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Are Australian businesses already behind in the digitalisation game?

Top down transformation: the case for implementing digital management practices

Byline: Mark Sands

Digitise or die has become something of a mantra for businesses in recent years, in Australia and around the world.

A plethora of rapidly evolving new technologies – mobile computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) – continue to upend the way companies and organisations of all stripes operate, and create opportunities for agile new players to snatch a slice of the action.

Opting out of the high tech race is scarcely an option, at least not for businesses which hope to survive and thrive into the 2020s and beyond.

But digitisation doesn’t just drive efficiencies at an operational level. Digitised management tools and technologies can be harnessed to optimise the decision-making process and contribute to the creation of competitive advantage, from the C Suite down.

Riding the digital tsunami

Digital innovation will continue to drive a wave of productivity across all sectors of the Australian economy in forthcoming years. According to management consultancy McKinsey and Company’s 2017 report Australia: Seizing opportunities from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it could contribute between $140 billion and $250 billion to the country’s GDP by 2025.

Australian companies that hope to capture the full potential of digital and analytics must commit to a ‘journey of reinvention: from the capabilities they hire and develop, to the ways they think and work, to the investments they commit to’, the report found.

Setting strategic ambitions for digital, challenging orthodox ways of working and investing in building digital capabilities while maintaining a focus on Return on Investment is critical to success, the report notes.

Some analysts believe Australia is already way behind the eight ball on this front. According to research group Gartner, many local companies have under-estimated the risks associated with digital disruption and their workforces are not sufficiently prepared for the changes to come.

The firm’s 2018 reportDigital Business Transformation: An Australia Perspectivenotes that established enterprises which are slow to embark on their own transformation programs may struggle to catch up to their more agile competitors.

Developing digital competence across the enterprise

Planning, managing and controlling performance are the core duties of those charged with running an enterprise. They’ve been thus for millennia – but fostering a range of digital competencies throughout the enterprise can result in decision makers receiving the input they need to discharge their duties in more timely and better informed ways.

We believe it’s vital for businesses to develop competencies around data integration and analysis, data-informed forecasting, digital technology and solutions, and automation.

The over-arching goal is to put infrastructure, tools and practices in place at every level of the enterprise, to ensure business processes are optimised and business decisions are driven by data, not gut feel.

Tools to help drive change from the top

Piloting a company through the uncharted waters of the 2020s digital economy is no task for the faint hearted.

Automated, data-centric and forward focused planning and performance management software which draws on business intelligence to inform the decision-making process can help enterprises gain the competitive edge they need to adapt and prosper.

Such solutions, or at least the insights they are able to generate, are not entirely new. Historically though, they’ve been the remit of a small group of users within an enterprise: data scientists and analysts who’ve acted as gatekeepers to the business data trove, extracting facts and generating reports upon request.

That’s a modus operandi that doesn’t work in the digital era when leaders are increasingly demanding immediate access to actionable business insights, not occasionally but continually.

As a result, we’re seeing digitally savvy C-suites looking for self service, user friendly solutions which allow decision makers to interrogate a gamut of business-related data and explore ‘what-if’ scenarios, as they respond to changing circumstances and plan for the future.

Time to act

Refusing to embrace digital transformation is no longer an option for Australian enterprises which hope to remain viable in a business landscape that’s rapidly becoming unrecognisable when compared with that of a decade or two ago.

Deploying tools and solutions which allow employees to harness the power of digital technology, from the C Suite down to the coal face or shop floor, will be critical to success as old business models and practices continue to be turned on their head.

Mark Sands, General Manager – Asia Pacific, Board International

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