Key considerations when embracing digital transformation

It is a truth universally acknowledged that digital transformation and innovation is paramount in the pursuit of competitive advantage. Employees are demanding change; end user experience is crucial, and data and analytics reign supreme. So why is success so hard to achieve, and why is the prospect of it so daunting?

McKinsey reports that less than 30 per cent of digital transformations succeed and the hard truth is that digital transformation isn’t an easy or measurable process. Organisations put lofty objectives in place and use complex technology to achieve them, when realistically the technology should be the output of the transformation strategy, not the conduit.

When approaching or planning digital transformation, we need to be clear on the ‘why’ before the ‘what’. In other words, rather than being inwardly focused, we should instead be looking at the outcomes we wish to deliver and not the means by which we achieve them. In order to gain competitive advantage, we should be asking what customer outcome we are striving to achieve. Customer experience first, last and always.

There are some key considerations that should provide a framework before embarking on any digital transformation.

The first cab off the rank? Get the right people.

It is important that digital and tech savvy leaders are employed: those who will really drive and understand the vision of the transformation, how it will improve the customer experience, and what is required internally to achieve it. These may not be C-Level executives, but rather those who are intrinsically involved in the day to day processes that keep the wheels of the business turning. Then they need to be empowered to make the right decisions and dedicated as a resource to the change effort.

These leaders must thoroughly understand the capabilities of the workforce so they can continue to give them the right tools to do their jobs efficiently. The leaders engage and foster relationships with all centres of knowledge within the organisation within all departments, connecting both digital and traditional processes. Rolling out a whole new system that nobody is familiar with will have a massive impact on productivity. Engaging and collaborating with employees may uncover critical paths for streamlining process. From internal stakeholders/employees to customers, the whole eco-system should be aware of the vision, and what part they play in the process. The strategy needs to have synergy with all those moving parts. It is a cultural, not a technical, shift.

Digital transformation should not be viewed merely as a technology change; rather that the technology deployed should be part of the strategic decision. It assists with the evolving business culture by streamlining processes and so determines the customer experience. If an initiative is to be launched, everyone should have buy-in on their part in the journey. They should also thoroughly understand what the overarching journey is.

But what of the current legacy systems? Digital transformation is not a one size fits all. Whatever is working in the current environment should be evaluated, as some skills and capabilities may be integral as part of the journey. It may be counterintuitive to rip those out to head into a brave new world. Full digitisation could affect the peripheral business, and several key skills from the ‘old way’ could be integral part in forging the new future. Double down on those skills. A clear strategy will build and extend the current skillset with a view to meeting the future ideal.

And just how is the success of the transformation measured? Again, this should be hardwired into the transformation strategy. If customer experience is king, then success can be measured in several ways depending on the end goal. Digital proficiency, Net Promoter Score and revenue are good markers, but a shift in the way the business thinks will be the primary indicator. The customer gains value as the path they use to purchase products becomes slick and seamless. The business reaps the benefits with better customer retention and profit as it adapts to the needs of their customers.

Digital transformation is an ongoing initiative and must be treated like a movable feast. Irrespective of the goal set initially, leaders and implementers should be prepared to pivot and change at any juncture. Technology moves fast, and a successful transformation will allow for ways to improve customer experience along the way. If it is built into the DNA of the business, then everyone involved will consider it their job to improve the experience.

If focus remains on the vision, on the ‘why’ – the customer experience – you are more likely to end up in the minority of those who will achieve a successful transition.

Contact Tracing for COVID-19 for businesses in New Zealand

As New Zealand enters an extended period of managing the impact of COVID-19, effective contact tracing will be critical to the success of our efforts to contain the spread. There are two primary goals to contact tracing:

  • Stop the spreading of the disease through timely containment
  • Where spreading has occurred, identify potentially infected people.

As the nation changes alert levels and the protocols that need to be observed, businesses need flexible systems so they can adapt. These systems incorporate people, processes, resources and information systems.

The uncertainty of the situation and the constraints of the alert levels will continue to have a pronounced effect on people. Any contact tracing system needs to be sensitive to these factors if it’s going to achieve optimal compliance.

This discussion paper outlines an approach that businesses can take to strike a balance between robust contact tracing systems and disruption to business activity.

NOTE: This discussion paper is intended for businesses that do not normally operate under high consequence Health and Safety conditions. Businesses such as hospitals, construction sites, forestry, transport, etc., need to incorporate health and safety requirements that extend beyond the scope of this document.


Businesses are complex organisations. At its simplest level, contact tracing for a business is maintaining records of who was where, and when. The business activity is the ‘why’ they are interacting. This provides a basic structure to frame up the design of contact tracing systems:

A flow diagram to represent the design of a contact tracing system.

