Digital Business

How business leaders can use ‘data democratisation’ to build success

CONNECTING data is one of the biggest barriers to business innovation right now, according to InterSystems regional director, Andrew Aho.

Mr Aho has special insights into the value of what he calls ‘data democratisation’ having seen it in action through InterSystems experience in the field. InterSystems is a creative data technology provider dedicated to helping customers solve the most critical scalability, interoperability, and speed problems.

InterSystems has found that while the finance industry is now using data management technologies to break down siloes, improve data quality, and deliver more meaningful insights across their organisations, there is also a need to democratise this data. This is achieved by making it much easier to share knowledge and letting users interpret and capitalise on insights regardless of their technical skillset. 

“The secret to creating an efficient organisation that delivers relevant insights to its teams and great service to its clients is all in the data,” Mr Aho said. “Employing a data management platform that supports the democratisation of data is critical for businesses looking to keep their staff well informed across all departments.”
The implementation of advanced architecture, such as smart data fabrics, makes enterprise data available across many roles in an organisation, whether the user is technical or non-technical. This ensures that team members can produce relevant, trusted insights and ultimately make better business decisions.

Data democratisation brings about several key benefits for future-focused organisations including:

Addressing the customer data management challenge

Recent research showed that, while 95 percent of CEOs surveyed across Australia believed their organisations’ long-term success and durability would rest upon better use of customer and client data, just seven percent believed their customer data was sufficiently comprehensive to enable this.(1)  
Data management continues to be a key concern for organisations globally who are looking to create a 360-degree view of their customers’ habits and needs. Democratising this information through the implementation of the right technology will immediately begin to address these concerns internally and provide business leaders with a more solid understanding of their customer data.

Unlocking legacy siloes

Data siloes remain an issue across industries for many reasons. An organisation that wants to evolve from existing legacy systems can risk leaving data behind, or team members may house documents in private servers or in emails instead of public spaces, creating impenetrable siloes. Incorporating data management technology based on a cloud platform means data can be updated in real time and accessible at a moment’s notice, ensuring that all members of the team, regardless of their technical abilities, can access critical organisational information.

Driving innovation

Democratised data empowers team members to use the most relevant information in their day-to-day activities, inspiring ideas to innovate and unlock new organisational capabilities. This helps business leaders more effectively keep pace with market changes, as well as identify and capitalise on untapped opportunities for the business.  

In a market where financial service organisations are searching for a competitive edge, being able to access all elements of customer data through management architectures like smart data fabrics can be seen as a silver bullet to success.

“Smart data fabrics can amylase, transform and harmonise data from multiple sources on demand to make it usable and actionable,” Mr Aho said. “These systems work to keep organisations compliant, as well as improve efficiency by allowing data to be accessed freely by internal parties, while maintaining data security and integrity across the organisation.

“As technology continues to develop, it will be critical for organisations to evolve and embrace these changes to better establish a digital foothold in the future of the financial industry”.



How blockchain benefits boardrooms – for real

By Leon Gettler, Talking Business >>

HOW DOES one improve governance at Australian companies? Ben Nowlan, the co-founder and CEO Shaparency, an online ecosystem that automates and digitises the process of board meetings and shareholder management, believes it can all be automated and done with blockchain.

“We take everything from a board meeting … the minutes, voting resolution, right through to shareholder management, communications and reports and we’ve digitised that into our platform,” Mr Nowlan told Talking Business.

“The key part for Shaparency, where the paying points are and why this is such a growing market, is that less than 15 percent of boards globally use any kind of board technology. So we focus on them becoming digital first and governance will be the outcome.”

Mr Nowlan said blockchain becomes another layer of security by making certain elements of the proceedings tamper proof and immutable.

 “Document signature, digital notices, voting and proxy voting, that’s where the blockchain really comes into play,” he said.

“Blockchain provides an extra ledger beyond the data base. The data will be transcribed into the ledger … if documents were edited, it would record the versions of those documents. If a signature was done by someone else, we would know in the platform because we have the ID of who that person is. And we also make it easier to vote and proxy vote.” 

