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

Confluence

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

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

Why you should work in IT

By Siobhan Keogh

People have a lot of ideas about the IT industry – that it’s just for geeks, that staff code into the night, that it’s boring – but none of those things could be further from the truth. IT is one of the most exciting, and promising, career paths young people can choose – here’s why.

IT graduates are in high demand

The supply of IT workers globally is not keeping up with demand – that’s great news for those studying, or thinking of studying, computer science subjects.

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Occupational Outlook Report for 2014, demand for workers in STEM occupations is growing. The report ranks careers by income, study fees, and job prospects. The data for the IT occupations ranked – ICT and Telecommunications Technicians, ICT Business and Systems Analysts, and Software Developers – showed that job prospects in the industry were good.

Because demand for IT graduates is high, so too are the incomes. Software developers and business /systems analysts are both high-income occupations, according to the Occupational Outlook Report.

Demand doesn’t show any signs of slowing down – in fact, venture capital is being invested more in software start-ups than in any other kind of company, and developers are on the Government’s long-term skills shortage list.

Something new every day

IT is a diverse field, ranging from hands-on technicians, to programmers, to project managers and analysts. And if you are any one of those things, most IT organisations will give you the opportunity to upskill in whichever way you choose.

The rapid rate of change in the IT industry means that there’s always a new technology to explore or a new project to work on. You’ll never find yourself wanting for a new challenge in the IT industry, and every time you take one on, you become more valuable to both the company you work for and any potential employers.

IT is everywhere

No matter what your interests are outside of technology, there’s something you can work on that will cross over. Interested in books? Your local library has an IT department. Cooking? You could be asked to design a website for your favourite restaurant.

You might not even be that technically-minded – instead of being a developer or engineer, you could work in IT recruitment, management or marketing. People are needed to fill those roles in the IT sector, too.

While working in IT, you’ll find yourself learning about and becoming interested in things you never thought you’d care about. Thinking through how to solve other people’s problems using technology means that you inevitably become invested in the environment that created those problems – and that background could be in anything, such as agriculture, or investment banking, or construction.

You’re never the smartest person in the room

There’s a phrase that goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. The IT industry is full of some of the world’s cleverest, most innovative people and throughout your career in IT you’ll have the opportunity to learn from them.

Your career doesn’t have to be your whole life

Everyone has a life outside of their career, and IT companies offer a level of flexibility that most industries don’t.

According to Forbes, 50 percent of senior project managers in the US say they can work from home some or most of the time. Network engineers, software architects and IT architects also make Forbes’ list of highly-paid but flexible workers.

It’s totally possible to have a family, a social life, and a successful career in IT. If you need to telecommute sometimes, or need to leave the office to go pick up your child from school, most organisations won’t raise an eyebrow, especially if you’ve proven yourself to be reliable.

Okay, you’re convinced. But how do you pursue a career in IT?

In New Zealand and Australia, your best course of action is to choose a university course in the STEM field. STEM subjects are highly transferrable, so if you work in the sciences you might be able to switch to an IT career later on.

People who come into the IT industry straight out of university have usually studied subjects like computer science, information technology, creative technologies, and information systems. Most of these courses provide an overview of many different technology specialisations, allowing you time to figure out which disciplines you’re good at.

Why You Need a Technology Advisor for Your Business

Enlisting the help of a technology advisor for your business can help you develop a strategy that aligns with organisational goals and poises you to drive performance and revenue. Often, this resource comes from outside the business  in fact, you might be better off if it does. Having a technology partner that views your business objectively will give you a holistic, unbiased picture of where and how technology can be improved to have the most impact. Here’s why you should consider a technology advisor for you organisation.

Many organisations spend too much on the wrong technology

Between 10 and 20 per cent of a typical organisation’s technology budget is used foolishly or wasted, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Often this is because organisations take a haphazard approach to deciding which technology to bring in, blindly jumping on the latest trend without fully considering if it makes sense for the business. A technology advisor will review your budget and business needs, developing a plan for how to achieve your goals with the right technology investments while balancing risks and compliance. In this way, each technology is carefully selected for a specific purpose and outcome in the business.