Workplace Contact Tracing

By defining zones for workplaces, it is possible to implement different contact tracing procedures appropriate to each zone or location. A circulation zone may have rules that mitigate the need to contact trace because close contact is avoided. A dedicated work zone may only be occupied by named personnel, and meeting zones may require detailed record keeping.

Some system factors to consider are:

  • Sign In/Out/Registration on site – perimeter identity and access management
  • Perimeter procedures – advising new/changed policies and protocols on entry. Consider options such as contactless proximity cards, contactless motion opened doors, voice interfaces, digital signage, and facial recognition to eliminate physical contact with kiosks, pens, doors, lift buttons etc.
  • Location Alert Level Policies – organise policies into alert level descriptions, to simplify communications and understanding
  • Oversight and incident reporting – assign personnel to be responsible for monitoring and handling of incident reporting
  • Onsite Surveillance options:
    • Passive systems such as
      • Wireless Access Point device tracking
      • Security Camera and Video Analytics monitoring (observing occupancy, crowd and individual policy compliance)
      • Access Card log monitoring – Active Directory Security Group activity logging
    • Active systems such as
      • Bluetooth beacon monitoring systems
      • Self-trace mobile applications, SaaS tools, bespoke systems.

Workforce Contact Tracing

Businesses have a duty of care for their staff when they are working for the business. Business activity often occurs in places that are not managed by the business. Contact tracing from this perspective requires a workforce monitoring approach.

Some system options to consider are:

  • Check In/Out: confirm location/destination, wellbeing, receive important notices about the location
  • Notification – mechanisms to report suspected COVID-19 infection, spreading, or risky behaviour
  • Activity tracking – record of meetings and locations. Record of location changes and times
    • Passive monitoring of systems such as calendar schedules, timesheets, job scheduling
    • Active monitoring systems such as self-tracing mobile applications, business specific online registers/forms, SaaS tools.

Public Contact Tracing

Where a business is operating in an area where people movement is typically unmanaged, there are unique challenges to contact tracing. Fundamentally, if a business is responsible for a space and it cannot enforce policy or identify occupants, it is unable to operate at that location under COVID-19 constraints. To overcome this, businesses can erect barriers with perimeter controls to create managed zones, or leverage workforce systems such as location/proximity beacons to enable people tracing.

Some system options to consider are:

  • Self-Trace
    • Bluetooth Beacon logging – capture details of Beacons encountered
    • QR/NFC perimeter registering. Restricting access enables sign in/sign out tracking
  • Location Surveillance
    • camera recording/AI pattern recognitions of social clusters (closer than 2m, for more than 10 minutes)
    • Triangulation/Vector recording: Wifi/cell tower device logs (device ID, router location, time entered, time exited, signal strength spot measures).

Investigation support

High trust approaches can work, even with less than ideal compliance.

The main goal of tracing contacts is to quickly inform the investigation after an infection or cluster has been identified. This enables investigators to identify close contacts as quickly as possible and reduce the time contagious people are circulating. Where compliance to protocols is difficult to enforce, having more than one point of observation (tracing people, monitoring locations) can yield a high coverage level.

A square diagram to compare workforce compliance and workplace coverage.


Contact tracing systems and practises can serve a few purposes:

  1. Identify potential spreading and contain within a workforce, workplace, or public place
  2. Support investigation efforts by authorities
  3. Enforce and observe compliance with protocols
  4. Reduce business impact

The approach is to establish the systems necessary to enact contact tracing, rather than just taking the actions that need to be performed. Systems can be adapted as requirements change, whereas an actions-oriented approach will require constant allocating of resources and reinvention to adapt.

Principles first – save lives first, then save livelihoods. Save profits last.

Systems can be performed manually or automated. Some guiding principles to urgent systems design:

  • Assign authority to make decisions
  • Start with a low maturity model and rapidly evolve. Only automate systems that have low errors/exceptions
  • Experiment to resolve uncertainty. Consensus takes too long.


People will typically encounter others in one of four places:

  • In their home
  • In a managed workplace
    • Workplaces will have physical separation, hygiene protocols and require some level of contact tracing in place that will enable them to operate under different Alert Levels
  • In an unmanaged space (e.g. public place).
    • These spaces present real challenges to contact tracing, as they are designed to serve social gathering in an open way. Spaces that are unable to meet contact tracing will likely remain closed if contact tracing is required
  • In Transit from one place to another.
    • Travelling typically happens as pedestrians, in private vehicles or public transport. For public transport providers with contactless payment systems have a level of record keeping that can support Contact Tracing
    • Pedestrians are unlikely to encounter close contact clusters (close together for more than 10 minutes)
    • Public Transport providers may be able to achieve a level of contact tracing through existing contactless payment systems.

