Woolworths Announces Future of Work Fund

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2020 was a strange year for retail. Businesses witnessed significant disruption to supply chains, significant swings in demand for products (toilet paper, puzzles, bikes etc!) and then sometimes incredible growth – as disposable income increased as many consumers are no longer taking expensive holidays. Overall, it was a mixed year, with many retailers closing down and others reporting record sales. The grocery sector boomed – with many restaurants and fast-food providers closed, sometimes the supermarkets were some of the few remaining open retailers.

For many retailers, technology has become a key enabler to their transformation, survival and success (Figure 1).

Technology Focus 2021 - Retail Industry

Woolworths, Australia’s largest retailer, operates across the grocery, department store, drinks, and hospitality sectors. They hold a significant market share in most markets that they operate in. The company had a strong 2019/20 (financial year runs from July 2019 to June 2020) with sales up 8% – and in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year, sales were up nearly 11%. But the company is not resting on its laurels – one of its 6 key priorities is to “Accelerate Digital, eCom and convenience for our increasingly connected customers”. This requires more than just a deep technology investment, but a new culture, new skills, and new ways of working.

Woolworths’ Employee Focus

Woolworths has committed to invest AUD 50 million in upskilling and reskilling their employees in areas such as digital, data analytics, machine learning and robotics over the next three years. The move comes as a response to the way the Retail industry has been disrupted and the need to futureproof to stay relevant and successful. The training will be provided through online platforms and through collaborations with key learning institutions.

The supermarket giant is one of Australia’s largest private employers with more than 200,000 employees. Under Woolworths’ ‘Future of Work Fund’ their staff will be trained across supply chain, store operations, and support functions to enhance delivery and decision-making processes. The retailer will also create an online learning platform that will be accessible by Woolworths employees as well as by other retail and service companies to support the ecosystem.  Woolworths has plans to upskill their staff in customer service abilities, leadership skills and agile ways of working.

Woolworths’ upskilling program will also support employees who were impacted by Woolworths planned closures of Minchinbury, Yennora, and Mulgrave distribution centres due in 2025.

Woolworths’ Tech Focus

Woolworths has been ramping up their technology investments and having tech-savvy employees will be key to their future success. In October 2020, Woolworths deployed micro automation technology to revamp their eCommerce facility in Melbourne to speed up the fulfilment of online grocery orders, and front and back-end operations. Woolworths also partnered with Dell Technologies in November 2020 to bring together their private and public cloud onto a single platform to improve mission-critical processes, applications and support inventory management operations across its retail stores.

Future of Work

For many years, Ecosystm has been advising our clients to invest more in the skills of the business. Every business will be using more cloud next year than they are this year; they will suffer more cybersecurity incidents; they will use more AI and machine learning; they will automate more processes than are automated today. More of their customer engagements will be digital, and more insight will be required to drive better outcomes for customers and employees. This all needs new skills – or more people trained on skills that some in the business already understand. But too many businesses don’t train in advance – instead waiting for the need and paying external consultants or expensive new hires for their skills. Empowered businesses – ones that are creating a future-ready, agile business – invest in their people, work environment, business processes and technology to create an environment where innovation, transformation and business change are accepted and encouraged (Figure 2).

Future of Work

Empowered businesses can adapt to new challenges, new market conditions and respond to new competitive threats. By taking these steps to upskill and empower their employees, Woolworths is building towards empowering their own business for long term success.


 Transform and be better prepared for future disruption, and the ever-changing competitive environment and customer, employee or partner demands in 2021. Download Ecosystm Predicts: The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
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Dell Sells RSA to a Private Equity led Consortium

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5/5 (2) In the Top 5 Cybersecurity and Compliance Trends for 2020, Ecosystm predicted that 2020 will witness a significant uplift in mergers and acquisition (M&As) activities in the cybersecurity market. Like the consolidation activity in previous booms (such as digital media and web services in the early 2000s), the cybersecurity market is booming globally and creating opportunities for cashed up vendors and private equity firms. The fragmented security market has thousands of vendors and consultancies globally. Every day a swathe of new start-ups announces their ground-breaking new technology. Coupled with significant investments globally in tertiary education and industry certifications for a growing workforce, the next generation of cybersecurity entrepreneurs are entering with force.

Earlier this month, a consortium led by private equity firm Symphony Technology Group (STG) entered into an agreement with Dell Technologies to acquire RSA for an estimated amount of USD 2 billion. Dell Technologies had expressed interest in selling RSA in November 2019, and industry sources say that the deal will be finalised at more than their initial expectations.

Dell has been focusing on their partner program and on simplifying their product portfolio offerings. The Dell Technologies Partner Program announced last year, allows enterprises to seamlessly access partner products and solutions. Regardless of the partner, all solutions under the Dell portfolio count toward the tier status and tier revenue requirements for clients. Selling RSA allows them to streamline their product portfolio and by their own assertion, Dell has not lost focus on the significance of cybersecurity. They reinforced their commitment to build automated and intelligent security into infrastructure, platforms and devices. Claus Mortensen, Principal Analyst Ecosystm says, “Dell never really figured out what to do with RSA or how to position RSA’s products relative to Dell’s and VMWare’s own products. For example, Dell has its own endpoint protection product with SecureWorks and this has a great deal of overlap with RSA.”

RSA has been one of the pathbreakers in the cybersecurity market with their SecurID offering. They also host the largest security conference. RSA Conference gets together leading experts from across the industry to discuss the current trends and challenges, as well as shape the industry through innovations. Talking about the impact of the acquisition on RSA’s brand image, Mortensen says, “It depends on what STG intends to do with the company going forward. Arguably, RSA has been a bit in the shadows of previous owners – EMC and Dell – but if the new owners have a distinct plan for RSA, the brand will benefit”.

The members of the consortium acquiring RSA is interesting in its diversity. It includes the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board (Ontario Teachers’) and AlpInvest, another private equity firm. STG’s recent acquisitions include RedSeal, a security risk management provider. Mortensen predicts that the key player in this consortium will be STG, who will bring the know-how as well as money to the table. “Ontario Teachers’ and AlpInvest appear to primarily be financial backers. In fact, less involved these two partners are in the management of RSA, the easier it will be to secure a steady future focus for the company.”

As Ecosystm has observed previously, private equity firms will play a role in consolidating the cybersecurity market. “RSA is an almost textbook candidate for an equity firm or an investment bank takeover – a company with a good line of products but with a lack of strategic focus or leadership,” says Mortensen. “If STG can provide that focus – and from that USD 2 billion payment, one would assume that they can – they should have a good chance of increasing the value of RSA. If not, chances are that RSA’s products will be sold off piecemeal in the years to come.”


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