn’t – so the board didn’t value them. As a result he worked on a left-brained solution to impress the board and ensure buy in to future initiatives.
  3. Don’t spread yourself too thin, focus on one main metric, e.g. the net promoter or customer satisfaction score and link it to financial metric, e.g.  10% increased revenue if it is achieved.
  4. Work on two levels of buy-in. Start at the top with metric-based business cases for the decision makers, e.g. we will lose $5m if x happens. Have case studies from previous projects worked on and use storytelling to evoke emotion. Sign up at least one senior person to help drive CX initiatives and make sure their buy in is visible.
  5. Accenture report that 89 per cent of customers want a consistent CX across all channels, a seamless omnichannel. As soon as there is senior level buy-in, push to make CX and digital experience part of the same strategy. Hamish Nuttall, founder of the Naked Bus said ‘digital is just how we do business nowadays.
  6. Now it is time to get everyone else involved. People are more engaged when they come to the project early. Forrester say that companies with engaged employees have operating margins 4.1 times larger than those whose employees aren’t. Also CX initiatives should come from all departments, particularly from frontline employees who are interacting with customers on a daily basis. Encourage an experimental and adaptive culture. Benji Karsch, started a successful internal marketing campaign for employees at US healthcare firm, Cigna, called ‘Go You’. It challenged employees to go above and beyond with customers. To help foster this, they were allowed to choose specially branded t-shirts and decorate their name tag to express their individuality.
  7. Benchmark regularly so progress is visible and get feedback at different points of the customer journey so gaps can be found.  There are lot of mechanisms for feedback including pulse surveys, forums and social media. Jason Delamore, Marketing GM at Auckland Airport said an impressive 400,000 people have given feedback via a tablet in the airport in the last year.
  8. Boost customer trust so you can collaborate and innovate together. Rod Moynihan, Director of Sales at Zendesk says customers value empowerment, transparency and responsiveness above anything else so look at developing these traits. Once trust is formed, test the water with some small CX changes, e.g. a stripped-back, low cost prototype on a small section of people so there is little impact if it goes wrong and then expand from there.


    Panel discussion: Lto R: Benjamin Karsch, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, Revlon David Hughes, ‎General Manager e-Commerce and Customer Insights, Briscoe Group Moderator: Kat Hardisty, Design Lead, Optimal Workshop Roxanne Salton, Head of Digital Strategy and Delivery, Mercury. Photo / Scott Clegg/ Conferenz

  9. Balance innovation, analytics and common sense. Although it is important to listen to customers, don’t just implement their suggestions blindly. Get to the root of whatever the pain-point is and work out the most efficient way of solving it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your solution has to use new technology such as blockchain, artificial intelligence or machine learning – technology is just a means to an end.
    In some cases it can work really well, e.g. When Lowes Innovation Labs showed people how to do DIY with a Hololens it resulted in 36 per cent better recall than when they watched an instructional video, but often you can be better off sticking to more tried and tested technology. That said, consider the analytics opportunities that are available with Internet of Things devices – just be sure that are completely secure and enhance CX too.
  10. And finally never underestimate the importance of getting insights firsthand from the customer – it is much easier to empathise with them this way. David Hughes, ‎General Manager e-Commerce and Customer Insights at Briscoe Group has access to the customer feedback inbox from his email account. Natalie Kerschner, Senior UX Specialist at BNZ made whole teams of people go into branches posing as real business customers and Roxanne Salter, Head of Digital Strategy at Mercury had once worked where senior people had to do a monthly shift on the shopfloor. It was important, said Roxanne,  not to be afraid of asking stupid questions – since this is how issues were picked up on.

The Datacom Digital Experience team works with organisations to discover which CX strategies are best for them. We have a wide range of tricks in our toolbox from alignment workshops to journey mapping to concept testing.

Interested in knowing more? Email digital@datacom.co.nz.


To smartcities and beyond – 10 steps to get your public sector organisation ready for Digital Transformation (DX)

Digital Transformation Banner

By Caroline White

Technology is moving fast in today’s world. Every organisation is expected to know about – if not use – things such as the Internet of Things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Every city or town is now expected to aspire to be a smart city.

