Digital Resilience: Leading Business Transformation

INTRODUCTION

The COVID-19 pandemic is a paradigm shifting event, a crisis of health and a business revelation. The ongoing pandemic has not so much altered businesses environments as it has uprooted them. The pertinent question for digital leaders in the face of such unprecedented change is not how we restore our pre-pandemic work environment, but how we improve it.

This question is, at its core, one of design; we must identify which business structures are weight-bearing and must be reinforced, which systems can be reengineered, and those processes that can be abandoned. This sweeping recalibration will distinguish the resilient from the vulnerable, the flexible from the rigid, and our future leaders from followers.

NextDC and Connect Media recently invited CIOs from all sectors of the national economy to interface digitally and discuss this reinvention of the workplace. From compressing transformation timelines to advancing communication and security infrastructure, we unpacked the decisions digital leaders are making to lead business transformation and secure advantage amidst uncertainty.

INFORMED INSTINCT: OUR HEIGHTENED CAPACITY FOR CHANGE

The sheer pace of the pandemic forced nations and businesses to respond with reciprocal intensity. From international border closures to remote work transitions that, from an aerial perspective, more closely resembled office evacuations, governments and businesses made decisions of severe consequence at unprecedented pace.

These were not acts of transformative ambition, but acts of survival: processes, layers and timelines were reduced by the logic of necessity. The pandemic cut through cultural aversion to transformation on a revolutionary scale and reaffirmed our will to change. And change we did.

The rapid uptake of remote work practices is a shining example of the capacity for business leaders to communicate and act resolutely. But now, the context that enabled this bold decision-making is changing. While the pandemic continues to define our social and business environment, we are adjusting to its presence. Flexibility may well be the new normal, but normality exists to stifle urgency.

In a mass transition instigated by deep crisis, it is vital that momentum for profound organisational change is preserved and we do not revert to pre-pandemic levels of complacency. Business leaders must inject their organisations with a different sense of urgency.

The challenge for business leaders is to dissect the consequences of our instinctive leap to remote work practices, protecting and amplifying new sources of value while mitigating new structural and personal vulnerabilities.

WORLDS COLLIDE: ALIGNING PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL PRIORITIES

Businesses are learning to communicate in an operating environment defined by distance. We are all learning how to live in isolation, or at least, how to interact in a world where the human touch has been muted. Whether as a commercial necessity, or an act of collective empathy, businesses have amplified the importance of employee wellbeing.

Communication strategies and the channels our voices and faces travel on have developed to facilitate closer, more authentic connections. Executive leadership have become more visible and accessible, inspiring confidence, reigniting motivations, and connecting separated employees to a shared ambition. As a broader consequence, the spaces separating professional and personal life are shrinking, a collapsing of realms that is at once both an affront to privacy as well as an opportunity to amplify real identities and expressions in the workplace.

Increasingly, employees are being empowered with the tools and trusted with the autonomy to deliver business outcomes – outputs, not inputs, are being assigned value. These are paradigmatic shifts that signifying that technology itself is not the answer – it is the enabler, granting employees the options to be flexible, resilient, and empowered.

RISK REIMAGINED: ADVANCING SECURITY FRAMEWORKS

As the context for work evolves, the parameters for secure work have fundamentally shifted to create new vulnerabilities. We are witnessing a fundamental, digital expansion beyond fixed perimeter defences – an expansion that is particularly fraught because of the very pace at which it is unfurling.

Rapid change breeds exceptional risk, and as a company’s digital footprint expands to lay tracks in new territory, the unmapped attack surface available to cyber actors grows in unison.

Attack vectors are being remapped to directly target home environments, and there is a distinct danger that employees are becoming apathetic towards, or at the least unsure of, expectations around data handling and remote information exchange in this new context. Businesses cannot afford to remain vulnerable to dangers borne from the pressures of expediency.

Responding to these risks requires a whole of organisation approach; a cyber-security lens must be applied to every aspect of the enterprise; risk assessments must be embedded in all cadences of activity; and a deep interrogation of existing infrastructure must take place.

BUILDING NETWORKS TO FORGE A NATION

The rapid transition to distributed workforces has reignited debate on the core capabilities and limitations of the nation’s infrastructure. The Coalition Government has announced a further $4.5 billion investment in the nation’s broadband infrastructure.

It is hard to deny that the NBN has performed admirably during the lockdown. And while using the pandemic as a retrospective justification for the decision to expediate the rollout of the NBN is rhetoric befitting scrutiny, it is clear that improving our nation’s infrastructure will further empower businesses to operate remotely and improve our digital competitiveness as a nation.

