Stephen Jack, Managing Director and Vice President, Workday Australia and New Zd
As 2019 drew to a close, the sense that the ‘times were a-changing’ was palpable in the C-suites of so many forward-looking organisations – both government and business. The new lexicon of business survival was already using tag lines such as ‘organisational agility’; ‘digital transformation’; ‘developing the intelligent core of technology innovation’; underpinned by ‘revolutionising the internal cultural landscape’.
Then along came 2020. With it came COVID-19. The pandemic gave the term ‘disruption’ a new and darker dimension. What businesses are now experiencing is profound. They face immense added challenges. It’s been labelled the ‘new normal’. It is forcing a rethink about existing business models, about working structures, and about the way organisations should deliver products and services and to whom they are being delivered.
As Australia and New Zealand communities struggle to recover from the crisis, there is an inevitable major focus on several critical questions:
• How will leaders accelerate their future businesses?
• How do they determine what changes implemented during the crisis will remain?
• How do they re-engage with employees?
• What impact will the crisis have on decision making around existing business models?
• How do leaders remain authentic as they steer their organisation through the recovery stage?
I recently hosted a webinar entitled ‘Leadership, Innovation and Agility in a Changing World’ to discuss these questions and how businesses can prepare for the new normal. I was joined by David Thodey, deputy chair of Australia’s National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC),he was a convincing advocate for the belief that at times of disruption organisations that are bold, agile and take opportunities and ‘go for it’ are those that will be successful. He stressed the time is ripe to digitally enable core processes, deliver better outcomes for customers and employees, and to do so at a lower cost by accelerating technology deployment into a new generation of cloud-computing, platform-enabled technology.
David acknowledged upfront that it's hard to give great customer service and cut costs at the same time, but argued that is what organisations must do, and that technology is the way to do it. His philosophy, nurtured over his career, is that people come to work to make a difference. Organisation’s must be ‘really smart’ and provide an environment where they can do so.
David expanded on this idea by explaining that being driven by customers is about taking cost out of the business. This can be achieved by simplifying processes and innovating as well by using different technologies. The objective: to deliver an enhanced customer experience. David memorably said: “Great managers in great companies do that by pulling the various levers in harmony to give a unique outcome for their customers.”
During the discussion, we talked about how the pandemic may have exposed many companies’ reliance on business models and older technology that will no longer guarantee business continuity. I asked David for his opinion on how bold do businesses, as well as governments, need to be in realigning business models for the future?
David’s reply was enlightening. He acknowledged that not all organisations were able to immediately throw off their legacy systems. But he applauded the inspiration offered by some of the bold thinking being displayed by other companies. He highlighted cloud computing, platform enabled businesses and embracing SaaS (Software as a Service) is the way forward. He added a cautionary note that no board or executive team could afford to sit back and not accelerate their deployment of new technology.
There is no doubt that businesses have to adapt fast in a changing world. Companies must equip themselves with the tools they need to be agile when their operations are being disrupted and COVID-19 has highlighted this.
Employees need to be armed with insights and the right technologies to be able to make strategic and informed decisions on how to mitigate risks and losses for the business, and plan for the quarters and years ahead.
Workday, one of the world’s leading cloud-based technology solutions providers, is the only single system where real time transactions and data are run on a unified platform, giving organisations the insights and agility to forecast and adapt to change. Many businesses such as Salvation Army, Challenger Group, Deakin University, Flinders University, Western Sydney Airport and Transurban have all relied on Workday to help guide them through the COVID-19 pandemic with Workday’s data analytics tool assisting with scenario planning and decision making.
We concluded the interview with me asking David his advice for leaders charged with delivering the best chance to emerge out of this crisis. As anticipated, his advice was insightful and reflected his strong leadership style:
• Be bold and be resilient
• Be innovative in looking for different ways to operate
• Embrace the new cloud-based world of technology
• Don’t look for instant perfection
• Take a team with you
• Be resolute, honest, and realistic because there will be naysayers
• Understand it is OK to change along the way if a pivot or modification is needed.
• And importantly – be yourself!
If you’d like to listen to the webinar, click on the link:
https://vimeo.com/427309917, password WD-ThodeyJune20