To perform adequate contact identification, an investigator needs to be able to qualify the following risks:

  • Transmission risks
    • Time and place of potential spreading: when and where have probable or confirmed infected people been
  • Infection Risks
    • If there are times and places where transmission was possible, what was the risk of others getting infected?
      • Close contact: e.g. closer than 2m for more than 10 minutes
      • Casual contact: at the same place and time, but not identified as a close contact
      • Surface contact: identify surfaces that may have been contaminated (door handles, food service, shared equipment, etc).

Rapid deployment

In a crisis, rapid response is crucial to the outcome. A system is only useful if its operational and being used. To enact changes to a business that involves everyone requires special attention to communications to get the message out as fast possible. Another key factor is decision making. It can be impractical to use traditional business decision making and communication approaches to implementing contact tracing systems. They are typically oriented to other needs, such as de-risking investment or optimising operations.

One way to leverage the existing organisation and resources is to overlay COVID-19 specific roles and responsibilities, with a simple three step process:

  1. Organise
    • Define roles and responsibilities, identify support system requirements, define workforce and workplace controls
  2. Activate
    • Stand up systems, communicate changes to workforce, experiment to resolve any uncertainties
  3. Operate
    • Ensure some level of oversight is in place to make sure contact tracing is operating and being used.


This discussion paper is intended to provide some structure and process to forming, implementing, and operating a successful contact tracing system for a business. This is only useful if a business makes a start and moves quickly.

The nature of situation means mistakes are inevitable. Unlike business as usual, these are not failures. These mistakes are learning opportunities – a partially effective contact tracing system today that can be improved tomorrow will become a fully effective system.

There has never been a time like this in our living memory, so everyone is learning as we go. Share ideas and thoughts with staff, customers, and suppliers. We share a common goal.

An artistic representation of a COVID-19 framework.

Responding to Disruption: Stormy weather ahead?

By Kerry Topp


“If you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you’ve always got.”

There’s a paradox here: why would companies that have been successful and created a winning formula need to do anything different? Why should they feel the need to transform or invest in new areas when they can maximise shareholder returns right now?

The reason: If boards and executives don’t have transformation and continuous improvement in their strategies, they are building vulnerability into their organisations.

To quote Ralf Dreischmeier, Global Leader of Technology Advantage Practice at Boston Consulting Group: “Executives need to create their own ‘digital attacker’ businesses. Long-dominant companies are increasingly under attack from a host of digital start-ups that are out to reinvent businesses and industries by addressing consumer needs in completely new ways.”

Dreischmeier states that incumbents should be more disruptive: “Large companies hold a lot of cards—including resources, assets, relationships, and data—that smaller competitors frequently do not have enough of. But they often do not fundamentally rethink their business model.”

This challenge is at the heart of why companies in New Zealand are slow to commit to activities which seek out new markets and opportunities, and help their people change and survive.

But why?

To quote another guru, Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, recently said: “Making Industry 4.0 work requires major shifts in organisational practices and structures.”

These shifts, Schwab said, include new approaches to IT and data management, to regulatory and tax compliance, new organisational structures, and changes in company culture.

Professor Schwab has been at the epicentre of global affairs for over four decades and he’s convinced that we are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we will live, work and relate to one another.

He explored this concept in his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution. He characterises this Revolution through a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds. The impact of these technologies will affect all disciplines, economies and industries, and challenge ideas about what it means to be human.

“The world has the potential to connect billions more people to digital networks, dramatically improve the efficiency of organisations and even manage assets in ways that can help regenerate the natural environment, potentially undoing the damage of previous industrial revolutions.”

However, Schwab also expressed grave concerns that organisations might be unable to adapt and governments could fail to employ and regulate new technologies to capture their benefits. Also that shifting power could create new security concerns, and inequality could grow causing societies to fragment.

If we focus for a moment on the Financial Services sector as an example. There is no doubt the sector is going through a seismic shift. Changing customer demands, the growth of financial technology companies like Xero, the pressing need to be innovative and the changing relationship between Boards and executives are all reshaping the industry. At the same time, executives need to balance these demands against the expectations of analysts and the requirements of regulators.

This is certainly something coming through loud and clear from the 490 Financial Services CEOs who took part in a 2016 Global CEO Survey recently. The survey, entitled “Turning risk into opportunity – The changing face of Financial Services”, highlighted that CEOs were worried about speed of technological developments, with 81 percent of respondents either extremely or somewhat concerned about keeping up with the pace of change. The next biggest worry was that a limited talent pool could inhibit their growth, which 70 percent of respondents were concerned about.

So what’s the answer?

First, education – specifically, the education of Boards and executives. These incumbents need to be aware of the magnitude of the potential threat but also the opportunity that technology disruption will likely create for their business.