Mr Nowlan said boards were still fundamentally paper-based. Part of this also reflects the make-up of Australia’s directors.

“The average age of a board member in Australia is a 61 year old white male,” he said.

“Less than 50 percent of board members in Australia have any idea of the technology disruption in their own space. These are the sorts of people that are coming to board meetings and printing off reams of paper, reluctant to change.”

Mr Nowlan said technology existed to allow board meetings to be more digitally enhanced and COVID had “put a rocket fuel” under the system.

“Australia is actually one of the first countries in the world, when COVID hit, they quickly updated the Corporations Act to include digital notices and meetings could be run virtually. That’s a world first,” Mr Nowlan said.

He said a company’s messaging tools enhanced communications of board proceedings with shareholders.

Mr Nowlan said one of the big challenges for boards in adopting any kind of technology was the generational fear of technology and an inherent comfort with printing paper.

“Blockchain technology can take all of that away once there is a real understanding of how it will work when it comes to board technology,” he said.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us when it comes to educating people to use technology in the boardrooms and, when it comes to blockchain, there is an extra layer complexity.”

Mr Nowlan said he built and funded Shaparency during the lockdown in 2020.  He had been in France during that time and had seen the impact there.

Mr Nowlan had, at the time, stepped down from running a small retail tech company and he decided to build Shaparency as he suspected these digital platform would be needed when so much of Australia was in lockdown.

He and his team raised capital and he had a small team operating to create it.

“We hadn’t seen each other in four months,” Mr Nowlan said.

They built partnerships and signed up customers in seven different countries.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Could e-invoicing save small businesses up to $40k a year each?

ENTERPRISE application company SAP SE is reporting significant financial gains among its small business clients who have switched to e-invoicing.

Most Australian small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) could save tens of thousands of dollars a year by transitioning to e-invoicing, according to SAP’s new report – The connected SMB: Embracing digital strategies to fuel growth.

The research found Australian SMBs processed an average of 168 invoices each month. With a Deloitte study estimating that e-invoicing could deliver savings of up to $20 per invoice, Australia’s SMBs could save up to $40,320 a year.

SAP’s Australia and New Zealand SMB segment leader, Sofiane Ainine said the benefits were clear, with 75 percent of those who have transitioned saying the biggest impact had been time and money saved. 

“Running an SMB comes with its challenges but switching to digital processes has been key to the survival of many businesses during the pandemic,” Mr Ainine said. “It frees up time and money to focus on other priorities like developing new products and finding new customers.

“Now is the time for SMBs to review their adoption of technology. This will help them through the current crisis and set them up for future growth.”

More than half of the survey respondents said e-invoicing had also improved the accuracy of record keeping (56 percent) and was more secure (53 percent). 

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Bruce Billson said, “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of technology adoption in helping small businesses innovate – increasing efficiency and productivity, attracting new customers in different markets, improving customer and employee experiences. This helps them create more jobs.

“It’s encouraging that the research in this SAP report shows SMBs accelerating digital technology adoption. Technologies like e-invoicing improve process efficiency and, importantly, will see small businesses paid more quickly for the products and services they provide.”  


The SAP research suggests that the fear of switching to e-invoicing is bigger than the challenge of implementing it, according to SAP, with 88 percent of SMBs that had made the jump saying it was easy, and almost one in five (18%) making the transition without external support.

SAP’s Mr Ainine said some businesses would still need help to get there, with integrating the process into computer systems (36%) and understanding what software to use (31%) perceived as the biggest challenges. 

Nearly half (46%) of SMBs are mostly digital in their invoicing and recordkeeping. Of this group, 26 percent sought advice from their internal IT department, followed by an external IT company (24%), their accountant (26%), a consultant (22%) or government (18%). 

“SMB owners shouldn’t feel like they are alone on this journey,” Mr Ainine said. “There are many sources of support ready to help them overcome hurdles and make the most of opportunities by sharing experiences and advising on the best approaches for their business.

