Digital-first: What this means for the future of work

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It has been a year of significant disruption and business challenges. Organisations in the enterprise and government (E&G) space have had to grapple with a combination of market volatility and social impact that has caused them to adjust the ways in which they work. And yet, the path to recovery is already clear, with the Lowy Institute noting that Australia is well positioned for that recovery and that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Australia's economy to do much better than most advanced economies. 

Meanwhile, as noted by Misha Schubert, the CEO of Science & Technology Australia, in a column for The Australian Business Executive, it is science and technology that can drive that recovery. “Australia can design a clever economy recovery strategy from COVID-19 that plays to our STEM strengths and seizes new opportunities,” Schubert wrote.

“So that when we are able to reopen our borders again to the world, we’ll have more innovative Australian startups and spinoff companies. Businesses created from science and technology expertise, to generate income for our nation.”

As a new year starts and enterprises start looking to recovery with greater focus, the investments that those enterprises have made from necessity into business resiliency will start to have a positive impact on their competitive opportunities.

One key example is transformation. The shift to remote work required that organisations reconsider their networking environments. This meant moving workloads to the cloud, investing in VPN technology for security and implementing collaboration technologies to allow ongoing interaction between staff and clients. Going forward, these shifts will form the groundwork for innovation, and set new technology goals for the next decade.

“As business manages a wind-back of some restrictions, enterprises should also ask whether now is the time to seize a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in innovation and new ways of working — to build a competitive edge over more cautious rivals craving a return to the status quo,” notes Company Director magazine in response to findings from an ADAPT survey of 197 enterprises, including almost half of the ASX 25.

Those organisations that are able to take a strategic approach to their new IT environments and have a digital-first mindset may be able to benefit, with one KPMG report stating that 80 per cent of revenue growth post-pandemic is predicted to come from digital offerings and operations over the next three years.

A renewed focus on transformation

Prior to COVID-19, much of the interest in digital transformation was orientated towards the advanced applications that it would deliver – AI, blockchain, AR, edge computing and other technologies on the bleeding edge. However, for many businesses, the more pressing need to deliver business resiliency has driven a renewed focus on the platform for transformation.

Best in class digital-first organisations have a robust network and stable connectivity to provide the digital backbone to its operations, in which the enterprise has uptime reliability. Deloitte noted a famous example that occurred through the pandemic in which American space programs NASA and SpaceX, launched a human commercial space flight – with most of the company teleworking. This example epitomises that future of work, where the critical work is done through connected platforms and hybrid clouds, and customers interact with the organisation through a digital user experience. For such a highly digitally driven environment, downtime means a complete inability to function, with all the raw costs, lost productivity and reputational damage that comes with that.

Another challenge business should consider is the speed at which competencies in the digital experience need to occur. As noted in a McKinsey report on the role of transformation in COVID-19 recovery: “CEOs should ask their business leaders to assess how the needs and behaviours of their most important customers have changed and benchmark their digital channels against those of their competition. This information should form the basis of a renewed digital agenda that should take no longer than 30 days to establish.”

This is an opportunity for the CIO to take leadership and drive meaningful change and value within the organisation. As the report notes: “Chief digital officers and chief information officers (CIOs) can then quickly stand up (or refocus) agile teams to execute the most urgent priorities.”

Building networks for the future

Providing enterprises with the infrastructure that can provide a digital backbone designed to meet their varied data requirements for a successful digital-first model is a primary focus for nbn as it aims to lift the digital capability of Australia.

“As we have always stated, we will continue to invest in the nbn™ [network] as a critical piece of infrastructure that will deliver social and economic benefits now, and in the future,” nbn CEO Stephen Rue said in an interview with ARN.

One key potential benefit of the nbn™ network for enterprises is increased options for decentralisation thanks to an increased footprint of business grade fibre network availability. Organisations need to operate with greater agility than ever, and this means leveraging tools and applications such as edge computing and local datacentres on-site, or enabling employees to continue to operate on the road or from remote locations. As national infrastructure, the nbn™ network is the digital backbone of Australian premises across the country.

With nbn announcing in October 2020 that it would be spending $700 million on business fibre initiatives to create up to 240 “business fibre zones”, the company will be able to make its fastest symmetrical fibre connections more accessible to another 700,000 business premises. These network solutions will offer wholesale business nbn™ network features designed specifically for the needs of digitally mature businesses that run high data intensity operations such has wholesale symmetrical speeds, optional prioritised data over the nbn™ network and support options for service providers via the business nbn™ Operations Centre.

As noted in a PwC report on how IT and business leaders need to look at the future, this year’s events have accelerated transformation by five years or more. Many enterprises were looking for iterative transformation, but for their operations to avoid disruption, they will need to approach the future of their IT environments with a more radical outlook.

As noted by another PwC report, however, transformations and efforts to pivot enterprises to become digital-first are prone to failure: 75 per cent of digital transformations fail to generate the kind of returns that exceed the original investment. This should not be a disincentive from undergoing the transformation, but rather a recognition that the transformation needs to bring together all the hallmarks of a digital-first environment: people, processes, and IT applications, through the right digital platform to facilitate the complex interactions between these things.

In other words, enterprises need to get the foundations right before they try to drive digital innovation. business nbn™, is a wholesale service designed to support business in providing access to the kind of foundation that can drive this innovation and transformation. With business grade fibre there are a range of options including access to wholesale committed information rates, symmetrical speeds and low latency. business nbn™ wholesale solutions can be well suited as enablers for this next generation of business technologies. nbn recommends businesses talk to their preferred service providers about what options are available to take advantage of business nbn™ features to help them gain a competitive advantage. Of course, experiences may vary depending on the end customer’s access technology, internet provider, plan and equipment. With a national infrastructure making this capacity available in both the regional centres and cities, Australian enterprises have the opportunity to emerge over the next decade as new global innovators and technology leaders.

For more information on business nbn™ wholesale solutions and if you can access business grade fibre over the nbn™ network, click here.

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