As newer types of technology emerge, this pace will only start to quicken. Brett Roberts, Associate Director of Datacom Auckland’s Digital, Customers & Collaboration Group likes to use Heraclitus’s quote – ‘‘the only constant is change’ so keep up or get left behind!

Digital Transformation (DX) is not just a catchphrase – technology is being employed successfully by the public sector worldwide to address important safety and security concerns and improve processes.

Body-worn cameras can protect parking officers when out in the field, sensors can be used to highlight buildups at traffic black spots and drones can be used to check tall buildings when people apply for building consents.

Compared with other countries, New Zealand has been slow on the DX uptake. PwC New Zealand say that just 50 per cent of Kiwi organisations are integrating digital and corporate strategies compared to 70 per cent  worldwide. Steffan Schaefer lists the areas where great improvements can be made: air and water quality control, environmental monitoring, energy saving, renewable energy solutions, and the prediction and prevention of natural and man-made disasters. Gartner also says councils could become a hub for technological innovation as they have access to swathes of data which could be valuable – if collected and analysed properly.

You know your organisation needs to start digitally transforming.  But what about the other people in your organisation? How do you convince the decision-makers? Here are ten tips for implementing change in  a public sector organisation.

1. Evaluate the pros and cons of digitising processes
The most common blocks for digital transformation are lack of budget, a lack of time or resource, reliance on legacy systems, a lack of technological skills and “siloed” data. However these problems will only get worse if action isn’t taken to move into the digital space.

Product Manager, Anthony Sidwell recently presented Antenno, Datacom’s new mobile app at PCA Smart Cities Conference 2017. One of the key messages of the conference was that DX isn’t just about implementing technology – it’s a way for councils to improve people’s lives as well as reduce costs and increase efficiency.

It’s an iterative process – so start small and work up. Look at where current issues are and where customer feedback can be improved. Then work out where technology can be used to solve them, e.g. does your team face a battle when dog licensing comes around as it is still done on paper rather than online?

In most cases, the pros far outweigh the cons and the sooner implemented, the sooner improvements can be made.

2. Actively look for and find solutions to any roadblocks
Once you know where the areas for DX are, look for any roadblocks – these could be change resistant or non-tech savvy members in the top team – or holes in your own rough ideas that you hadn’t thought of. Find the five most problem-focussed people you work with and ask them to pick holes in your rough plans – according to research just five people will pick up 85% of issues with a product, service or idea. Find solutions to those issues raised.

3. Impress with stats and bust myths
So now you’re armed with a reviewed rough plan, it is time to wow decision makers with some great ideas. It is important to work out how to sell it to them – find out what problem they would most like to solve, e.g. are they sick of all the complaints that the customer services teams are getting? Then find their preferred communication style so you can frame your ideas in a way that works for them. Prepare a ‘mythbusters’ pack of stats and common questions, e.g. why moving to cloud is safer and better than on premise systems?

4 . Set up a change management team
Once you have support from the decision makers, it is time to set up a change team of like-minded people to help you on the road to success. Each area of the organisation should be represented by a ‘change champion’ – someone to voice concerns for their area, make sure their requirements are covered and generally aid the change process. These people should be fully committed to the idea of change and ready to cajole those more risk-averse members of their team that change is necessary.

5. Foster an innovative culture
In his keynote at the DX2017 summit in March, Brett Roberts stressed the interlinkages between innovation and DX, advising companies to drive an innovative and adaptive digital culture at all times – it’s not just for the top team. Now is the time to reach out to the whole organisation, not just your change management team and let them know that DX is afoot. Encourage all generations and levels to get involved – particularly digital natives. You may find extra skills, expertise and ideas to add to the mix, along with new ways to problem solve.

6. Investigate different options and budgets
As a team, look into the problems you are trying to solve. Refine the requirements identified in step one, add some rough metrics and prioritise.  Once the list is complete, seek outside advice from a reputable DX expert who will be able to discuss the different options and give advice on the best possible digital strategy to fit your needs.

Don’t be afraid of speaking to people who don’t fit the normal council mould – it’s important to know what other councils are doing and where money could be saved via collaboration but it is also important to think outside of the box.

