Home Strategy Digital leadership vital to Australia’s economy: Microsoft

Digital leadership vital to Australia’s economy: Microsoft

Australia and Australian organisations must take a digital leadership position to compete in the digital economy — tipped to be worth up to $250 billion to the Australian economy over the next eight years — according to Microsoft Australia’s managing director Steven Worrall.

Worrall, speaking ahead of Microsoft’s flagship customer and partner event, Microsoft Summit, being staged in Sydney this week, said that Australia had reached an important inflexion point and needs digital leadership for the nation to continue its strong economic track record.

He also outlined the opportunity for local organisations, while cautioning that strong leadership was required if all Australians are to benefit from the digital era.

“While Australia has enjoyed 26 years of growth, it has now slipped to 21st in the world competitiveness rankings and ranks 27th in terms of business efficiency,” Worrall said.

“At the same time the Productivity Commission has warned that sectoral transformation and innovation means that without careful corporate stewardship, existing workers may find their skills displaced and themselves vulnerable to unemployment.”

Worrall also pointed to the Commission’s acknowledgment that the “critical x-factor” in strong long-run economic growth comes from the application of new knowledge and technologies.

“There is a real opportunity here for enterprise leaders to accelerate digital transformation by leveraging rich technology ecosystems and upskilling staff to meet changing customer and society expectations.

“However, to innovate at the speed and scale that is required, the key determinant of success won’t be technology but the ability of companies to adapt both their leadership and their organisations for the digital era. Cultural transformation is the vital ingredient to any successful digital transformation,” Worrall said.

According to Microsoft’s global head of industry, Toni Townes-Whitley, who is in Sydney to speak at Microsoft Summit, “Australian business leaders have the opportunity to embrace the transformative power of the cloud to accelerate business innovation and create experiences that consistently exceed customer expectations”.

She stressed that digital leadership is required to ensure that all Australian citizens and business are empowered with technology solutions that are trusted, innovative and inclusive.

According to Townes-Whitley, “Digital leadership goes beyond building innovative solutions and robust technology platforms to transform industries and public sector organisations, global companies like Microsoft need to think of the broader societal implications and transform responsibly”.

“Where do we stand on privacy? Are we ensuring that our technology is accessible? On artificial intelligence, are we building responsible algorithms?” she asked, adding that leaders across public sector organisations and commercial enterprises needed to “thoughtfully navigate these issues to ensure both optimal business outcomes and principled social impact”.

Microsoft says that research it commissioned from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, revealed that 80% of business leaders believe their industry will be disrupted by digital technology and 84 percent believe disruption is imminent.

Microsoft says that the window for innovation and transformation is wide open to enterprises prepared to demonstrate technology leadership and vision, and it cites examples of Australian companies which are digitally transforming, including:

  • Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services’ which has taken a Platform + Agile approach to innovation and transformation. Led by chief information officer Dr Steve Hodgkinson DHHS is delivering a raft of new capability and function that is the envy of other Government departments. It allows it to innovate rapidly – most recently with a thunderstorm asthma early warning system and app that have life-saving potential.
  • In the financial services sector superannuation firm StatePlus under the leadership of Susan Woods, general manager, Business Technology Services & Transformation, has recorded an Australian first with straight through processing of financial advice, enhancing the customer experience, injecting operational efficiency, and providing a digital edge to the business.
  • Packaging business Pact Group is stepping up to Industry 4.0 with future transformation plans which include the possibility of using autonomous drones to support stocktaking activities; leveraging machine learning to schedule predictive maintenance across its thousands of manufacturing lines; and supporting enterprise decision making.
  • A system known as Track’em is being used by civil construction contractor Ertech to keep track of the thousands of pieces of equipment and parts used on Chevron’s Barrow Island natural gas facility. Leveraging Power BI and Cosmos DB, executives have visibility across the enterprise – streamlining operations, ensuring compliance with strict regulatory controls and helping to minimise environmental impact.
  • Cabcharge chief technology officer Deon Ludick is transforming to compete head-on with transport sector disruptors. Transport transparency and control has been provided to corporate users of Cabcharge by providing clarity about who is spending what, where and when, and also underpins consumer apps that strip the friction and frustration out of a journey.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).