The impacts of the pandemic on our environment are not transient – already our CBDs have been challenged by a growing movement towards decentralisation. Australia’s vast ecosystem of corporate and market partners must continuously ask how they can both leverage and advance the fundamental architecture underpinning the way we work.

CONCLUSION

The pandemic has forced us to remould social and professional patterns. While change has been mandated by forces larger than any single corporation, it is our individual, digital leaders who remain largely accountable for the experience and precise direction of that change.

Enabling remote workforces, not only on a digital and structural level, but on a human level, is a severe but surmountable challenge that can only be accomplished by dual-wielding technical knowledge and emotional intelligence.

Our digital leaders must work to actively resolve security vulnerabilities, adopting a framework that is directly suited to remote work. They must ensure that digital infrastructure is scalable, flexible, and highly responsive, enabling the business to operate with confidence and lead through a climate defined by uncertainty. And they must communicate tirelessly and openly throughout this entire transformative process.

Only with continuous dialogue, collaboration, and the support of trusted partners will businesses be able to lead through this crisis.

REALISING THE FUTURE WITH EMR

Healthcare is facing a technological reckoning. Clinicians rely on the seamless flow of information for optimal patient outcomes, and leaders can no longer deny or resist the climbing expectations of consumers – transformation is needed.

As proof that executives are responding to this mandate for technological renewal, Connect Media and PHILIPS hosted CEOs, CIOs and Chief Medical Officers from across the public and private divide to interrogate the viability of EMR in Victoria. From overcoming change resistance and rewriting entrenched cultural practices, to countering reputational and security threats, the successful implementation of EMR is a formidable task. But the benefits are palpable – and may soon become irresistible.

WHAT FOR LAW, IN 2024?

Epidemic structural and cultural issues are shackling the potential of General Counsel and commercial firms alike. Institutionalised time-based billing methods are a source of shared frustration, and there is much to be said for how generational change and emerging technologies might affect this highly-strung ecosystem.

Unfortunately, too much of this conversation is being held in whispered tones, which does little to generate impetus for change. Connect Media and VARIO FROM PINSENT MASONS decided to gather leading General Counsel from all sectors of the national economy to spark a constructive and candid dialogue in the hope of creating this change momentum.

Over twenty executives converged for a transparent look at how these different cultural forces and corporate structures interplay, and to consider what must be done to forge a bright new future for the profession as a whole.

CREATING THE ULTIMATE RETAIL EXPERIENCE

For years, marketers preached that the customer was king. In reality, customer-centred design submitted to distribution; mechanical limits on production and delivery set firm parameters on what the customer could purchase and possess. But that is all changing, rapidly. Now, living in a world of once-unimaginable connectivity and personalisation, customers are dictating the pace, variety, and quality of service. What once seemed an empty prophecy is being fulfilled – the customer is now king.

Retailers appreciate this shift in power and are now moving to remodel themselves around the customer. For some, this change is a shift in focus, a subtle reorientation. But for most, delivering on the customers’ expectations has required seismic restructuring and the establishment of core, data-driven capabilities. There is now a clear mandate for a new breed of marketing professional who acts creatively atop a platform of actionable data intelligence.

Connect Media along with Zendesk gathered a diverse group of leading retail executives to discuss this ongoing empowerment of the customer. Here is what they had to say.

CONSUMER SIGNALS AND THE FUTURE OF RETAIL

We are mining the intricacies of our lives in greater depth than ever before. Digital touchpoints are exploding across the consumer landscape; soon, nearly every aspect of our lives will be governed by a digital interface. We are constantly projecting a complex and interwoven series of signals that, when correctly connected, map out our lives with frightening specificity. Only artificial intelligence is capable of deciphering this new, digital cartography.

As consumers, we have come to predict and expect the level of hyper-personal, finely-curated content that artificial intelligence delivers. Brands must create in-store experiences that reflect and augment our movements online. And as the traditional boundaries of retail evaporate, brands must know when to engage, intrude and escalate, and when to show restraint. In the eyes of consumers, each platform, and every device, is simply one way of seeing a familiar face; no thought is given to enterprise structures and systems. All that matters is a seamless and consistent experience.

The bar for retailers is therefore set at a considerable height, and the path to reaching and exceeding the competitive benchmark for seamless, hyper-personalised, omnichannel retail is littered with pitfalls. Artificial intelligence, effectively implemented, becomes an indispensable ally in this pursuit; and, in the hands of the competition, a formidable foe.

Lucidworks and Connect Media gathered leading digital and marketing minds from some of the nation’s preeminent retailers for a candid discussion on how businesses are responding to soaring consumer demands. Our conversation unearthed shared frustrations as well as numerous opportunities – this is what they had to say.