There is no reason why the public sector can’t do this too.  Antenno was born out of a need to solve communication issues between local government and their communities. Councils needed new ways of reaching people. At the same time, their customers were complaining of information overload and wanted to only have access to relevant information.

7.Write a plan with metrics
Once all options have been evaluated, it is time to write the DX plan. Datacom’s Head of Digital Experience, Fiona Monks, recommends that this should be a guiding vision or a ‘north star’ for the next three to five years with only the first six months described in detail. Every six months the team can get together and assess whether the organisation is on the right track.

Don’t forget to…

  • Include the metrics stating where you are now, where you want to be and how frequently you are going to measure them.
  • Consider all stakeholders and situations. Make sure all workflows have been reviewed and mapped – there is little point transferring archaic paper process to digital.
  • Include a disaster recovery plan – it shouldn’t be needed but as calculated risks are needed with DX it is best always to be prepared
  • Invite as many people to review it as possible before finalisation.

8. Get communication right
Communication is often cited as a reason for failure from DX projects. Plan meticulously and far in advance, working out what the best mediums for reaching different stakeholders are. Go interactive via social media aiming to build enthusiasm, excitement and confidence. Make sure there are clear avenues for feedback so worries can be quickly addressed before they fester.

9Look out for people resistant to change
However much communication is done beforehand, there will always be some people who are resistant to DX – particularly frontline employees who have not been involved with the decision- making process. Anticipate who these people are and make sure they feel safe and comfortable. Plan onboarding sessions for new technology and listen to them.

10. Have fun
A recent study by Gallup found that just 29 per cent of government workers are engaged in their job. Use DX as a time to turn over a new leaf and boost engagement levels. Share metrics and celebrate successes as a team. Have change champions at each site to drive changes forward and consider some sort of gamification, e.g. prizes for teams who adopt the new ways of working quickest. Points system with league tables and weekly updates can foster some healthy competition.

Ready to transform your organisation? If you need some inspiration, email us at digital@datacom.co.nz or find out more about our local government products including some impressive case studies here.

Datacom kicks off Microsoft’s Global Integration Bootcamp

By Tim Nelson

It started in Auckland on Saturday, then followed the sunrise across the globe.

Dawn on Saturday 25th saw Datacom stop the countdown clock on the Microsoft Global Integration Bootcamp website.

Starting at 210 Federal Street in Auckland and following the sunrise across 12 locations across around the world, the Global Bootcamp brought the Microsoft integration community together for an intensive day of interactive labs using the latest Azure technology.

With a dual opportunity to lead and learn alongside co-hosts Adaptiv and Theta the team added hospitality and plenty of coffee to create a warm collaborative atmosphere for everyone in attendance.

Photo / Datacom’s Craig Haiden presenting at the weekend’s Microsoft Global Integration Bootcamp.

Independent consultants and integrators from both vendors and corporates turned the café into a hub of concentrated activity, augmented by a constant flow of online appreciation from around the globe as successive centres kicked off their day.

Plenty of knowledge was shared and new skills were learned. Hands-on labs covered the full Azure integration stack: enabling hybrid integration scenarios to surface data to the cloud; setting up Service Bus and Logic Apps to orchestrate data flows; configuring API Apps and API Management to present and secure data access; and working with IoT Hub, Stream Analytics and Power BI to provide both deep insight and responsive control of data and devices in real-time.

A big thank you to the dedicated team of organisers and presenters who made it happen: Craig Haiden, Mark Brimble, Mahindra Morar, Mike Howell, James Corbould, Morten Velling and Abhishek Kumar. Literally world-leading…

Check out more about the Global Integration Bootcamp here.

Digital Transformation 101: Insights from DX 2017

By Caroline White

Business leaders from across New Zealand came together to discuss their challenges at the Digital Transformation summit  in Auckland this month. The key themes were:

  • Understanding innovation and transformation and how they work together
  • Unlocking value by leveraging technology and new business platforms
  • Understanding changing audiences for customer-centric digital transformation
  • Recruiting and retaining the right talent and unlocking real competitive advantages

The Datacom sponsored event saw Brett Roberts, Associate Director of Datacom Auckland’s Digital, Customers & Collaboration Group, take to the stage for his keynote advising companies on how to drive an innovative and adaptive digital culture. Digital Transformation means companies need to act fast to ensure they aren’t left behind.

