As a technology analyst I have followed HCL for many years – and their capabilities have changed over that time – particularly in Australia and New Zealand. When they entered the ANZ market they were somewhat unique – an Indian IT Service provider with views and opinions. One who was not just good at meeting RFP requirements and delivering technology projects, but also individuals who were empowered to challenge the status quo in their clients – to challenge clients to be better. But as several large managed services providers lost their way in ANZ, HCL stepped in and – for a number of years – became all about outsourcing and managed services. They grew their business significantly, but what seemed to be lost was that factor that set them apart. In focusing on good delivery they seemed to lose their differentiator.
However, I recently spent a few days with HCL and their clients in Adelaide and I can report that they are back. They are winning digital transformation deals. They are driving a technology industry agenda and are becoming an important force in the education and evolution of the high tech sector in Australia and New Zealand. Adelaide was chosen for the event as HCL wanted to showcase how they are making real investments in the local market, and how they are helping South Australia to transform itself and create new job opportunities both in Adelaide and in the regions. Their managed services contract with Elders is a great starting point for them – and in meeting and interviewing the Elders stakeholders, it is clear that it is a partnership – HCL has collocated to ensure that the HCL staff are side-by-side with the Elders teams – and they are doing a good job in driving innovation into the Elders business.
The Cricket Australia digital transformation contract is a big deal, and is really a great indicator of their capabilities. HCL won the contract from Accenture – showing that they can compete against and beat the best (Accenture is the biggest IT services provider in Australia today – and for good reason). Building off their success with Manchester United, HCL has won another important digital transformation deal with a global sporting brand. Personally, as a fan of the Australian women’s and men’s cricket team, I look forward to engaging with the fruits of their endeavours soon!
The main take away from the time spent with HCL is that they are growing their business here in Australia and across the entire Asia Pacific region – and that the growth is coming from many areas – not just traditional outsourcing contracts but also across the spectrum of digital transformation. Importantly they are also taking responsibility for that growth – bringing the market along with them as they look to help educate and employ the next generation of technology professionals.
HCL also seem to have mastered the ability to both respond to the standardised processes of the sourcing deal advisors as well as stand out as an individual company. While deal advisors play an important role, I often hear clients say that they can sometimes take the personality out of a deal. They bring comparisons between vendors to standard and measurable metrics – but you sign a deal with a person, you negotiate with a person, and it is people who deliver the solution. Winning deals is not just about proving the ability to deliver, but also convincing the client that they want or need to partner with the IT services business. Based on client feedback, HCL is mastering both sides of this process, and are earning the right to be considered in a broader range of deals.
If you are dealing with HCL, it may also warrant looking beyond the traditional measurable metrics. Speak to their leadership team both locally and globally, especially given their emphasis to bring in local leadership in their key markets . Get a feel for the culture of the company and whether or not it matches your culture or even sometimes challenges your business to be better. Services deals are ultimately about people, so spend time with the people – challenge them to come to the party. Put them under stress and see how they respond, as it is typically the hard times that define the longer term success of a partnership.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is another technology driving DX. AI is creating opportunities in areas such as intelligent systems, speech recognition, machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA). AI tools and applications require a lot of data to train the algorithms which is leading to the creation of more data collection points by the organisations. The creation and consumption of piles of data, often called ‘Big Data’, is leading businesses to generate better insights, better decisions and support organisational strategy derived by combining this data with AI.
Another area making its way into digital transformation is the adoption of mobile technology, allowing us to be geographically independent. The most common application of mobility is smart phones which has transformed us in many ways. Mobility has brought new applications and services for businesses, driving a whole range of initiatives – often referred to as Workplace Innovation – to improve employee productivity and engagement. Organisations have had to adopt several Mobility solutions, such as Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile App Management (MAM) and Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) – and the trend is to have these solutions consolidated under one Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution. The overriding need is offering flexibility and connectivity to the business world for remote workers.
At the enterprise level, corporate data and corporate applications have also become untethered from the physical world. Large scale corporate wide applications (Enterprise Applications/Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)), services and even infrastructure services are now delivered on the Internet. And the digital world is meeting the physical world – drones are being used for remote applications and autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality. Even governments of several nations are delivering their services digitally and providing access of the government data to businesses to help them develop new information-based services.
These changes are revolutionising businesses and the way we work. Innovative technologies mean fresh opportunities, better business capabilities, lower costs, reduced time and improved customer experience, creating a win-win situation. But sustaining business integrity, data safety and protection of cyber assets is of prime importance and that is where Cybersecurity comes in play.
The global Ecosystm Cybersecurity study finds that DX is the key driver for investments in Cybersecurity solutions.