Technology often evolves too quickly for your IT organisation to keep up

Businesses today are savvier than ever when it comes to technology  to the point where they often bypass IT to try out cloud services and enterprise apps. But your business can’t possibly know every technology and tool at its disposal. A technology advisor carries a broad range of technology knowledge, including information on the latest trends and solutions that could optimise your business.

This resource can offer a different perspective regarding critical business decisions that involve technology and present options you didn’t even know were possible.

A third of organisations struggle with project deadlines

More research from PWC shows only 32 per cent of projects meet deadline, budget and scope. If this is the case within your organisation, you might benefit from a technology advisor’s project management services. These resources can apply their own proven delivery methodologies backed by industry-standard approaches to technology implementations. Through assessing stakeholder needs, performing a requirements analysis and instilling a governance and gate review process, technology advisors can ensure a project is organised and managed to success.

IT architecture is often forgotten

IT architecture is something many businesses don’t have time or expertise to do well internally. Having these disciplines, practices and structured processes at hand enables timely, business-focussed decision making. IT architecture is an important capability for all organisations, regardless of size or industry. A technology advisor can help ensure you are architecting solutions that are stable, secure and high-performing. This resource can assist with requirements gathering, systems selection and testing your architecture.

Women in Technology Brisbane Event: Redefining Diversity and Building Relationships

Datacom yesterday sponsored the final event in Women in Technology Queensland’s ICT City Breakfast Series, held at Microsoft in Brisbane. The two presenters, Datacom Managing Director Kirsty Hunter and GHD CIO Elizabeth Harper, shared how they rose to the top as women in technology in their respective workplaces. Both Harper and Hunter strove to stretch beyond the common idea that a more nurturing and compassionate nature is the key reason more women in technology are needed in leadership roles.

A woman’s touch

Why does having women in technology leadership roles matter? Research shows that diversity spurs better innovation by encouraging experimentation, the transfer of knowledge and boundary stretching, according to a study by Lehman Brothers Centre for Women in Businesses. Researchers found that an equal gender split of half women, half men was ideal for encouraging all the factors that led to innovation except for one.

Research by Zenger Folkman shows that while women make up only 28 per cent of the IT workforce, women in technology are more effective in leadership capacities than men. Women in technology are even more effective in traditionally “male” competencies such as taking initiative in addition to driving results. And studies of Norwegian and British firms show that leadership teams with more women tend to generate more revenue than those with more male representatives.

Extending diversity beyond gender and tips for getting ahead

However, as Hunter expressed in her talk at the Women in Technology Breakfast Series, diversity can be found even when one gender tips the balance at an organisation. Even in an organisation with 70 per cent men, she posited, there’s diversity among the males which spans race, culture, ethnic background, religion and sexual orientation. It’s one of the reasons she says she’s actually learned to overlook gender differences in the workplace and instead focus on the individual.

An acceptance of gender imbalance in the workplace doesn’t mean women in technology face an easy road. Both Harper and Hunter outlined principles they followed to help them on their paths. For Harper, finding a mentor and learning how to “play the game” were two key steps. On the latter note, part of the learning curve involved moving past the idea that chatting with key colleagues or executives about their lives and interests wasn’t an idle endeavour. For Hunter, her rise through Datacom over the last 18 years was also helped by a similar concerted effort at relationship-growing in addition to balance between work and personal life, confidence and humour. Both of these women in technology said they learned the water cooler effect wasn’t so much a gossip-fest as it was a rapport-building exercise that was just as an important as being highly skilled, hardworking and passionate.

Getting more women in technology leadership roles — or leadership roles in any field — is still an uphill battle. But as both Harper and Hunter showed, it’s one that can be won.

How has your organisation encouraged women in technology leadership roles?