BrettRobertsDX2017CloggCloseupBrett Roberts speaking at DX2017. Photo / Scott Clogg: Conferenz

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital Transformation is the latest hot phrase to be bandied round in offices across the world – but it is also a commonly misunderstood term. Basically, it’s the act of transforming businesses digitally from end to end – from operations to infrastructure, meshing together technology, processes and people.

DX2017 featured 24 speakers in total, each offering advice that can be loosely packaged into five C’s: competitive pressure, the confluence of ideas, customers, culture and continuous learning, and finally the biggest C: communication.

Competitive pressure

Firstly, why do businesses have to digitally transform? Technology and innovation is moving at a faster pace than ever before. We live in an uncertain world – A study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimates that 40 percent of today’s F500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years.

Foxtel’s Brett Cooper said digital disruptors are everywhere – the most well- known one for his company being being Netflix.

Competition has come from leaders who have shunned traditional business models and dared to do things differently – Uber, Amazon and Airbnb are just three examples.

Nicki Raistrick, Head of Digital at Fletcher Building looked at the same issue, raising concerns about traditional businesses making assumptions they shouldn’t. You may know the names of your customers and their likes and dislikes, but what do they really know about their customer’s customers – is there a new disruptor just around the corner?

Andre Guyer, Head of Digital Transformation for the Zurich Insurance, believes companies need to use money and experience as leverage against new entrants to their industry – to attack, rather than defend their market share.

New Zealand companies need to look at their products and services and work out where they are adding value to their customers – which enable them to innovate and provide a better service, and thus larger margin than foreign counterparts.

DX2017AudienceThe challenge of digital transformation – Brett Roberts speaks at DX2017. Photo / Scott Clogg: Conferenz


At the heart of Digital Transformation is a triad, a confluence of people, business and process. It’s not possible to change one without considering impact on the other.

  • People – Robotics will feature heavily in the future, but nothing can substitute for the human brain. Algorithms are not the solution to all our problems.

Digital leaders still have a tough job in shaping the workforce of the future.  Traditional roles such as system administrators, operators, programmers, and help desk employees will decrease in demand and these people will need to be retrained and moved elsewhere.

New people for jobs which haven’t even been dreamt up yet will need to be sourced and an organisation is only as good as the people who work for them.

Quote of the day: “Never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER compromise your hiring.” Hire diverse people with good attitudes who are ready to slot into an innovative environment. And don’t be afraid to hire people who don’t fit the mould – the best innovations don’t tend to come from when people stick to the mould.

  • Business – Transforming to digital can often unearth all sorts of issues that weren’t apparent beforehand. Go back to basics, make sure the company vision is clear, and map out all your processes to how they would work in the real world.
  • Technology – Big data, blockchain, and artificial intelligence were all discussed prominently – and will need to be a part of any future plans.

Lots of companies are using all of these technologies already. Google Maps combines AI, robotics and big data. Starbucks and Amazon are teaming up for an AI, chat and voice app.

Trevor Delany, Head of Information Technology & Services for BP New Zealand said that customers had even arrived at its petrol stations asking to pay with bitcoins. It’s impossible to commit to all of the good ideas out there, but the smart people are those who see how this could fit into existing business models in the future.


Customers should be first priority for every organisation; but for many busy organisations, they are often the last. Every speaker at DX 2017 called for companies to be more customer- led rather than focusing strictly on products. Customer centricity was frequently discussed, especially innovation labs and collaborative programmes.

Culture and continuous learning

The one fundamental kickstarter is having an innovative culture. Allow everyone in the company to get involved and have their voice heard.

If staff feel are empowered in an innovative culture, they will rally and try to solve issues themselves. They certainly won’t sit by and let disruptors take over. Encourage staff at all levels to be curious and ask questions. You need to accept that you’re not always going to get it right – as Brett Roberts puts it ‘experimentation’, rather than ‘embracing failure’.

