A view from down under: what IT innovation and agility mean to IT pros in Australia

Posted in: Business Insights

The impact of today’s disruptive technologies on how we do business led Pythian to introduce Velocity of Innovation, a series of panel discussions for senior IT professionals. These are Pythian’s exclusive thought-leadership events where a moderator-led panel engages in lively conversations around today’s emerging technologies.

We recently took our Velocity of Innovation event series to Sydney, Australia to find out what’s on the minds of CIOs and other IT leaders in that region. Our moderator for this event was Tom McCann, senior customer experience analyst with Forrester. You may be thinking: Why would a customer experience analyst be moderating a CIO panel? But here’s why we chose to put a customer experience expert at the centre of this discussion. With the commoditization of products and services, delivering a quality customer experience is one of the few ways that companies now have of truly differentiating themselves from their competitors. From attracting prospects, to acquiring customers, to onboarding and ongoing support, companies need to have the right tools and processes in place to ensure products or services perform as promised, and that every interaction customers have with them is satisfying. They also need to be able to use data to respond to customer needs and market trends. IT plays a critical role in of all of these areas.

The panel consisted of IT leaders with a range of backgrounds and experiences:

  • Francisco Alvarez, vice president, APAC at Pythian
  • Chris Mendes, executive consultant big data and analytics from Industrie IT
  • Tim Sheedy, principal analyst with Forrester Research

As we do to start off many of these events, we began the Sydney discussion by asking this question: Innovation and agility are very common buzzwords that seem to describe what everyone wants. What have you explicitly done to get better at innovating or to make your organization or your customer’s more agile? How has this push for agility impacted your enterprise architecture?

Here’s an excerpt from the discussion that followed.

Chris: I actually don’t think there’s enough innovation in Australia, in particular. There’s a lot of talk about it, people are actually doing a lot of experiments and there are some companies who’ve set up business purely giving them the tool sets to use their data to innovate. You’ve got a few things that seem to be working against that at the moment and I think one of the things working against it is that it doesn’t stand on its own.

It doesn’t matter what the technology is, and in fact what ends up happening is it all comes down to the “Why?” Because you really need to have the technologists interacting with business people so that when they come up with an idea they get immediate feedback. I’ve found that a lot of businesses don’t have time for innovation. They run pretty lean, they are very focused on day-to-day operations and don’t have time to come up with new ideas or to use their data to actually innovate. There are a lot of roadblocks there. I don’t see it as a technology problem, I actually see one of the roadblocks as a management issue. The other one is sort of the culture of no failure, and I think we’ve got a big issue with that in Australia.

Tim: As you are saying, I’ve presented a lot on innovation and Forrester actually has a really good innovation model. We spoke to about 130 companies around the globe who did bits of innovation well and we took all those bits and made them into an end-to-end process that can be used by our clients. We learned a lot from putting this together. We spoke to Telstra in Australia and did the piece on deciding what to innovate with, and where to invest. Other companies told us about how they come up with ideas. I speak to a lot of clients who told us that they had an innovation program in place where they gathered ideas from staff. But now those employees don’t trust their companies anymore because they never got back to them on how they would implement their ideas.

Chris: I think the other thing is I think there’s also a very big misunderstanding at board levels about innovation because boards are there to actually stop you changing your business. The fundamental tenant is: “We’ve got a great business model here, it’s running well, we’ve got to make sure that any change to it doesn’t damage that.” There’s a natural caution at board levels and it’s totally understandable.

Audience: One of the issues I guess that you just raised is that the boards are risk adverse, however if their business is failing, then there is obviously a need for them to do something about it.

Tim: But that’s a bad time to be innovating, right? When everything is going wrong, “We should try to do things differently.” The market’s probably left you behind by that point.

Francisco: The main problem that most of you have hit upon is that innovations equal risk. But take a step back and look at the companies that are really doing well in the market. They’re doing really well because of one factor that differentiates them: they were not afraid to try to innovate. And because of that innovation they are getting their share of the market and gaining ground. Just look at the financial market. CBA was considered crazy a few years ago for all the investment they were doing in technology, social media, apps and so on. They got ahead. And now everybody is trying to do the same.The problem is they need to have a balance. Even with choosing vendors, companies will avoid risk. The will keep going with IBM because they don’t want to take a risk. Or they keep Oracle and let Oracle do everything for them because there might be a risk with moving to another vendor. If they already own a technology, it doesn’t matter if they are not getting good service. They think that for risk capacity, there is insurance. Sometimes you’re not saving money or not improving, but you don’t want to innovate simply because you don’t want to increase the risk to the business.

Tim: Innovation is risk management, this is it. The discussion went further on this topic, and explored areas like the future of IT, security and more.

Interested in being a part of a discussion like this one? Velocity of Innovation is a series of thought-leadership events for senior IT management hosted by Pythian. Pythian invites leading IT innovators to participate in discussions about today’s disruptive technologies: big data, cloud, advanced analytics, DevOps, and more. These events are by invitation only.

If you are interested in attending an upcoming Velocity of Innovation event in a city near you, please contact events@pythian.com. To view our schedule of upcoming events visit out Velocity of Innovation page.

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About the Author

Lynda Partner is a self-professed data addict and experiences the power of data every day as Pythian’s Vice President of Analytics-as-a-Service. The author of Pythian’s Love Your Data mantra, Lynda understands very well how data can transform companies into competitive winners and she was the driving force in adding an analytics practice to Pythian’s database focus. Lynda works with companies around the world and across industries to turn data into insights, predictions and products, and is the co-author of Designing Data Lakes in the Cloud.

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