Tag Archives: agile

digital business

Digital business is every business

Change has always been essential to businesses wishing to maintain relevance and market share. However, the rate of change, driven by Moore’s law – that computing processing power doubles every two years – has been accelerating over the past few decades. So, it’s now difficult to stay abreast of the latest trends, and the threats and opportunities they present.

From new platforms that leverage the sharing economy, such as Airbnb and Uber, to recent advances in social, cognitive and spatial computing, business models are being disrupted in ways many people find difficult to comprehend, let alone respond to in a timely manner.

For example, in a study of corporate longevity by the strategy-consulting firm Innosight, the average tenure of companies in the S&P 500 – the US stock market index of 500 large companies’ market capitalisation – had dropped from 33 years in 1965 to 20 years in 1990, to a forecast of 14 years within the next decade.

In order to stay relevant, organisations need to embrace the reality that all businesses are digital businesses.

It is no longer sufficient to just acknowledge this reality; it must be deeply understood and adopted at all levels of the firm. A good place to start is the famous article by Marc Andreessen: “Why Software is Eating the World”.

Digital disruption is coded in software. Gains in efficiency and accuracy mean that business processes are increasingly being implemented with software – even in long-established firms in traditional industries.

Recent advances in robotic process automation and machine learning are ensuring that this trend will continue, consuming ever-larger sections of the business and displacing workers in lower-end cognitive roles, such as tasks performed in service delivery centres. Yet, developing software in a traditional enterprise is difficult to do well.

Fortunately, software development has itself undergone a number of transformations. The first is the transition from waterfall (a non-iterative approach to software development) to agile approaches to developing software.

This is grounded in the realisation that higher quality software products – those with fewer bugs that meet the business objectives – result when business and IT professionals work closely together to iteratively co-create the solutions.

As cloud computing becomes more ubiquitous, the provision of the hardware upon which the software executes has itself come to be defined in software and hosted by a (trusted) third party.

Cloud hosting has enabled a new range of service offerings, from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to Platforms as a Service (PaaS) to Software as a Service (SaaS), depending how much of the software “stack” is hosted by a third party.

The primary benefits of cloud computing are speed and flexibility. It is possible to “spin-up” (i.e. create) instances of servers to perform tasks in minutes, instead of weeks, and discard them when they are no longer required.

This is particularly useful for workloads that are spiky in nature, such as data analytics, which consume large amounts of computational resources for relatively short periods.

Finally, there’s the rise of DevOps. This describes the merging of software development and operations roles into a single group or team to ensure that changes in software are delivered to the end-users as quickly as possible.

This in turn introduces the benefits of automation to the delivery of software solutions, resulting in the ability to continuously integrate and deliver new versions of software to customers.

Each of these revolutions in software development: agile, cloud and DevOps, allow organisations who implement them to run digital business experiments and innovate more quickly and rigorously than ever before.

If the lessons learned from running these experiments are properly captured and shared, then the result may what MIT systems scientists Peter Senge first forsaw in 1990 – a true “learning organisation”1.

After all, to quote the famous business strategist Arie de Geus: “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage”.

Dr Crighton Nichols

Technology Innovation Leader, PwC Australia

Read next: Digital transformation executive, Vishy Narayanan, reveals the attributes of a digital disruptor and the keys to transforming your business.

Spread the word: Help Australia become digital savvy nation! Share this piece on digital disruptors using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

1 Senge, P. M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline. The art and practice of the learning organization, London: Random House.

future of work

Preparing graduates for the future of work

A new future of work is looming – one that is driven by the rapid pace of technological development and new approaches for interacting with colleagues and customers. In this future, STEM graduates are in higher demand than ever. They will find their place at the forefront of emerging industries – virtualisation, creative intelligence, robotics, data science are just to name a few – where they will co-exist with peers from a wealth of other disciplines.

As educators, we know the increasing importance of STEM skills in a world in which almost 40% of jobs that exist today are likely to disappear in the next 10–15 years. We know that today’s graduates will have 20–30 jobs over the course of their working lives. How can we prepare these graduates to respond to existing workforce needs, and perhaps more crucially, to workforce needs in industries that don’t yet exist?

First, we must fundamentally rethink the skills people will need, and how we support them acquiring these skills. Many of these will be numeracy and digital skills, such as those involved in data analytics and coding. Others will be sense-making skills that will enable people to absorb a wide variety of information to inform decision-making in a changing and complex environment.  The future workforce will also rely on very sophisticated interaction skills to facilitate collaboration in virtual, real and cross-cultural contexts.

The enterprises of tomorrow will not only need a greater prevalence of multifaceted digital and STEM capacity, but they will need more “boundary crossing” and creative problem solving skills in our STEM graduates. Underpinning this is an almost ubiquitous level of numeracy and digital literacy that does not currently exist in society.

There are many things universities can do to optimise the opportunities available to our STEM graduates, to ensure our graduates are agile, future-focused, committed to innovation and responsive to ongoing shifts in industry. To begin with, we can support the development of well-rounded STEM graduates, to more systematically emphasise the critical importance of cross-disciplinary training.

The ability of students to take their discipline expertise in science and engineering and apply it across a vast range of questions, jobs and sectors has always existed, but we need to be more deliberate about this into the future. We can embed collaborative, entrepreneurial, critical thinking and interpersonal skills at the core of all our courses. We can deliver educational experiences that champion student-led modes of learning, and treat students like professionals from the moment they commence their university careers. We can emphasise internships, work placements and volunteer opportunities that give students a taste of the world outside the classroom – be this in businesses, R&D laboratories or start-ups. We can involve industry more deeply in our assessment processes.

We can also provide development opportunities both on and off campus that encourage students to place their STEM skills in a wealth of exciting new contexts, from entrepreneurship programs to workshops in design thinking, and combined STEM/creative intelligence degrees. This has the added advantage of providing more visibly attractive opportunities for STEM graduates, increasing those Australians choosing STEM careers.

Similarly for non-STEM graduates, as well as much of the above, embedding contextual numeracy and increased data literacy into our courses will be vital.

If our aim is to create a generation of graduates who will lead the development of new and emerging sectors, and who will carve out competitive advantages for Australia, then we must focus on preparing them for the brave new world ahead. Let’s equip them to become creators, innovators and global thinkers with the capacity to untangle the wicked problems inherent in the future of work.

Attila Brungs

Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Technology, Sydney

Read next: Innes WilloxCEO of the Australian Industry Group, highlights the huge demand for STEM skills in today’s workforce and discusses why it’s paramount for students to gain industry experience while studying.

People and careers: Meet graduates and postgraduates who’ve paved brilliant, cross-disciplinary careers here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com

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Be part of the conversation: Share your ideas on creating and propelling top Australian graduates. We’d love to hear from you!

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Australian Innovation Thought Leadership Series here.