“It’s about taking it one step at a time, learning what works and implementing digital initiatives that align to their goals.”  


The past 18 months has fast-tracked the transition to digital processes for many SMBs and increased their appetite for transformation. The SAP research found most SMBs who used e-invoicing (75%) were looking to digitise other business processes. Payroll was the top focus (72%), followed by forecasting (42%), debt collection (38%), customer experience (33%), and talent management (28%). 

Over half (54%) of SMBs said they would digitise all account and account management processes within the next two years, with 44 percent planning to do so within the next 12 months.

To help them get there, more than half (57%) of business owners/managers agreed that increased government support in the form of information, services, subsidies and grants would help their business continue to drive forward digital initiatives and change.  


Mining equipment manufacturer Geographe needed to update its business technology in support of its strategic vision to expand into new markets and refine its product sets around continued innovation. 

Implementing an intelligent ERP system built on SAP S/4HANA Cloud has helped the business reduce lead times by as much as 50 percent, according to Geographe CEO, Sam Hyder. He said automated core processes and greater operational efficiencies had reduced some workloads by more than 15 percent.  

“Due to COVID-19, we have moved to hybrid working,” Mr Hyder said. “Having a scalable IT landscape with greater transparency and real-time data helped us become more responsive to customer needs.

“We can now confidently predict customer demand and optimise production, inventory, and our supply chain accordingly.” 

The connected SMB research was commissioned by SAP Australia and undertaken by YouGov to understand where Australian SMBs stood with their current e-invoicing and broader digitisation efforts. The sample was 802 Australian business owners and managers with less than 200 employees. Fieldwork took place between June 29 and September 13, 2021.   

Overcoming the challenges boards face with digital transformation

THE RECENT global shift in how organisations operate and manage day-to-day processes has put digital transformation at the top of many executives’ agendas – but how do business leaders make the transition?

It’s essential for businesses to keep up with an accelerated pace of change to stay competitive. This includes improving the customer and employee experience and prioritising innovation.

Consequently, boards are re-evaluating the transformation journey and looking to embrace a more digital mindset. This means moving beyond simply digitalising existing processes and doing things differently on a fundamental level. 

However, this creates key challenges for boards, which will need to be overcome for transformation projects to be successful, according to RSM Australia.

Andrew Sykes, national leader for technology at RSM Australia, said, “The digital transformation plans that looked exciting and effective 18 months ago are no longer on the agenda for organisations. 

“Instead, organisations of all sizes are looking more closely at how they can leverage people and processes, as well as technology, to achieve organisational goals.”

RSM Australia has identified five key challenges boards may face when embracing digital transformation:

1. Board members may not be technology experts

It is important for board members to get the right information regarding digital transformation so they can offer guidance and directives to ensure the transformation delivers value. This means getting advice from the right people, which can include various stakeholders within the business as well as younger members of the team that may be highly technologically capable.

Mr Sykes said, “While the chief technology officer or chief information officer is undoubtedly best-placed to lead transformation efforts, their voice is by no means the only one that should be heard when mapping out the journey.

“It’s important to get input from experts across the business that can provide insights into how transformation can resolve a range of business challenges. Line-of-business leaders, for example, have invaluable insights that can drive transformation efforts to become more successful, faster.

“And, while more experienced members of the board are usually the ones to guide organisational strategy, when it comes to new and emerging technology, younger staff members can often provide exceptional value. Decision-makers should consider leveraging the knowledge and experience that younger team members may be able to provide; after all, they represent the future of both the company and the market in which it operates.”

2. Technology may not have been a focus for the organisation in the past

In many organisations, technology evolves as an afterthought or as a piecemeal approach to specific challenges. For digital transformation to succeed, it’s important to shift board members’ mindsets towards making technology an integral part of every business activity and decision. It may be advisable to form a technology or transformation committee to account for all the various moving parts that are inherent in a digital transformation.

Andrew Sykes said, “Boards should ensure that technology is a deliberate and considered part of the business strategy. Allocating transformation efforts to the audit committee or the governance committee, as is often the case, can introduce blind spots that compromise the transformation’s success. A separate committee can overcome this challenge.”

