Skillsoft Blog

The View from Down Under: Digital Transformation in Australia and New Zealand

The View from Down Under: Digital Transformation in Australia and New Zealand

I am a Skillsoft Solution Principal for Business and Leadership serving Western North America and Asia Pacific. In September I took my third world trip of the year meeting customers everywhere from Australia to the Philippines. It is an extraordinary experience taking in such vastly different geographies and culture, but what never fails to astound just how often I hear the same concerns, the same issues repeated. One of which is digital transformation. We’ve addressed this subject quite a bit on this blog, and with good reason. More than 90% of employers expect their organization to be impacted by digitalization in the next two years. Digital transformation is everywhere, and everyone is discussing its impact as it revolutionises not only the way we work, but also how we work.

My colleague explored in great detail the impact digital transformation is making in Asia, so today I thought I’d turn our attentions a little further south to Australia and New Zealand.  The subject is huge here and very much a part of the national consciousness; it is one of the reasons why Skillsoft launched a digital transformation collection here in last spring.

The story from Australia

A Gartner report on digital business transformation in Australia reveals that a mere 8% of Australian enterprises are getting results from their digital transformation activities. The report also found that the appetite to experiment with new business models is low, ecosystems are underused and undervalued and the workforce is unprepared. The report’s author, Jenny Beresford, notes that while two-thirds of Australian organizations are transforming in some way, she estimates that those actually transforming is closer to 10 percent.

Meanwhile, in Contino’s The State of Digital Transformation in Australia, the top five findings include:

  • Improving customer experience and engagement is the main objective for the majority of digital strategies
  • Only just over 10% of companies can bring a new customer product to market in less than three months
  • Digital projects will require upskilling staff in over 90% of cases
  • On average, only 46% of an organization’s applications are on public cloud
  • Big data, AI and machine learning will soar

As noted in the report, part of the challenge is perhaps the rising digital skills shortages. The Australian Computer Society (ACS) forecasts that Australia will need an additional 100,000 tech workers by 2023. “The demand for digital skills in our economy is exploding. The growth of artificial intelligence, automation and the internet of things is driving significant disruption across all industries, and highly trained ICT professionals are in more demand than ever before,” says Yohan Ramasundara, ACS president.

Then there’s the historical context. Traditionally Australia’s economy has been based around manufacturing, construction and mining so it will take some seismic shifts within the government and educational spheres to encourage and prompt the rise of a knowledge-based and services sectors focus. All of which explains why in a recent report the number one concern for Australian business leaders in 2019 is digital transformation. Part of the challenge is that there appears to still exist a very mixed understanding of what digital transformation is and what it means to different people. To help companies understand the process, KPMG’s report, “Keeping us up at night: The big issues facing business leaders in 2019,” offers practical advice and a list of the main ways a digital transformation should benefit an organisation.

The New Zealand story

By 2021 more than half of New Zealand’s GDP will derive from digital products and services.  Perhaps to prepare for this, some of the nation’s top business technology leaders drafted a manifesto, “Digital Principles,” as a guide for organisations as they embark on digital transformation. “The principles align the people to the future and can be applied across all organisations,” said David Kennedy, CIO chair of Tech Leaders, a network of leaders aiming to drive positive economic and social change.

When I conducted a workshop at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, the participants all agreed that academic circles need a shift in mindset to preparing students for a shift in technology and mindset. For them, the quality of leadership in a digital age means a renewed focus on a workforce that is aiming to be more diverse, dispersed, and with a need to be more lifelong learners than the workforce of yesterday.

Today’s students must not only be digital and media literate, they also need to possess an agile approach to learning. The fourth industrial revolution that has created industry disrupters like Uber, the largest taxi company without owning taxis, and Airbnb, the largest hotel business without owning hotels, will continue throughout every business. New research estimates that the majority of jobs in 2030 do not even exist yet, so the value of lifelong learning, and ensuring students and workers have sources to continually support learning are going to be priorities for all leaders in every industry.

Check out our Digital Transformation solution and learn how best to prepare and equip your workforce for this new world order.


Benny Ramos is a Solution Principal for Business and Leadership at Skillsoft.


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