Tech Futures Lab is doing exactly this. As Sacha Judd, Managing Director of Hoku Group recently put it, “The Tech Futures Lab workshop … is critical information that should inform all our decision-making, as the exponential growth of new technologies challenges all of the assumptions that we’ve previously held about what the world will look like, and how our industries and society will adapt.”

Secondly, strong leadership at a time of uncertainty and change is incredibly important.

As Adobe Chief Executive Shantanu Narayen recently put it: “A great Board is one that spends disproportionate amounts of time with management, taking active steps to understand the opportunities and challenges facing the business,” he says. “With the world increasingly moving to digital and businesses implementing digital strategies, Boards also need to boost their digital capabilities to be better strategic advisers to the business.”

But it’s not just technology that Boards need to grapple with, it’s “entrepreneurial venturing” or, put another way, deferring returns today by investing in potential growth areas which can achieve returns in years to come. Boards and execs need to set the expectation that they will be more entrepreneurially-minded and less risk-averse when it comes to investing, and they’ll need to feel comfortable making some decisions based on instinct rather than hard numbers.

Why? Because this is a new world – some of the things that are happening now are unprecedented and you have to be in the game to stand a chance of winning.

New Zealand boards and executives are, on the whole, not especially diverse. They tend to be dominated by very smart accountants and lawyers because of the types of material things discussed – risk, finance, etc.  However, there is a real and present danger of “group-think” with that make up. Companies should consider the addition of a disruptor – an experienced entrepreneurial and tech-savvy protagonist – to their team.

Because as Ralf Dreischmeier said: “Leaders in the digital age are different from leaders in the past. They prototype an agile strategy and learn from their experiences. They attack their own businesses before disrupters do. At the same time, they digitise their core business and get the most value from both their existing and external data, all the while mastering the digital ecosystems they operate in.”

Is this how current Board members and executives have been thinking? In my experience, this is only happening in a handful of local organisations.

Now is the time for vision, strategy, an entrepreneurial streak, strong communication, expectation setting and above all, strong leadership.

Disrupt or be disrupted is the motto of today – but I would add that company leadership needs to enable their people to be safe to “venture smart and venture more”.

Good luck on your venturing – our future economy needs you.

Enabling Better Business Insights for Citizen-centric Services

Business intelligence, or BI, is often talked about with a private sector focus, but it has ever-increasing applicability in the public sector as well. Business insights the public sector collects can be analysed to monitor programs and plan long-term strategy around services, with an aim toward improving the citizen experience and boosting program outcomes. Yet government agencies often struggle with culling and making sense out of this meaningful data or business insights for a variety of reasons: issues with integrating into back-end systems; poor data search results; and a lack of self-service capability that allows agency employees to create new searches and reports without going to the IT department for approval.

These are stop-gates that put a slog in a process —mining and transforming data into key government insights that boost program outcomes — that needs to be rapid and agile to be most effective. Looking for business insights solutions that include the following features can help government improve its BI efforts to inform better, quicker decisions about its citizen services and programs.

1. Integration and interoperability: With the often disparate technology systems and databases present in government, capturing meaningful business insights across agencies become a major challenge. This setup leads to a disconnected business insights process and poor information-sharing, keeping data in departmental silos. BI solutions that provide an easily integrated, automated approach to both ingesting and pulling data from many different sources across departments provide the type of business insights that can effect inter-agency business transformation. This interoperability allows information to be inputted, through spreadsheets, databases and other formats, shared and merged across agencies and programs.

2. A searchable BI dashboard: One of the historic problems with many BI solutions is that they often provide pre-computed answers to search queries due to the way these systems were created, during a time when compute resources weren’t as easy and inexpensive to come by. The result is that users don’t get results they need and instead get information based on predetermined factors, preventing the ability to harness true business insights. Government BI dashboards that effectively allow users to navigate a dynamic search engine enable more accurate, meaningful results. This approach allows users to pull the information from the data rather than have answers pushed to them by predetermined and hardcoded factors. Users can then find associated data from a wide range of sources, scrutinise results and refine questions quickly for better business insights.

3. Self-service BI: As in the private sector, raw data is still crucial to government for use in actionable business insights that can improve services to citizens, whether they are minor tweaks mid-campaign or in-depth shifts that might change the program long-term. The individuals leading government programs know best what’s working and not working in these services and having access to business intelligence when they need it can help them make better, fact-based decisions on how to transform interactions with and services to citizens. Self-service BI enables end users to make their own queries and access reports without having to go to IT for approval. Without the usual BI red tape, government employees are able to instantly capture business insights, speeding up their decision-making ability.

Datacom is a partner in the Technology in Government Summit 2013 taking place in Canberra on July 24 and 25. You can get 10 per cent off full-priced registration to this event by registering here. To learn more about how Datacom can help your government agency take advantage of meaningful business insights, stop by our stand with BI partner QlikView and enter for a chance to win our “Seeing is Believing” demonstration.