3. Boards may not be prepared for the pace of change

While many organisational change projects can take months and years, boards should be prepared for fast-changing digital transformation projects. This means it’s essential to keep on top of the project’s short- and long-term goals and ask executives to demonstrate how current activities align to those goals.

Andrew Sykes said, “Boards should expect the transformation journey to move quickly and be prepared to ask lots of questions about how transformation activities will provide benefits, including the anticipated time to value. This can help keep projects on track.”

4. Transformation projects may stall or be derailed without board support

It’s essential for the board to provide strong leadership around transformation to ensure it delivers on its promise for the business. As with any initiative, the success of digital transformation will depend on buy-in and vocal support from the top down, and this starts with the board.

Andrew Sykes said, “If the board makes it clear that a successful digital transformation is a key priority, this will help managers allocate time and resources to transformation initiatives. This may require a cultural shift, which can be tough for boards that aren’t used to failures. However, failing fast and moving forward is an important feature of successful transformations, so the board will need to reinforce this type of culture.”

5. Talent is hard to find

Board members tend to view a lack of talent as one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation. In fact, people are one of the most important factors in the success or failure of digital transformation projects. Boards can help to overcome this challenge by formulating individual development plans for critical employees.

Mr Sykes said, “Making sure strong internal staff members have the training they need to maximise the value of transformational technology is crucial to the success of transformation initiatives. Too often, organisations put training last on the list; instead, it should be near the top. Great training and development programs can significantly impact the success of digital transformations.

“Digital transformation has rapidly become one of the most important priorities for board members. As the economic landscape and operating environment continue to evolve, businesses are increasingly relying on successful digital transformation projects to keep them agile, responsive, flexible, and competitive. Boards must play their role in this by embracing digital transformation and acting decisively to support and promote transformation initiatives.”


AIIA warns Australia won't become a leading digital economy by 2030 without a 'full-scale national strategy'

AUSTRLIA'S PEAK BODY for the innovation technology sector, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), has released a white paper, Growing Globally Competitive Industries: Powered by Australia’s innovation technology, which challenges the country’s most influential decision makers to seize the opportunity for significant economic growth.

The report outlines how Australia has the opportunity to be well positioned for its priority industries to become globally competitive exporters by leveraging the innovation assets that the technology industry has to offer.

Through almost 80 detailed recommendations, the AIIA is urging the Federal Government to accelerate the digitisation of Australian industry or run the real risk of going from producers to consumers in some of Australia's key industry sectors. 

Failing to do so, the AIIA  said, would also result in Australia not meeting The Prime Minister’s 2030 targets to become a leading digital economy.

The AIIA said Australia must invest in its core and strategic industries to remain competitive. Within the report, AIIA highlights the key industries requiring an innovation technology makeover: 

Health: The World Index of Healthcare Innovation still ranks Australia as 26th out of 31 countries. This is clearly visible in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Australia.

Manufacturing: Australia is failing to harness the power of the fifth industrial revolution as clearly seen in the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy (MMS) as it is currently lacking representation.

Agriculture: Agriculture technology (AgTech) is set to become Australia’s next $100 billion industry by 2030, yet only low-level investment in this area is reflected in the 2021- 2022 Federal Budget and is almost completely missing from the Agriculture Strategy 2030.

Digital government: 22 percent of Australians say they need to go to more than one source to get the information they need from the Australian Government, and currently there are 64 million pages of content across across all levels.

● Australia is well behind globally on developing a more than $300 billion artificial intelligence (AI) industry by not investing in commercialisation of its burgeoning startup community.

Additionally, the AIIA has delved into critical cross-industry ‘horizontals’, which are booming globally including, Quantum, digital engineering, industry incentives and cyber security. AIIA is calling for leadership in each of these areas and said it was "a poor indictment that Australia does not have a national Quantum strategy".

