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CEO panel: Big Data, culture and customer focus key for organisational success

CEO panel: Leading high-performance organisations

Technology is key driver for digital transformation and businesses need to adapt to remain competitive in a changing environment.

Five business leaders joined moderator Tim Reed, Chairman of the Innovation Task Force at the Business Council of Australia for a strategic panel at CeBIT Australia 2017 to discuss what it takes for organisations to not only survive, but thrive well into the future. This blog post summarises some of the key themes that emerged.

Big data will be the driver behind most innovation

“Intel is only a 49-year old company, which is not that old in the scheme of things, but we are still having to reinvent ourselves from a PC-centric company to a company that powers the cloud,” Kate Burleigh, Managing Director at Intel ANZ summarised the key transition challenges many organisations are facing. “This is easy to say and a lot harder to do. We’re really excited by the opportunities big data is opening up though.”

A sentiment with which Geoff Culbert, President and CEO of GE ANZ Zealand and PNG agreed. “The marriage between software and hardware - and the data you can gain from that integration - is where the marriage happens,” he said, citing the Qantas announcement of direct flights from Perth to London as an example of these synergies at work. “Building planes that are able to fly this kind of distance are only possible because of big data. It helps us to build machines that are lighter and enables pilots to fly with more precision based on the load of the plane. It’s an exciting time and we will soon be able to take machines to places where nobody has been able to go before.”

Yet to leverage big data in a way that allows for this level of innovation, two things need to be established within an organisation: a focus on the customer and an open and collaborative culture.  

Focus on the customer

While technology is a great enabler for business transformation, managing the transition into this new era successfully will depend on understanding your customer’s needs and aligning that focus with your business goals.

“People always get excited by the latest platforms to the likes of Snapchat. And while I agree that these can be exciting and fun content creation tools, they can also be very distracting,” said Nicole Sheffield, Chief Digital Officer at News DNA (Newscorp Australia). “At the end of the day it all comes back to asking yourself what does your business do and why are customers coming to you to get it?” And Sheffield also has some useful advice for companies trying to sell to other large organisation: “We’re really over people telling us what they have. Listen to what problems we’re trying to solve.”

Suncorp Group’s CEO for Strategic Innovation, Pip Marlow also saw technology as a key enable to gather the customer feedback a lot more easily and clearly. This information could then be used to make much better customer-centric business decisions that are aligned with the organisational purpose. “Data and purpose empowers people to make the right decisions,” she said.

CEO panel

Build a business culture that allows for collaboration and transformation to happen

Marlow’s comment on the importance of empowering staff to make the right business decisions also touched on another key theme of the panel - the need to build a business culture that allows for collaboration and transformation to happen.

And to Culbert this means having some office presence where people can come to, talk to each other and openly collaborate. “I think as human beings it’s still vital to be and work together,” he said. “The challenging question is: how do we create an environment where you have flexibility, but still enough room for collaboration which doesn’t mean that everyone needs to come into the office every day.”

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