Don’t get complacent – embrace constant learning. For example, millennials often have a different way of looking problems compared to other generations. Don’t disparage that, encourage it. Datacomp, Datacom’s yearly hackathon has been so successful that it has become a blueprint for hackathons at other companies, such as Genesys and ASB.

And finally, the big C, communication

The overwhelming message from DX 2017 is to start focussing on people. A major part of that is communication.

Digital transformation is terrifying. Frontline employees can feel hopeless and removed from the decision making process. They’re often wondering: What is going on? Is my job safe? I’ve been here for 20 years – what are all these crazy decisions that the company is now making?

There will always be resistance to DX, said Gerard Smith, Senior Digital Manager for Teachers Mutual Bank.

You need buy in; to get your employees to embrace the model you’re trying to adopt. You need to educate and reassure them, and offer the appropriate training to enable them for the new model.

There is a human being behind every change the business makes, and they need to be engaged – help them celebrate successes, actively promoting your digital projects and highlighting the importance of the change.

My three takeaways:

  1. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Start with small changes and then work up. Review your legacy systems and grade the changes needed into levels of urgency and importance before implementation. If there is kick back from the top team, ask them what else they’ll spend their money on if it isn’t DX.
  1. DX is the whole package, not just the tech – people and business processes are just as important
  1. Uncertainty is a certainty –  Organisations need to be agile, nimble and ready to experiment or else they will die

What do you think? If you’re looking for some ideas on transforming digitally please email us at digital@datacom.co.nz.

Main photo/ Brett Roberts speaks at DX2017.  Photo: Scott Clogg: Conferenz

Tourism NZ intranet – built with Datacom – recognised as one of the world’s best

Tourism New Zealand’s staff intranet has been named one of the top ten in the world. International user experience firm, Nielsen Norman Group announced the award this week with Tourism New Zealand the only Australasian winner.

As well as winning the Nielson Norman group award, earlier this year Datacom and Tourism NZ were named winners in the Microsoft Partner Awards for Content and Collaboration for the same solution.


Photo: Tourists on the Tongariro Crossing – one of New Zealand’s most popular vistior attractions. Wikimedia Commons user Yogi De

“We have staff based around the globe and staff who travel internationally working from mobile devices so it’s really important as an organisation to keep our people informed and connected to our global whanau. The intranet was redesigned with these principles in mind so it’s great to see the site being recognised for being accessible and easy to use,” says Deborah Gray, Tourism NZ’s General Manager Corporate Affairs.

“The site was also praised for its use of plain English and social interactive features. We made sure to integrate the ability for staff to post photos and have conversations, it’s been really successful in helping staff engage with each other and share information.”

The redesign project took around six months to complete. The work included the review all content on the site, rewriting it to make it more accessible and more visual, as well as removing unused and old content.

The intranet site was delivered by the Datacom Office 365 team, helmed by Matt Swain.

Datacom’s view is that an intranet is based on 5 key pillars:

• Communication
• Content
• Collaboration
• Culture
• Doing Work

Evaluating where customer’s currently rate in each of these pillars, and what they are trying to achieve with their intranet is critical in driving successful, measurable outcomes.

Datacom believes that each phase of an intranet build should typically only focus on one or two of these pillars, with a light touch to the others. Having clear goals set against each pillar then allows organisations to clearly prioritise and deliver against each phase, while still gathering requirements for future phases.

It is important to keep in mind an intranet cannot be fairly judged as successful on day one, but needs to look at 6, 12, and 18 months in the future. Constant evolution is needed.

Datacom spent considerable amounts of time working with Tourism New Zealand to clearly understand their goals before work started. As such, the intranet was focused on social interaction to enable workplace collaboration, as well as the construction of valuable content. This allows the intranet to feel fresh and lively, a place where people want to work together, and utilises information well suited to the medium.

Jakob Nielsen, Principal for Nielsen Norman Group describes Tourism New Zealand’s site as having “A clean design, rewritten content, and well-integrated social features turned Tourism New Zealand’s new responsive intranet into an essential tool for communication and collaboration, regardless of location or device.”

See more here about Datacom Social Intranet.

 Daniel Thurston and Matt Swain