Visionary leadership

David Thodey, CEO at Telstra, believes the big challenge for Australian businesses this year will be how to best use the digital opportunities that have opened up. M-commerce, big data, robotics, social media – every part of our economy can benefit from this new era of connectivity, but Thodey says the key will be in making the most of these opportunities: 

We now have a new generation of globally connected consumers and businesses who behave very differently – and we must adapt to these changes and take advantage of the new opportunities.

By the end of the decade we will have connected just about every device to next generation networks, from smartphones and offices of the future, to educational resources and digital home appliances. 

CEO at Deloitte Australia Giam Swiegers agrees with this sentiment, saying that the choices that are being made now are crucial in determining whether Australia takes a position of leadership at the forefront of this digital change, or falls behind. 

However, he also highlights that in order to succeed in the global economy, Australia needs to place importance on developing and understanding how to deliver existing products and services, in a way that is truly new and different, echoing issues raised earlier this year through the development of Australia’s Silicon Beach

[The] country’s prosperity will depend on visionary leadership, enabling Australian entrepreneurial spirit, becoming more agile in decision-making and investing in the talent required to support the digital economy. 

Five points of focus

According to Swiegers and Thodey, for Australia to take on a leadership position our corporations must accept accountability and “direct their resources accordingly”. In line with this, Deloitte believes that corporations will need to focus on five things if they want to succeed in the digital economy.

These are:

Investing in new capabilities over old business models. Which ultimately means investing heavily in digital, utilising multi-channel sales and services and taking risks instead of waiting for everyone else to do so first.

Treasuring customer relationships. Customer relationships are the lifeblood of every organisation, but the report points out that this is often forgotten in the race to raise profits, with incumbents adding extra fees instead of focusing on improving their customer base.

Becoming fast and agile. The digital world is incredibly fast paced and Deloitte emphasises the need to make tough, quick decisions in the face of increasing threat from digital competition.

Knowing who the true competitors are. Knowing your competition is vital because those cheaper alternatives and products that may not have been so much of a threat in the past are now easily accessible to all consumers in the digital world. No longer will you be safeguarded by location or exchange rate or store size.

Investing in talent. Good people do good work and businesses need talented and skilled staff to stay on top. This means ensuring the right people are hired, creating a company culture that is conducive to happy staff and making sure people are properly appreciated and recognised. 

The future

The digital world is still a scary place for some organisations, but 2013 needs to be the year this changes.

As Swiegers and Thodley aptly point out, if corporations heed the opportunities that digital presents, rather than fear the change it could cause, then Australia is in for a very prosperous future. 

Australian organisations who continue to make the most of their current business model, but also invest in new capabilities and future business models will thrive as our economy becomes ever more digital.

Those winners are not afraid to invest ahead of consensus, and may well be rewarded with surprise successes whilst their more cautious peers may be left behind struggling with a high, inflexible cost base that is no longer supported by a leaner, faster economy.

Customers will reward those who invest in line with their needs and expectations and punish those who believe it’s enough to rest on past laurels.

Sure, sometimes timing can be off, new products fail or take longer to take foot. But as long as these failures can be digested by an organisation’s leadership and customer base, they do not become material setbacks.

[Image credit: Johan Larsson]