Published on the 21/06/2018 | Written by Heather Wright
Digital leaders post advisory to laggers to address growing divide…
A group of senior technology executives representing some of the leading businesses in NZ has published a series of digital principles aimed at encouraging NZ businesses to pull up their collective digital socks.
The group, representing CIOs, CDOs and other senior IT executives from NZ corporates, declares a noble aim to “drive positive and economic and social change through collaboration”.
The message, says TechLeader’s chair David Kennedy, is that digital transformation isn’t all about machines and technology.
“The digital principles are a high level, commonsensical starting point to encourage New Zealand businesses to begin to understand the digital revolution’s impact on their business,” he said.
“These principles are really trying to tackle some really big problems we’ll uncover if we don’t address them at all business levels.”
The six principles, which include ‘be purposeful’, ‘actively collaborate’, ‘be people-centric’ and ‘commit to lifelong learning’ read a little like the HR vision statement for an Ardern-era government department.
In a series of “We will” statements, the group advises businesses to “make sure all voices are heard”, “break down barriers and make better connections” and “create a culture where everyone, at all levels is continually learning.”
In an inbox crammed with stories of technology disrupting industries with transformational business models and envelope-busting innovation, we were left underwhelmed.
However, Kennedy advises that the principles are aimed at those businesses – primarily SMBs – who aren’t already on the DX journey.
“They’re not necessarily intended to be insightful for someone who is already on the journey. They’re meant to be easily understandable so people can come on that journey with us.”
While Kennedy was coy on whether New Zealand SMBs are lagging in their digital transformations, saying he didn’t have any statistics on that, he said many were so busy with the day-to-day running of the business that they haven’t had time to consider the role of DX on their business.
“Hopefully we can help those people lift their eyes to the horizon before their profits start to dip and it starts to affect their business and their families.”
Kennedy’s human touch does resonate. Culture was an underlying theme in many of the presentations at the recent CIO Summit, and it is clearly an important ingredient for change.
While NZ’s report card from IDC’s 2018 global DX survey shows NZ’s larger organisations, many of them in the TechLeader’s cohort, in very good digital stead, the mid-market is woefully behind on any form of digital transformation.
There is a digital divide, and it seems to be growing.
This is supported in research released last month based on a survey of 138 mid-market NZ businesses, which demonstrated that New Zealand’s mid-market is in urgent need of transformation. The research, sponsored by MYOB’s ‘bigger business’ division, shows a surprisingly large number ‘unprepared for the levels of disruption we are likely to see…or unwilling to invest in research and development to transform their business’.
Kennedy said everyone within a company needs to understand its DX plans, likening it to everyone on a sports team needing to know the game strategy.
“Different messages need to get to different areas but everyone needs clarity about what this means. There has been scaremongering about how automation and robotics are going to reduce jobs, which it will, but it will create jobs too. We’re trying to help people understand the robots are not coming to displace all our jobs, but there will be different entry points,” he said.
“One of the principles I’m passionate about is to commit to lifelong learning. If we can admit to ourselves that a job someone is in today might not exist in three years, then the company must put a process in place to educate that person into a new technology. The alternative is to look externally or internationally for a role, which lots of companies are doing today.
“But what is the knock-on effect for the country? It’s a great socio-economic problem. You end up with more unemployment, more social housing needs, … these principles are really trying to tackle some really big problems if we don’t address them at all business levels.”
Kennedy said TechLeaders will be “patching ourselves into the right networks to listen and provide guidance to as many people as possible” in an effort to push its digital principles, along with an accompanying set of ‘how-to’ guidebooks out to New Zealand businesses.
While the guidebooks will touch on the process of selecting technology, they won’t go into the technologies themselves, he said.
“We are trying to advise all sectors at the same time, so we’ll be talking about how to select technology and how to focus on different value aspects of the technology, but not laying out the technologies.”
“Anyway,” he adds, “there are enough tech companies out there more than happy to talk technology. We’re trying to be purist with advice and guidance.”
If it makes a jot of difference in closing the digital divide, it can only be a good thing.
The TechLeaders Digital Principles document is available to download as a pdf.