AIIA CEO, Mr Ron Gauci said, “Australia’s ability to innovate and support innovation of digital technologies will determine our economic future. If we are to remain a nation of producers and not simply consumers, now is the time to act and support our innovative technologies.

"The traditional strengths of Australia -- our agricultural, manufacturing, and health -- need to be supported by strong government measures to stand up against international counterparts. We can become a strong economy or suffer the longer term consequences of not keeping pace with the advancements being made globally by economies that were once smaller than ours," Mr Gauci said.

“There is a lack of strategy, policy and leadership to propel Australia's ICT sector forward, resulting in the country being a laggard. We need uniform standards that will support industry and foster innovation.

“The importance of retaining our IP and skills within the country can’t be overstated. The Federal Government's adoption of the patent box is an example of a good policy that will benefit Australia, now we have an opportunity to expand the patent box to all sectors of strategic importance,” Mr Gauci said..

This white paper follows 2020's white paper, Building Australia’s Digital Future in a Post-COVID World, which was produced just months into the pandemic because the AIIA saw a drastic need for governments to respond to the societal and economic challenges facing Australia. Since releasing that paper, governments have adopted a range of recommendations including:

● Recognising that digitising the economy is critical to national success;

● Increasing the R&D tax incentive and introducing a patent box;

● Appointing a Minister for the Digital Economy';

● Funding a National Freight Hub;

● Investment in digital skills;

● Investing in cyber security resilience.

Mr Gauci said the AIIA is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at fuelling Australia’s future social and economic prosperity through technology innovation and remains committed to working with all levels of government to secure Australia’s digital future.

To view the full set of recommendations by industry, visit AIIA White Paper - Growing Globally Competitive Industries.


Focus on better use of technology a proven winner for businesses of all sizes - CPA research

TECHNOLOGY use is a major determinant of business success and is set to become more influential, according to an in-depth global survey by one of the world’s largest professional accounting bodies, CPA Australia.

“High growth businesses spend more time and resources on technology,” CPA Australia senior manager for business policy Gavan Ord said.

"Their choice of technology puts them even further ahead of their competitors. Our survey results suggest other businesses may improve their growth prospects by investing in the technologies used by high growth businesses.” 

CPA Australia surveyed 725 professionals in different industries in Australia, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Singapore. Respondents were asked about their businesses’ past and expected technology use and past and expected financial performance.

“COVID-19 accelerated technology adoption by businesses, but not all businesses were equally placed when the pandemic hit," Mr Ord said.

“High growth businesses had already embraced technology enthusiastically. This helped them manage the disruption caused by COVID-19.” 

High-growth businesses lead through tech

In 2020, high growth businesses were significantly more likely to develop a long-term technology strategy, work with technology companies and increase their recruitment of technology staff than businesses whose growth was stagnant or shranK, the research showed.

“High growth businesses have been focusing on technologies that deliver greater value to customers, such as data analytics and visualisation software, business intelligence software and artificial intelligence,” Mr Ord said.

Differences in future technology plans also set higher and lower growth businesses apart.

High growth businesses are much more likely to expect to increase their use of or investment in data analytics and visualisation software, business intelligence software, customer relationship management software and artificial intelligence than their lower growing counterparts.

The top technologies Australian businesses are most likely to increase investment in over the next 12 months are cloud technology and data analytics along with visualisation software. High growth businesses in Australia are also planning to invest in business intelligence software, CPA research revealed.

Key drivers and main challenges identified

The key drivers of technology adoption by Australian businesses are improving operational efficiency and the customer experience, while the main challenges are financial constraints and complex legacy systems.

“If you want to do well in business, look at what others are doing well," Mr Ord said. "The clear lesson from our survey is that technology adoption, and making the right choices, leads to better business performance.”

Over the next 12 months, large businesses -- taken as more than 1000 employees -- are planning to use or invest in data analytics and visualisation software, cloud technology, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence. 

Small businesses -- less than 50 employees -- are more likely to focus on cloud technology, video conferencing and group collaboration tools, and data analytics and visualisation software.

