Tag Archives: software

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.

maths skills

From maths to Microsoft

When girls start school they are just as interested in maths and science as boys. Yet only one quarter of Australia’s STEM workforce are women. What happens along the way? Why don’t more girls opt for a career that involves science, technology, engineering or maths skills?

I was always encouraged by my family to take on any subject at school, which led to my love of numbers. I think maths has a bit of a reputation for being boring – something that’s only useful if you’re planning to become an academic or actuary. But it’s so much more.

From architecture and film animation to photography and my world of software and business management, maths skills open up a whole world of opportunities. I know my career with Microsoft was fuelled by the problem-solving skills that studying maths helped me develop.

Opening up careers for women in STEM is something I am passionate about. I have seen that professional success in many of the ‘non-traditional’ female roles requires reasonable mathematical ability.

But more than a quarter of girls in Australia do not study maths after Year 10. Girls are also underrepresented in most science classes. Without this preliminary education, it’s not surprising girls are steering clear of STEM courses at university as well.


“Programs like DigiGirlz give girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with women who have STEM-based jobs and participate in fun, hands-on workshops.”


Not only my daughters’, but most of our kids’ working lives, are going to depend on STEM skills. Already 75% of the fastest growing industries in Australia require knowledge in these areas. If we want girls to take their place in the technologically driven world of tomorrow, we need to make some changes. We need to encourage young girls to continue to explore STEM subjects.

At Microsoft, we’re creating spaces where young women and technology can come together. Programs like DigiGirlz give girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with women who have STEM-based jobs and participate in fun, hands-on workshops.

We also need to talk about creativity when we talk about STEM. Behind the best technologies are not only amazing ideas but also creative thinking, yet this magic ingredient is often overlooked.

One way forward is to teach young girls STEM skills that reward their curiosity and creativity by helping them bring their ideas to life. For example, teachers are now helping kids learn coding by playing Minecraft, a computer game that’s popular with both boys and girls, and allows them to create whole worlds only limited by their imagination.

If we want more women to enter careers in STEM, we need to encourage them from day one. Challenging deeply entrenched stereotypes about what girls can and can’t do isn’t going to be easy – but it will be vital for Australia’s future prosperity.

I believe that girls can achieve anything – it’s time they did too.

Pip Marlow

Managing Director, Microsoft Australia

Read next: President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Andrew Holmes AM, describes the evolution of culture and structures that underpin STEM and favour men.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

Spread the word: Help Australian women achieve successful careers in STEM! Share this piece on the value of maths skills using the social media buttons below.

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

water software

Software saves rainwater

Featured image above: Stadium Australia in Sydney Olympic Park Credit: Tim Keegan

A dynamic software program utilising kinetic energy is helping buildings with large roof areas in Southeast Asia harvest and recycle rainwater.

Freshwater scarcity and wastage is a global environmental issue, leading to nations such as Malaysia to seek siphonic drainage solutions to help recycle the precious resource.

Researchers at the University of South Australia have developed a software package to help roof drainage companies construct highly effective systems across a range of major infrastructure.

The Adelaide-based university’s Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Division of Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment Simon Beecham said the dynamic program was the first in the world to follow rainfall through its entire cycle to ensure complete effectiveness.

Stadium Australia, which hosted the athletics and opening ceremony at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, was the first structure to utilise the technology.

“Now a number of large buildings in Southeast Asia are using this technology, like the airports in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has incorporated it into many of its shopping centres as well,” Beecham says.

“The buildings that were designed with the help of the software are able to harvest every single drop of water.”

The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Malaysia, which hosts a number of large conferences, exhibitions, and concerts, is another big adopter of the technology.

The rainwater collected from the roofs is stored in large tanks and used to irrigate nearby fields or gardens. The recycled water is also used for the flushing of toilets to reduce the reliance on potable water.

Beecham partners with Australian drainage company Syfon to design state-of-the-art systems throughout Australasia.

His software allows Syfon to calculate the size of drainpipes and locate where hydraulic chambers need to be placed.

The company’s name is a play on siphonic systems, the method it uses to harvest rainwater.

Siphonic drainage systems convert open-air water mixtures into a pure water pressure system without any moving parts or electronics. Its hydraulic system allows the pipes to move large quantities of water very quickly.

Beecham says siphonic systems were used because the high pressures they created reduced the amount of additional energy required to pump water.

“Imagine if you had a pen in your hand and held it up and then dropped it to the floor. That’s an example of a solid object converting its potential energy into kinetic energy,” he says.

“Water can do the same thing. You get a very efficient drainage of your water where the pressure is so great it can even go uphill, and it also means you can run horizontal pipes for long distances.

“Its clever design of the hydraulics system creates a vacuum that sucks water in and converts the potential energy of rainfall into kinetic energy.”

This process allows large storage tanks to be placed away from the roof structure if more space is required.

Siphonic systems require a building of more than three stories to work and cannot be applied to residential homes.

-Caleb Radford 

This article was first published by The Lead South Australia on 4th May 2016. Read the original article here