Cybersecurity encompasses a range of technologies designed to protect endpoints and networks from unwelcome intrusions and to ensure continued reliability. Cyber-attacks have become a major issue and not taking care of security can have large and long-lasting repercussions. A Cybersecurity strategy is becoming a necessity for digital business to protect the infrastructure and data assets.
In these early years of the 21st century we have witnessed a lot of innovations that have transformed how we work and do business. While DX allows process automation, improves accuracy and enhanced applications, there are those that are still sceptical and are concerned about the potential negative disruption to the traditional ways of doing things. The benefits that we are deriving from DX – and those that we will continue to derive – will outweigh the scepticism and positively impact businesses and society, on multiple levels. DX is sweeping the world and the future is here, now.
The Government will primarily focus on four significant sectors for its Industry Transformation Plans: food and beverage, agritech, forestry and wood processing, and digital technologies. For this, the government will work with businesses, workforce, and Māori to determine the best path towards to achieve their goals.
Agritech Industry Transformation Plan
New Zealand’s agritech sector spans across a range of technologies including genetics, information and communications technology, machinery and equipment, including robotics. The government is working with industry body ‘Agritech NZ’ and other relevant entities to draft a strategy and action plan for agritech transformation in New Zealand. The objective is to support production, drive innovation and increase exports for New Zealand’s industry.
Commenting on the NZ’s digital transformation Ecosystm Principal Advisor, New Zealand-based Jannat Maqbool, said “the agriculture sector needs to focus on innovation in order to compete and thrive as global trends and consumer demand presents challenges in feeding the growing global population. Investment in programmes driving investment in technologies and related initiatives to boost innovation and productivity in the sector will support the growing Agritech sector including work to scale Agritech businesses internationally.”
Digital technology opportunities
To support the ongoing development of New Zealand’s technology and industrial sector, the NZ government is taking several actions. The government has plans for more coordinated action between industry and the Government. Including:
Continuing work with the IoT Alliance and the AI Forum to drive applications of digital technologies;
Implementing Industry 4.0 programmes to increase uptake technologies and processes across manufacturing sectors, improving productivity and competitiveness;
Coordinating, developing and rolling out a National Digital Infrastructure Model to generate value from data for all aspects of the economy–e.g. infrastructure management and development;
Supporting New Zealand digital technology firms by providing a level playing field for New Zealand firms to compete for government business;
Working through the Digital Skills Forum to ensure the digital technology sector, and the industries that rely on digital technology workers, can access the tech talent needed to support the growth of these sectors and the economy.
With Government setting itself for the fourth industrial revolution, there will be certain challenges and opportunities in the implementation, “the opportunity is for increased productivity and to focus more on value add to compete internationally whereas a key challenge will be finding the skilled employees that will be required as industry 4.0 is adopted” said Maqbool.
Journey of NZ industries for digital transformation
SMEs make up over 97 percent of enterprises in New Zealand and digital transformation presents an opportunity for accelerated growth and competitiveness, potentially contributing US$7 billion to New Zealand’s GDP. “Digital transformation requires awareness, adoption and effective change management but before all of this there needs to be a shift in mindset of those in charge or a changing of the guard so to speak to understand and appreciate that the move is necessary, not only for the business itself but for bridging the digital skills gap and supporting a region’s productivity and economic growth ” said Maqbool.
The Government has also created plans for tourism, creative industries, aerospace, renewable energy and health technologies for the digital push. These advances will facilitate the development of new industries in New Zealand.
“It essential that efforts through government initiatives align with other approaches already driving the move to digital in order to ensure available resources are effectively utilised and for ongoing sustainability,” says Maqbool.
Keystone Objective. National development goals/SDGs tend to be broad in their scope, and there is a danger of efforts becoming too diffuse when incorporated as part of a national digital strategy. There may, therefore, be a need to sharpen the focus further. One approach might be to identify a keystone objective which can potentially have cascading impacts across the economy and use it for providing strategic focus. Such a keystone would help reduce/eliminate redundancies and wasteful investments. In the corporate sector, Paul O’Neill’s singular focus on “zero worker injuries” while leading Alcoa is an enduring example of success.
A digital strategy that follows the various causal links to achieve the keystone goal of ‘Good Jobs for All’ as an example would end up touching upon every important aspect of the digital economy. It would be an interesting parallel to William Blake’s poem of seeing the “world in a grain of sand”.
Problem Statements. A great way of achieving focus is to identify problem statements and use them to solicit innovative solutions. Some leaders in digital government, e.g., Israel’s Ministry of Health, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the EU (among others) have been pursuing such an approach with a fair degree of success.
Guiding Values, Principles and Frameworks
National digital strategies would benefit from the adoption of values, principles, and frameworks that could provide broad guidance to multiple players undertaking their digitalisation initiatives. Having a directional compass would offer strategic alignment and cohesion – while allowing for innovation and creativity on the part of individual actors.
