The pandemic taught us how to approach the next set of risks
By Angela Fox, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Dell Technologies Australia and New Zealand
Wednesday, 01 December, 2021
The past two years were a sharp lesson on why you need to think about the unthinkable. Previously, the notion that the world could screech to a standstill due to a pandemic wasn’t impossible but appeared more movie plot than reality. While, thankfully, we’ve been able to reclaim some of our lives, it’s important that we apply the lessons we’ve learnt to prepare us for the risks on the horizon.
Navigating risks requires digital transformation, especially when we live in the data era. Every technology that matters today creates, consumes, enriches, processes, or exploits data. This will accelerate with the adoption of edge-based computing, 5G networks and multi-cloud environments as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning, with IDC estimating that in just four years, the data ecosystem will reach 163ZB.
To realise the benefit and manage the risk of this, businesses and government must transform how they run their businesses, provide their services and interface with their customers. Before the pandemic, the last wave of our annual Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index survey clearly showed us that most (63 per cent) Australian and New Zealand organisations were still in the “getting around to it” phase of digital transformation.
This proved problematic once the pandemic arrived. Those already underway or leading were far better equipped to successfully respond to the changing landscape, provide services and continue operations.
Getting around to it now
The seemingly simple act of working from home was difficult from both a cultural and technology perspective and unfortunately this was especially true for government. But the silver lining is what we achieved. Many government departments, including the Australian Tax Office, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Defence embraced the technology available to them, that allowed them to seamlessly continue to offer services while operating remotely.
This shift meant that paradigms that had no justification could be swept aside, setting up new ways of working for many in the public sector. Governments and their agencies can not only embrace but influence this change in the wider Australian landscape. One relatively small example of the change that the government can drive is e-invoices. Since 2020, Commonwealth agencies were committed to paying e-invoices within five days and from July next year, e-invoices are mandatory for all agencies and will be encouraged from their suppliers, a strong motivator.
And of course, the Prime Minister’s Digital Transformation Taskforce seeks to ensure Australia is a leading digital economy by 2030.
The changing risk landscape
With so much at stake, businesses accomplished in months, what would normally have taken them years. Our research shows that 8 in 10 businesses fast-tracked at least some digital transformation programs during the pandemic. The mix of programs show that many are seeking to deal with the risks and challenges they face now but also put themselves in a better position to adapt and thrive in whatever is around the corner.
Obviously, that meant strengthening cybersecurity defences, improving working from home/remote working capabilities, and reinventing digital experience delivery for customers and employees. But it also meant using data in new ways or transforming services and consumption models.
Accelerated programs present an opportunity to both mitigate risk and create new opportunities. So as the post-pandemic world comes into sharper focus, now’s the time to consider digital transformation through the lens of how we deal with the new landscape and the risks within it.
Managing the compliance conundrum
The data proliferation brings with it a need for tight governances to manage privacy, record retention, competition, and consumer rights. It’s not just at a local level either. As technology erodes barriers to trade and engagement, legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), means any businesses with international operations touching the EU need to ensure compliance.
Not only is there more data that is subject to increased regulation, but there’s the complexity of IT environments with data housed on-premises and in public, private and hybrid clouds, all needing different levels of protection. Without a unified view of the data, this gives rise to a confusing mix of data management solutions that can lead to inefficiency, as well as increased costs and risks associated with data loss.
Supporting people, not just systems
The past 18 months have disrupted the workforce in ways as deep as the arrival of the computer or internet did. Many of us relished the flexibility of working remotely, but eventually, we started feeling the negative effects of days glued to a screen, jumping from virtual meeting to virtual meeting.
While it’s clear that hybrid work practices are here to stay, we need to continue to balance drawing the best from our people through collaboration and ideation, while preserving and nurturing their physical and mental well-being.
During the pandemic, it became clear that mental health support wasn’t just something nice to say in your recruitment drive, but a fundamental part of your duty of care as an employer. It’s important to note that this expectation of support from team members will continue, as the pandemic led many to re-examine what they expect from their employers.
Transformation needs people and machines
Which is a great segue into possibly the biggest risk facing employers in the private and public sector, the digital skills shortage. The latest ACS Digital Pulse Report prepared for the industry body by Deloitte estimates that 60,000 more IT workers will be needed per year over the next five years. On top of that, the cost of hiring software developers, security specialists and data experts has increased by 30 per cent over the last 12 months.
Emerging technology like artificial intelligence and machine learning means Australia requires an AI specialist workforce of between 32,000 and 161,000. IT executives now see the talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64 per cent of emerging technologies, compared with just 4 per cent in 2020, according to a new survey from Gartner.
To deal with this, together, across both the public and private sector we must work collectively to build the digital skills needed both today and into the future.
Building cyber resilience
And then there’s the changing threat landscape. The pending Critical Infrastructure Bill is part of a wider conversation about how we view and respond to cyber threats. Many CISOs are focusing their investments on their ability to respond and recover, rather than continuing to focus on identify, detect and protect.
For this to happen, organisations need to modernise and harden their recovery systems to ensure trusted recovery at speed. From there it’s about assessing critical data and systems to find where you need to invest and where you don’t.
Thirdly, we need to drive a program of continuous improvement that includes incident response and data management. Many organisations have significant investments in cyber security tools, but could still drive more value out of them, or divert their investment into cyber resilience capabilities.
Technology is at the core of everything we do in a data centric world, and it will power our ongoing prosperity and success in Australia. This will both create risk as well as provide us with improved ways of managing that risk. Consequently, accelerating our digital transformation has never been more important as we drive a culture of continuous improvement and readiness.
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