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twlive australia 2016

Australian businesses struggle to stay relevant in digital era, say global tech leaders

Companies that fail to integrate digital into every aspect of the business will not survive

The need for Australian business to put digital first, government taking a lesson from digital disruptors and how Target embraced mobile to create an interconnected customer experience, were tackled at Thoughtworks Live in Melbourne today.


More than 150 business leaders gathered at the global technology company’s invitation-only executive conference to hear from international leaders. The line up included the Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO) CEO Paul Shetler, Thoughtworks’ US founder and chairman Roy Singham, Target’s Peter Mitchley-Hughes and Thoughtworks' chief scientist and co-author of the agile manifesto Martin Fowler.


Forrester data reveals just 27 per cent of businesses globally have a coherent digital strategy addressing how the company will create customer value as a digital business.¹ 


Martin Fowler said digital transformation could not succeed without the technical capability to deliver.“Most organisations try to prevent failure, rather than invest in ability to recover rapidly. Organisations need to embrace a new way of thinking to thrive in the digital world,” Mr Fowler said.


The Federal Government’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO) CEO Paul Shetler said even the Australian government now needed to compete with the Ubers and Googles of the world. “The only way we can do that is by taking a user first approach, understanding how they want to interact with the government and not the other way around, by using agile approaches similar to the tech companies in Silicon Valley,” Mr Shetler said.


Drawing on his experience in establishing the UK's Government Digital Service, Mr Shetler set up the DTO as an incubator where technology companies, including Thoughtworks, develop user-centred digital services in partnership with government departments. In just 20 weeks, each public service transformation is designed to end with a market-ready product.


“By default, people don’t want to engage with government agencies. They just want to get stuff done. We want to make sure our service is simple enough so users succeed the first time around without any assistance. And if they can't achieve what they are trying to do first time, we won't go live,” Mr Shetler said.


Thoughtworks Asia Pacific managing director Ange Ferguson and Thoughtworks China managing director Hu Kai explored the Chinese opportunity for Australian companies and the pitfalls to avoid. “The Chinese market is so large that a segment considered too niche to bother within Australia could have considerable upside in China,” Ms Ferguson said. “From varying user behaviours to understanding the country’s internet regulations, making a product ready for the Chinese market goes beyond translating a website. China is a massive opportunity, if you can get it right.”


Thoughtworks Australia managing director Ryan Moffat said the day was a chance to learn from Thoughtworks’ customers and leading international speakers about how to embrace digital transformation. “Digital for us is business using technology to differentiate and delight their customers. We believe the most important tools today in making technology relevant are experience design and the lean enterprise,” Mr Moffat concluded. 


1. As cited in “6 Predictions About The Future Of Digital Transformation,” a December 2015 Forbes article