Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Understanding customers is key to driving a successful business strategy in the age of digital disruption, according to ANZ’s group executive of digital banking, Maile Carnegie.
Speaking at this week's Australian-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) event in Sydney, Carnegie said successful companies are the ones that have “an obsessive focus on delivering for the customer”. She explained the move to roll out ANZ’s Apple Pay was in direct response to customer demands.
“It was a big decision for a couple of reasons. Obviously, it was a signal to our customers that we were listening to them because they wanted it," she told attendees. "We could have sat there and said, ‘but we’ve got a digital wallet', which we do, but they were asking specifically for Apple Pay. They were asking specifically for Android Pay and if that’s what they want, then we need to figure out the most pragmatic way of getting that to them.”
Carnegie said the rollout signalled more than just a strategic advantage with customers. “Almost as big a strategic advantage is the signal that it sends to other potential partners that we are looking to do the right thing for our customers and we will partner, within reason, with anybody that can deliver on that mission.”
Carnegie was joined on the panel by Optus chairman and CEO, Paul O’Sullivan, along with Australia Post executive general manager, Andrew Walduck, who spoke on ‘Smart Disruption in the Digital Age’ and offered perspectives on innovation.
Panellists discussed how Australian organisations are facing unprecedented disruption and transformation. Carnegie said while innovation is so important to Australia’s future, and needs to be explored, the conversation needs to be considered from many different angles.
“We use all sorts of words like disruption and innovation, which don’t actually mean anything to everyday people, particularly everyday people in parts of the economy which are incredibly challenged,"Carnegie said. "At the moment, the issue we are facing is that many everyday Australians are hearing disruption and innovation, and what they are hearing is job loss. So for me, this is a critical conversation because as leaders of the economy, we all need to figure out how we can have this conversation in a way where our community embraces it."
Carnegie claimed Australia is vulnerable given there’s a dearth of innovation at the top end of town. “We are most vulnerable in terms of our large companies not innovating enough, and we don’t have a rich enough pool of start-ups to be able to offset what happens when the large companies [don't deliver]."
“If you look at the Australian economy, Australia is incredibly good at knowledge creation, but we are very weak at knowledge transfer and knowledge application,” she said.
Carnegie also urged the not-for-profit sector to get involved in order to help drive innovation and address disruption.
“It has be very pervasive. It can’t just be big business. It can’t just be government or education. We also need the not-for-profit sector to embrace this. For me, it comes down to competitiveness, it comes down to jobs. We are getting increasingly trade-exposed, so we are going to have to figure out how we make, particularly our large companies and our start ups, really thrive.”
“If we don’t get some of these elements dancing and really making the transition, then as an economy we are in a tricky place.”
O’Sullivan agreed disruption and innovation are essential elements to the Australian economy, and businesses need to address the seismic changes and collaborate and partner with other key stakeholders.
“The world has changed. The development of very fast chips, the computing capability, the advanced speed of networks, which companies like Optus provide, the growth of social media, the rapid exchange of information and globalisation means that the pace of change is so fast," he said. "Information flows so freely, that large companies cannot innovate and keep up with the pace as fast as the world is changing. So if you want to be successful today, even in a large company, you actually need to turn your company inside out - and actually start looking outside.”
Referring to an MIT study, The Atlas of Economic Complexity, O’Sullivan said economies that grow the fastest - and the cities that are most successful - are the ones that have the densest links between companies, both large and small, and between business and academia.
O’Sullivan also offered up a key lesson on managing disruption. “If you want to know what’s happening in the tech world and how it’s impacting you, the best way to predict what’s happening is follow the money. Follow the money to understand what your customers’ needs are and where people are moving to develop things,” he said.
“It is understanding your customer to drive your strategy. We do a lot with co-creation with customers.”
Meanwhile, Australia Post is already on its journey of transformation, according to Walduck, who said change was inevitable and essential in order to survive in the age of disruption.
“The world now is one where the rate of change has dramatically increased because it has been enabled by technology. And for those organisations that are exploiting this capability that now exists, plus changing their cultures changing inside of their companies, they can move fundamentally faster," he said.
“For our organisation, we had no other choice but to change." Walduck said the business had reduced by 50 per cent in the last eight years. “Fifty per cent of the volume of the business, that it took 200 years to build, has now gone. And it has gone in eight years. What that does to the mainstream part of the organisation is it reinforces the fact that we need to change.”
Data and control
Agreeing data is essential to any organisation, panellists also shared their views about open access to data, as well as ownership and remediation.Walduck said the data discussion is not only timely, but vital to enter into considering the privacy ramifications and security challenges.
“The whole discussion about data comes from this notion that I as a consumer don’t feel that I have control over it, and someone else is going to take it and then do something, and I don’t have any say, and as a result I am going to be disadvantaged,” he said.
“For our organisation, we made a deliberate decision and what we’re doing about evolving some of our products now, where we will not use data in a way that an individual or one of our customers does not consent to be able to provide it.
“An example of that comes with a product we’ve built called Digital Identity, which helps you prove you are exactly who you say you are. You then have an ability to be able to use that in hundreds of different interactions, millions of different interactions, that occur in the economy every single year where the individual needs to prove and reprove that they are who they say they are. Right now, that whole system is entirely problematic.”
Carnegie expected there won’t be one single identifier when it comes to protecting digital assets from unauthorised use and access.
“My gut is that, similar to blockchain, there isn’t going to be one single thing. There will be multiple applications," she said. "Unless you get to a government mandated solution, which is potentially what’s going on in India and other places where you will have an identifier, I think there will be multiple things. Biometrics is going to be a huge enabler, and I think there’s some really interesting technology on voice. . . The combination of a move towards natural language interface, and the fact your voice can be a really powerful ID - I think that’s an interesting combination.”