Example of Values. Values are the touchstone to decide what should be prioritised and to what purpose. Openness, positive impact, empathy, and compassion are excellent values adopted by many successful organisations.
Example of Guiding Principles. The UK has recently come up with the Gemini Principles for a National Digital Twins strategy:
Gemini Principles for a National Digital Twins strategy
1. From the digitisation of existing processes to digital by design
2. From an information-centred government to a data-driven public sector
3. From closed data and processes to open by default
4. From a government-led to a user-driven administration
5. From government as a service provider to government as a platform
6. From reactive to proactive policy making and service delivery
Existing organisational structures of government are primarily designed for an analog world and need to change to become more relevant in the digital era. A good starting point for an organisational redesign is the area of digital regulation which often adopts a narrow sectoral approach that is likely to be sub-optimal. Also, the rapid pace of technological change typically results in laws and rules lagging technology.
Digital regulation needs to be designed from the ground up to be cross-sectoral, cross-border, cross-platform, public-private, and technologically oriented. Given that digital technologies are general purpose technologies, their regulation should be cross-sectoral as a horizontal, rather than as a vertical. Given that data flows are often agnostic to national boundaries, and the most valuable tech companies (e.g., social media companies) are outside most national borders, it is essential to bring a cross-border perspective to regulation. Similarly, the oversight of Over the Top content (OTTs), for example, requires cross-platform approaches.
If regulatory actions have to keep pace with technology, it will be necessary for regulators to work upstream with innovators and startups through strong public-private partnerships.
Some countries starting with the UK have established regulatory sandboxesto work closely with the private sector. Regulators will also have to leverage technology better in the future to retain their relevance. A case in point is tackling online harms. It may be impossible to prevent the spread of harmful content on social media, without the use of automated safety technologies.
A sound digital strategy should have a correct sequencing of actions for promoting the digital economy. Foundational elements, e.g., broadband networks, ease of data access, cybersecurity, digital skills, agile regulation, and entrepreneurship deserve precedence over other aspects.
Finally, to paraphrase Boon Siong Neo and Geraldine Chen in their book ‘Dynamic Governance,’ in developing a national digital strategy it is crucial to think ahead, think across, think big, and think again.
Some of the key benefits we can expect from the digital exchange are:
Co-innovation between startups looking for partners and established vendors looking for external ideas for product improvement
Collaboration to solve like-minded industry challenges
Creation of open and interoperable tools to speed up new products and services offerings
Ability to leverage a large and diverse set of partners who can help each other discover new markets and services within their own industry and beyond
Digital exchanges can be wild and confusing, and they may seem disorganised to the newcomer. Think of the first impression you have when you walk into a large open-air market selling antiques. Initially everything seems to be piled into stalls with no logical reason. However, to the experienced shopper and stall owner, there is an organised manner to it that makes sense. And there are many wonderful things waiting to be revealed.
At this year’s Hannover Messe an original example of a digital exchange was rolled out by Schneider Electric called Schneider Electric Exchange — their digital ecosystem and business platform. Schneider Electric Exchange also has a structure to it that is geared up to help specific roles or personas and make it easier for anyone to find the right partner for solving specific business challenges. It is also set up to step someone through the life-cycle process of creating a solution by connecting them to the right tools with the right partners for the right markets. Business value can be created within the Exchange but is equally powerful outside when delivered to the end user. For example, building management designers can use Schneider Electric Exchange to find partners who are also experts of emerging technologies such as digital twins, 3D-Print, AR, and analytics.
We believe that digital exchanges will create immediate economic benefits by reducing friction and inefficiencies in the overall customer supply chain. Participants will be able to innovate faster and deliver quicker — even as customers’ experiences and expectations rise, evolve, and change at the lightning pace of the digital economy. Over time we expect that vendors’ Net Promoter Score (NPS) to rise as a result of improved business processes from these exchanges.
In conclusion, IoT will be the pebble that creates the ripple in the DX pond. Data will be created from every sensor that will be used to create competitive differences at every stage of a company’s value chain. Businesses that do not embrace the use of the data and innovate themselves as well as their products do run the risk of being very quickly disrupted. Companies also do not have the financial and technical resources to do all of this by themselves – hence, the opportunity to be part of a digital exchange is the way to be agile, cost-effective, and competitive. Every time, businesses that waited while a new ‘industrial revolution’ was taking place, lost out. Today, who will dare to disrupt instead of being disrupted? We are at the tipping point of digital transformation and there is no time left to sit on the sidelines – businesses need to jump in to a dynamic digital ecosystem and partner with each other through their industry’s digital exchange!