Key takeaways

  • Australian businesses’ slow-burning digital transformations got fired up in response to COVID-19’s work from home requirements.
  • Organisations will need to keep up with changing consumer and employee expectations, accelerating their digitalisation efforts.
  • A new report by PwC Australia outlines the four elements necessary for successful transformation.

Australia, on the whole, has been pretty slow to embrace digital transformation.1 Some industries have done it better than others, both in investing in digitalisation and reaping productivity rewards. But for many, either the technology hasn’t delivered the promised benefits, or there simply hasn’t been a prioritisation of the effort itself. 

COVID-19 has changed that. 

Australian consumer expectations are no longer set in stone. As a new report in the PwC Australia Rebooted series, Where next for accelerated digitalisation and data reliance? shows, with options such as working from home, telehealth and online shopping normalised, organisations have no choice but to adapt. However, it isn’t as simple as investing in technology (complex itself in an economic downturn)  and adopting a set-and-forget mentality. 

The Where next? report calls out four interconnected elements that are necessary for Australia’s digital transformation. Does your business have all four?

1. Thinking digital

It may seem odd to start a manifesto for digitalisation on an element other than technology, but the amount of investment that to-date has failed to deliver value for business points to the fact that digital transformation isn’t just about the tech. 

Organisations that are successful at transformation have ‘digital’ embedded in their DNA — not pasted as a technological veneer over existing business-as-usual. An innovative mindset and culture means that digital efforts are considered ongoing and core to business strategy rather than being unmoored as one-off side projects. This means that digital transformation must be approached in a way that brings business strategy, customer/employee experience and technology together. 

Unified, with multidisciplinary skills in a non-siloed environment, teams can approach problems from all angles and, with support from leadership, solve challenges for customer value and organisational growth.

2. The technology

Digital is not just about tech, it’s about what technology can enable, the problems it can solve and the experiences or performance it can drive. Make no mistake, however, digital transformations require technology — the right technology —and it must simply work. Tech should be seamless in application, flexible and scalable, and should underpin all employee and customer experiences. 

Throwing money at the newest technology does not a transformation make. Instead, businesses should approach challenges with a digital-first lens that creates iterative, continuous value through solutions defined around experience. That means there should be no more tech-led ‘big bang’ projects that are inevitably outdated before they even launch. 

Finally, technology should give organisations the ability to scale rapidly and maximise their capabilities, for example, through the use of cloud-based architecture or 5G networks. (Though it’s important to note that the business itself needs to be similarly prepared to scale).

3. Cyber secure

Part of being digital-first is being security-first too. With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 economic landscape and a huge surge of employees working at home, cyber security must be ingrained from inception, not tacked on at the end. Being ‘secure by design’ means that digital solutions include security in the initial stages of design architecture. 

Cybersecurity, like a digital transformation, is about more than technology. Being secure means acting secure, engendering a security conscious culture and embedding good safety behaviours throughout the whole organisation. Many cyber attacks today are successful because they are able to target employees or customers through phishing and social engineering, gaining access to sensitive data and critical systems via humans, not the underlying technology.

4. Data, data, data

Digital transformation needs to be driven by data, both in evaluating the effort itself and in gaining insights into where to focus product innovation and solutions. Effort must be put into surfacing, cleaning and collating data for it to be useful, but doing so will provide analytics that serve to reduce ambiguity and waste at the same times as bolstering results. 

Unlocking the true potential of data will depend on what it’s being used for. For organisations chasing growth, data will provide value by supporting innovation and the delivery of new products and experiences. For those having to watch the bottom-line, it can be used to evaluate processes for automation or make use of other cost-efficient technologies. And of course when it comes to risk, data will allow companies to meet regulatory obligations and make informed decisions. 

Regardless of which way the data is used, it will be central to organisational success.

Left or right?

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, 72 percent of those surveyed in our latest CIO Pulse report said their organisation was able to start working remotely in less than three days. Even despite this quick turnaround, CIOs worldwide see the need for a focus on digitalisation and are looking to prioritise investments in digital tools and capabilities.

When faced with disruption and the need to leap into a more digital world, Australian businesses responded quickly. More than anything else, it showed that when needed, the ability to digitalise was there — and hopefully that experience, though mitigated by circumstances beyond their control, will provide the impetus for organisations to keep going on their digital journeys. 

By addressing the four pillars outlined in the Where next for accelerated digitalisation and data reliance? paper, Australia (and Australian businesses) can continue following an accelerated, and necessary, path to the future.


For further insights into the digitalisation and data challenge businesses face, download our Where next for telecommunications? report, part of our Australia Rebooted COVID-19 recovery response.