Shared from the Tue 16 Jul, 2019 - Financial Review Digital Edition

Counting the cost of doing nothing

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Global spending on digital transformation will reach nearly $US2.2 trillion by 2022, according to research by the International Data Corporation

(IDC), as savvy companies innovate for growth and not just survival.

The IDC forecasts that 35 per cent of workers will start working with bots or other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) by 2023, requiring wholesale redesigns of everything from performance metrics to recruitment strategies.

Research paints a mixed picture closer to home. A 2018 report by research firm Gartner revealed that while two-thirds of Australian organisations are undergoing digital transformation activities, just 8 per cent are harvesting results.

“A change is coming, in such a magnitude, that we should all be a little terrified,” says Thor Essman, founder and CEO of cloud and technology specialist firm, Versent, which is known for its capability credentials in the Amazon online ecosystem. “The speed by which the change is coming will outpace most people’s ability to react. And there is a cost of doing nothing.”

When it comes to the cloud, enterprises are increasingly taking their journey to the next stage by experimenting with AI and machine learning

(ML), says Corrie Briscoe, head of channels and alliances for Amazon Web Services in Australia and New Zealand. “AI and ML is revolutionising almost all aspects of business, making mammoth tasks like product fulfilment, logistics, personalisation, language processing and computer vision analysis possible.”

The AWS Partner Network has tens of thousands of partners across the globe, in both the public and private sector. For the 12 months to October 2018, AWS revenue influenced and generated by AWS partners grew by more than 90 per cent, year on year.

“Partners bring specialist knowledge that would otherwise take businesses years to build,” she says. This in turn “drastically speeds up cloud deployments and makes the path to innovation easier to navigate.”

In a rapidly changing environment, experts say it’s not enough for business to innovate with technology without paying attention to how it’s being used. As the team of researchers behind the new book, The Technology Fallacy, observe: “Developing an effective digital culture may be the first and most important step that an organisation takes with respect to digital transformation.”

Essman agrees that technology alone won’t drive results. “The real high-value activities now, well that’s the hard stuff. And that’s where you have to take a different approach, a different angle, different culture, different tools and different providers.”

It also means taking on big challenges, including front-to-back-end transformation. It’s not just your channels, it’s full transformation.

“We very much see identity as the new battleground,” Essman says. “Everyone from Apple to Google to Amazon and corporates across Australia really want to own and have carriage over your identity throughout the digital channels.”

He views insight as another focus for transformation. “Instead of seeking big data, seek big insights. Look for the business outcome, not just the collection of technical functions.”

Versent recently partnered with Woodside Energy to drive cloud transformation activities in areas including accelerating and enhancing Woodside’s existing data analytics platform.

“Woodside is a heavily data-driven organisation,” Essman observes, “and an already strong data analytics environment was significantly uplifted through their new cloud platform.”

Versent designed the new enterprise native cloud capability and migrated many of the company’s existing assets across to the new platform within a tight timeframe. But more importantly, Versent helped drive a “foundation for change” at the company.

The infrastructure sector is also capitalising on cloud storage breakthroughs. The NSW Land Registry Services (NSW LRS) partnered with Versent to migrate its entire on-premises infrastructure into the cloud. They collaborated on a strategic roadmap and design, then Versent created an enterprise native cloud coupled with an automated server migration factory. The process took nine months and identified several million dollars in operational savings across the NSW LRS set of systems.

“For [us], digital transformation is allencompassing,” says Adam Bennett, Chief Executive Officer of NSW LRS. It challenges our people to consider new or improved ways of working to better serve our customers by leveraging our expertise through technology.”

The organisation had “ambitious objectives,” he notes. “We knew we were going to stretch our partner with this project and Versent didn’t hesitate.”

Originally starting as a professional services group, Versent has evolved into a service, product and platform company. With plans to expand to the US and beyond, the company’s growth reflects a growing awareness by business that digital transformation needs to be strategically managed.

“It’s really hard,” Essman says. “There’s a lot of sparkly jazz hands out there about how much change you can make very quickly, but the honest truth is that transformation takes grit and commitment. It takes discipline, it takes automation, and without really getting into the grind, you can’t really make change.

“If you truly want to transform, like most things in nature or science, actions are required. There is no easy fix.”

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