“When it comes to technology adoption, it’s not a level playing field, and many small businesses struggle," Mr Ord said. "We support government programs to build small businesses’ digital capability. It’s a great way for governments to future proof the economy.”

CPA Australia’s Business Technology Report 2021.



How to manage ongoing pandemic disruption with integrated business networks

By Chris Willcocks >>

MORE THAN ANY singular event in modern history, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the vulnerabilities supply chains are prone to.

To strengthen the links connecting global commerce, businesses need to broaden visibility across not only their own operations but those of their trading partners to meet the common goal of reducing risk and instilling resilience.

To achieve this level of transparency, businesses are turning to digital networks to capture the widest possible view of their buyers, suppliers and partners. Meanwhile, these digital business networks – previously discrete according to function – are beginning to converge through cloud-based technologies, unlocking value in the process. 

As these technologies take hold, digital applications have given rise to unified, collaborative, intelligent business networks of buyers and suppliers. These networks set business-to-business commerce in motion, extending visibility across both organisational and geographic boundaries.

The widespread disruption associated with COVID-19 is only the latest reminder of the acute need for visibility across supply chains. Yet even that level of transparency can prove insufficient in times of uncertainty. Visibility via multiple networks goes a long way.


Take Australian Paper, a manufacturer of pulp, paper, envelopes, and stationery, as an example. The business needed a source-to-contract solution to manage contracts and provide increased visibility on sourcing spend.

In less than six months after implementing SAP Ariba solutions, Australian Paper averaged 18 percent savings on sourcing projects and increased efficiency by reducing sourcing cycle times from more than 15 hours to less than five.

It isn’t just businesses however, public sector organisations including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) are also reaping the benefits of greater visibility into spend and supplier performance by using SAP Fieldglass solutions.

By standardising and automating its contractor engagement processes, staff now have access to real-time analytics on its contingent labour workforce, improved cost-savings and stronger industry engagement and supplier relationships.


Cloud-based networks bring cohesion, clarity and connectedness – the Three Cs – to otherwise separate sets of information that businesses rely on to maintain continuity, manage risk and maximise competitive advantage.

That advantage rests on data: its quality, breadth and timeliness.

By consolidating all the operational points, businesses can unlock newfound efficiencies from collaborative product development, shared data and workflows, flexible workforce management solutions, real-time communication across organisational and geographic boundaries, efforts toward achieving common environmental and social objectives, and network-wide intelligence to ultimately guide decision-making.


The goal of a ‘network of networks’ – long a dream in the enterprise software business – is rapidly becoming a reality.

In fact, business networks stand poised to become a category of their own, driving differentiation not only in the technology sector but across industries.

As businesses differentiate themselves in the marketplace, they’ll increasingly need to share data with buyers, suppliers and other trusted partners on whom they rely to create mutual value.

To set themselves apart in the marketplace, they must simultaneously embrace transparency and collaboration with trading partners.

Therein lies the irony, but also the immense promise, held by cloud-based networks to propel businesses forward, even in anxious times.


Someday, hopefully soon, quarantines and lockdowns will fade into a distant memory. Yet even as illness recedes and businesses take steps toward recovery, the next disruption is never far behind.

Though it rarely grips the world all at once, as has COVID-19, it can be just as unpredictable, from trade wars and natural disasters to public health emergencies and even armed conflict.

Any of these events can throw off global supply chains, resulting in shortages or stockouts for customers in need, as we saw in March of last year with the empty shelf phenomenon facing most grocery stores across Australia’s major cities.

For businesses, operational resilience involves taking all such contingencies into account. It requires connecting an organisation’s critical partners through unified networks and breaking down siloed systems to widen visibility and invite collaboration.

By connecting all trading partners via digital business networks, all participants benefit from enhanced intelligence, greater efficiencies and improved resilience.

Business networks also overcome the challenges associated with disconnected, enterprise-centric systems and fragmented operational processes, driving scalability and speed throughout global supply chains.


Chris Willcocks is vice president and head of Intelligent Spend Management for SAP Australia and New Zealand.



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