Datacom Ranked No. 1 Tech Company to Watch, No. 2 in TIN100 Report

Each year, private company Technology Investment Network (TIN) puts out the TIN100 Report of top technology companies in New Zealand. This year, Datacom has not only been named the No. 1 technology company to watch for 2012, but has also claimed the No. 2 spot in the list of Top 100 technology companies for the third year in a row.

Companies included in the TIN100 have an international focus in the areas of ICT, high-tech manufacturing and biotechnology. Criteria for inclusion in the report are company origin in New Zealand, development of individual, technology-focussed intellectual property and generation of no less than 10 per cent of revenue offshore.

The TIN100 Report ranks companies based on revenue generated in the financial year most recently completed. Asreported in August, Datacom’s New Zealand revenue grew just over 8 per cent to $375 million in the last financial year, while revenue for Australia and Asia grew 9 per cent to $413 million.

Datacom has made it into the “Ten Companies to Watch” list each year since it began in 2008. The TIN100 Report notes our international growth strategy, solid growth in New Zealand and data centre and specialist IT management services as chief factors for inclusion in the Top Ten for a fifth year.

Articles about the TIN100 Report in both the NZ Herald and Computerworld NZ note that it was a banner year for the top IT services companies, which collectively showed a year over year revenue increase of 11 per cent. The articles note that private ownership, doing business in Australia and having New Zealand-headquartered offices are main reasons IT services companies like Datacom were able to demonstrate strong revenue growth despite a high New Zealand dollar and shaky global economy.

Datacom Saves Cape Australia Money and Time with Unified Communications

What happens when four businesses become one?

Four disparate IT environments was the outcome for Cape Australia, which supplies maintenance and repair services for the mining and industrial sectors, when it acquired four businesses in 2007.

With operations spread out across Australia and a presence in 27 other countries, Cape Australia needed a way to integrate this tangled technology, which involved incongruent systems and modes of operation.

Consistent collaboration

Cape Australia decided to move forward with a strategy for bringing together its multiple IT environments, aptly named “One Way.” Started in 2009, the One Way project involved Datacom’s work from design through to implementation to deliver a single suite of applications to all users in all locations.

Key in the project was a Microsoft stack of unified communication and collaboration technologies to fuel better communication among Cape Australia’s employees both across the country and the world. Datacom implemented Microsoft Exchange 2010 for the email messaging service and voice mail consolidation. Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 enabled video conferencing, instant messaging and desktop sharing. For better information sharing and collaboration, Datacom brought in SharePoint Server 2010. To round out the unified communications piece of the project, Datacom replaced more than 30 branch networks with an integrated IP telephony solution with a solid voice system.

In addition to the UCC piece, Datacom implemented a new server and storage infrastructure, security solution and management tools.

An outstanding outcome

The UCC implementation quickly helped Cape Australia to save time and money in several ways. Each staff member has saved between one and two hours a day thanks to the improved productivity available through the new unified communication and collaboration tools. The video conferencing and online communication tools helped cut executive travel expenses by up to 50 per cent, while IT administration and operational costs have also been cut by half. Telecommunication costs and national call charges were reduced by 100 per cent.

Cape Australia appreciated the best practice knowledge, trusted partnership and professionalism Datacom brought to the project, said Jason Cowie, former CIO and Executive Manager of Business Services for Cape.

“Datacom provided us with best practice knowledge for the design and implementation of the infrastructure and Microsoft technologies that we were seeking to deploy. As our trusted partner, Datacom provided continual suggestions throughout the project on possible improvements to the initial design to enhance integration and user adoption.”

IT’s Role in Performance Measurement and Management

By Peter Wilson

The creation of dashboards has increasingly fallen on the shoulders of IT. Yet this department has traditionally had more experience managing technical performance over business metrics such as project schedules and the budget. What is IT’s role in organisational performance management and how do you transform from simply being a metrics report generator to being an innovative creator of new business metrics? Undertaking a four-step process can help CIOs define their department’s role in managing and developing best practices for organisational metrics-based performance management.

