In this guest post, Melbourne tech writer Anthony Caruana takes a look at a new Brisbane housing development and says there’s valuable lessons for anyone wanting to improve the digital culture in their business…
Business models have always been subject to disruption. It’s an issue chief digital officers like Springfield Land Corporation (as massive new city development just outside of Brisbane) Paul Wyatt understand in their DNA. The industrial revolution was caused when large weaving machines displaced factory workers. The horseshoe business fell apart when cars became common and the car industry was disrupted when automation took over the factories.
Today, it’s the likes of Tesla, Uber and Apple that have changed the nature of the products and services we rely on every day.
There will always be disruption in business. What’s changed is the pace of disruption today. And that’s driven by the connectedness of our world and the digitisation of systems.
Wyatt is tasked with enabling all information technology and communications projects so that Springfield can become one of Australia’s first digital cities.
The role of the chief digital officer (CDO) is a relatively new one in the C-Suite. We asked Wyatt where the role started and what it’s evolving into.
“The role of a CDO started out managing all information relating to and supporting economic development for customers — consumers or businesses. The role still focuses on economic development but I believe CDOs need to focus on data analytics and exposing this data to business, start-ups, R&D and government to make faster decisions for consumers and business.”
The dependence on digital can be a challenge for many companies, particularly those whose older business models have delivered reliable profits for many years. So how do you build a “digital culture” and what do you look for in a team to support that culture?
“I look for lateral thinkers who have global experience in commerce. I also look for a mix of experience in my team, meaning these qualities are mandatory but I also look for some experience in how Gen Ys operate. Everyone needs a sharing attitude with a commercial outcome for all.”
Having a great team isn’t enough. In order for digitisation to succeed in a business there need to be short, medium and long terms goals. We asked Wyatt what the key steps are in choosing and building a strategy for digitisation.
“Like any strategy, you need to know what your goals are before starting. These goal don’t need to be long-winded, just achievable in a short period of time — otherwise the needs to meet the goal will change. The strategies that succeed actually start doing something. The ones that don’t procrastinate, and are scared to fail.”
With a strategy in place, it should be easy to prioritise incoming tasks and requests. But human nature dictates that each person in the business feels their needs are the most important. What’s needed for the CDO to prioritise the requests coming from the CEO, CIO, CFO and CMO?
“The company should always have one overarching priority, and the CDO should support the company’s priority,” says Wyatt.
When we survey the business world, we can see companies that have reacted well to disruption. For example, one of the oldest companies in the world — General Electric — has embraced a number of digital technologies, with a strong presence in industrial systems and energy. Apple completely disrupted the communications market when it introduced the iPhone, redefining both the mobile phone market and changing the way phone makers interacted with telecommunications providers.
But not every industry has embraced the new opportunities digital disruption has raced to into this brave, new world.
“I believe the health industry is ripe for disruption,” says Wyatt.
Recent incidents, such as the widespread outbreak of ransomware incidents affecting hospitals in the United States and Australia, highlight the use of older systems and a heavy reliance on manual processes. Those institutions were crippled as their systems were scarcely different to paper-based systems.