If 2020–21 was a time to speed into digital transformation then what follows is an era to consolidate gains, Telstra Purple experts told an iTnews audience during an online executive strategy event.
“The ‘risk of change’ meant customers rushed in because they had to and, although some things didn’t work, they quickly learned to adopt new services and ways to do business,” said Telstra Purple IT Consulting Principal and cybersecurity expert, Stuart Low.
“Organisations are now revisiting what they missed [and asking], ‘What could I have done better?’"
Seven insights fuel digital transformation
Business executives shared their drivers for action, resulting in these seven key insights about digital transformation:
Insight No.1: Make more of what we have and straighten our processes
Having made substantial digital investments in 2020–21, business leaders were keen to flex their systems to realise their potential. Their five key priority areas were to:
- Optimise business processes
- Improve use of data insights (close behind)
- Lift customer experience
- Connect to new markets and revenue streams
- Harden their organisation’s cybersecurity.
Peter Reid, Telstra Purple Head of Cloud, said the “democritisation of data” unleashed possibilities once restricted to enterprises.
“With the power of cloud, enterprise-class analytics and data is now within the reach of small businesses,” Reid said.
“And we’ve seen a shift in business peoples’ use of tools, so it’s very easy to open an analytics interface to make sense of your data; you don't need to be technical.”
Insight No.2: Budget and cybersecurity are our top challenges or constraints
Doing more with the same or fewer dollars and confronting more malicious security threats continued to occupy decision-makers’ focus. Budget-conscious businesses must be careful only to collect data they can reasonably protect. Their top three challenges or constraints were:
- Cybersecurity and risks
- Old or bad processes.
Cybersecurity was a key enabler for digital transformation and must be knitted into any solution at the start, said Low.
“Cybersecurity is about, how do I support the business and the global value chain? The past 12 months has shown how the security of an organisation also impacts their partners,” Low said.
Insight No.3: Half of us need help to boost our cybersecurity
Access to people with cybersecurity skills continued to constrain businesses. And the erroneous perception that it was more difficult to manage risk in public cloud was a possible inhibitor for many embarking on their digital transformation. Survey respondents said that:
- Cloud security will be a challenge for nearly half of them as the threat surface increased and more vulnerabilities were exposed
- Two in five were worried about data loss
- More than a third felt traditional security couldn’t keep up; their organisation won’t take security seriously; and third-parties will play bigger roles in their defence.
Although a quarter of respondents said security was not ‘baked into’ digital solutions, Low said global sensor grids, networks and operators continuously scanning the cyber landscape for threats and malicious actors safeguarded cloud platforms.
“If you have a security mindset upfront, there are great tools, controls and frameworks to help. So you're not starting from scratch in a new frontier. A lot of people are doing this, and we're able to provide that insight at Telstra Purple,” Low said.
Insight No.4: Speeding workflows especially when working remotely will lift performance
Likely informed by pandemic experiences when businesses survived with fewer on-premises staff, embedding automation in systems for improved availability without boosting headcount was a key consideration for decision-makers. Our respondents said:
- Half rank automation as their top priority even though budgets were tight
- Data integration challenged a third of them
- Nearly a quarter expected cloud service management to be challenging.
With a benchmark of one full-time IT person to manage 50 servers, a SMB can find themselves with a reasonably big technology team just keeping their infrastructure operational. Reid said that by shifting to managed services, in-house talent could shift into innovation that differentiates the business.
“It’s important to find places where you can automate what doesn't add value to your business, so that you can move into higher level innovative work that makes the most of your constrained budget,” Reid said.
Insight No.5: Digital transformation is too important to leave to chance
Although respondents overwhelmingly agreed that digital transformation was key to their future growth and success, many have had sub-optimal experiences. Understanding what success looks like before the start of a transformation project — and effective project management throughout — would improve outcomes and perhaps business readiness to experiment and try new things. Respondents that seek to lift their success said:
- Two-thirds of organisations had digital transformation projects that fell short of objectives,
- Two in five blamed poor planning and/or project management
- A third failed to meet expected objectives
Other factors that muted success included setting goals that were too ambitious; unfulfilled user expectations; and a lack of executive sponsorship. But Reid said that cloud enabled businesses to have a “fail fast” culture.
“If you want to go and innovate, it needs to be engaged at the highest level of the business. But when we talk about innovation, it's OK to fail as long as you learn from mistakes and build on them. Then failure isn't failure, It's just moving ahead,” Reid said.
“With cloud, you can fail fast; spin up an environment to create something and then throw it away when you're done.”
Insight No.6: Technology smarts in-house — or on tap — would boost our success and speed RoI
Talent retention, recruitment and training were key priorities to speed and embed digital transformation in the business. Skills were scarce in critical areas such as transformation, customer experience delivery, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the aforementioned cybersecurity, data and analytics.
And where a business can’t access or afford skills in-house, having them ‘on tap’ with a trusted partner aligned to their shared success was attractive. Businesses that acknowledged they struggle with the ‘brain gain’ told us:
- Two in five will outsource and upskill staff with digital transformation skills
- More than a third were challenged to acquire cloud skills
- A quarter will go it alone and upskill their staff only.
And just as businesses spin up a server in the cloud to meet a specific need for a short time, skills will increasingly be on demand for businesses.
“When an organisation goes through a digital transformation project, they need different skills, like data protection and privacy, and they won't have them in house,” said Low.
“So they can bring in an expert for a very short time to understand what they need. So using the right skills, at the right time from the right partner who understands the big picture the customer wants to paint is key to success of the whole transformation.”
Reid added that, as more businesses developed apps and software, specialist developers on call but not on the payroll enhances capabilities for a marginal outlay: “Find those spots where you have skills voids and plug in people as needed to extend your capability.”
Insight No.7: Deploying digital systems to serve our customers better and spark growth.
Growth-minded Australian businesses saw the value of deploying digital services in the cloud to transform the customer experience. Our iTnews audience who participated in the survey said customer experience was at the heart of their digital transformation ambitions:
- Just over half predict cloud will boost the customer experience they offer
- Slightly fewer said digital processes will boost customer experience they offer.
Digital tools enhanced the relationship brands have with their customers and increasingly transformed business models. This is true even in public administration and government agencies. Telstra Purple collaborated with state government agencies to create apps that helped first responders during the pandemic. In one case, a law enforcement agency deployed an app to help citizens access border passes, while elsewhere another agency allocated beds to Covid patients.
“You can imagine it was changing very quickly, and being able to provide that infrastructure and response to the public was a tangible impact with great a benefit” to citizens, said Low.
Where to next for digital transformation?
Australian organisations have an appetite to cut inefficiencies, straighten processes, and better serve customers with new and exciting offerings activated through digital transformation.
Constraining budget and skills is resolved by investing in solutions that shift from managing business-as-usual processes to innovation activities. Businesses that partnered with trusted advisers who understood their objectives would deliver superior experiences, return on investment and sustainable business growth.
Telstra Purple can help you transform your business at pace. With a diverse team of experts, partnerships with leading tech companies and the power of Telstra, your business can quickly spot opportunities and realise its potential.
Methodology # This survey was conducted in May 2021 by iTnews on behalf of Telstra Purple, and attracted 124 respondents: 27% were IT managers or IT directors, 16% were IT professionals, including developers, analysts and engineers, and the rest included people in sales and marketing roles, CEOs, CFOs, GMs or MDs, those in analysis, consulting or education roles or similar, in addition to people in other roles. Looking at the size of their organisations, 32% worked for employers that have more than 2500 staff members, 22% were at organisations with fewer than 10 people, while 7% worked for companies that employ 10-49 people