1. Workshop it internally. Partner with your CEO and other members of the executive team to champion an organisational metrics initiative that involves an analytic framework and plan for implementation. The effort will need internal sponsorship at the executive level to drive employee-wide education on how the right metrics can be used to drive better results. Everyone on the team should be across the organisation’s information needs, desired outcome and the steps toward achieving it: What types of performance will be measured and how will it be done, for example? How will IT performance be tied to organisational goals?

2. Focus your metrics on the big picture. A mistake many organisations make is focusing on lag indicators. Do the metrics focus on the big picture, assisting in expectation management, or are they just trivial metrics reported because they are easier to measure? Performance management systems add real value when you can use them to change course mid-stream to minimise damage or maximise peak performance. Real-time data is the key here; it can help IT better react to application response times and help desk queues, for instance.

3. Develop and implement new business metrics. Your metrics should reflect what is driving your business strategically. Your guiding questions when determining these metrics include: Where is the business going, how will it get there, what indicates success? You will likely have a combination of IT and business metrics, such as resource allocation and customer satisfaction. Each metric should have a plan to back it up covering how it will be used and a course of action to correct any poor performance. Using 90-day action planning broken into 30 increments with granular plans is one way to use these metrics to manage performance.

4. Don’t report metrics – react to them. Reporting data or the metrics adds no value. The value comes from interrupting the combination of results, identifying the root cause and then implementing clearly defined service improvement programmes across the business. The key for IT will be to learn how to interrupt poor performance and even predict future states by analysing both trend and real-time data.

IT’s role in performance measurement and management is ultimately to advise the business what is working, what could be improved and what can be immediately corrected so it doesn’t spiral into a bigger problem down the road. By initiating this metrics programme from the IT department, you’ll showcase IT as an innovative department that is in tune with, and highly motivated to enable, the key business drivers of organisational success. You’ll also get a great education on the different groups within your organisation and what they are trying to accomplish. That’s not just IT leadership, it’s businessleadership – and it will be much appreciated by the powers that be.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.

Which Mobile App Delivery Method is Right for Your Organisation?

Are you ready to let your employees use mobile apps? You have more to consider than just what apps you’re going to let them access – you have a few delivery options as well. Picking the right one depends on what you need in terms of security, IT management and device compatibility. Here are a few considerations to get you started.

You need: No data stored on the device

Choose: Virtualisation or cloud

Enterprise users will make up about 75 per cent of the market for cloud-based mobile apps by 2014, according to Juniper Research. Both virtualising your mobile apps and delivering them through the cloud keep data off the device. Both approaches also can put more control in the hands of the IT department, which can oversee access to applications and manage how they are used.

Security buffs are likely fiercely nodding their heads, but keep in mind that if you virtualise, there could be usability issues surrounding the need for constant network connectivity and how a mobile app looks and performs on a device. Delivering mobile apps through the cloud can ease these usability issues, but your security concerns will only be abated if you know where your data is sitting.

You need: To take the app migration burden off IT

Choose: An enterprise app store

By 2014, 60 per cent of IT organisations will have private app stores, according to Gartner. These stores work similarly to Apple’s app store by allowing employees to quickly and securely download certain applications they are authorised to use. This takes a lot of the burden off IT as they don’t need to provision apps to different users and devices.

However, building an app store does come at a cost, and users might grumble if your app store doesn’t resemble Apple’s. That means you need to consider the ability to rate apps, search for apps, recommend similar apps and allow user feedback.

You need: Compatibility across a wide range of devices

Choose: Web apps

Their ability to run in browsers means web apps don’t require a distribution system, so users can access them from any number of devices. Plus, IT doesn’t need to create several incarnations of one app, which leads to easier delivery and management. Internet connectivity will always be a concern to run web apps, however; if it’s poor, even refreshing the screen will cause problems.

These are just a few reasons for considering the different mobile app delivery methods. If your organisation needs additional help with taking its enterprise applications into the mobile world, Datacom’s Enterprise Mobility Applications practise can help. We handle application development, integrate apps with devices and offer field service support to ensure you applications run smoothly.

How are you delivering mobile apps in your organisation?