Digital Leapfrog

Photograph by Alana Dimou

DIGITAL LEAPFROG

Jane Livesey, new technology partner at PwC talks with editor Amanda Gome about the second stage of the technology revolution, what’s next for clients and what keeps her awake at night.

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INDUSTRY: TECHNOLOGY Gome: We keep hearing dire predictions that we should be in a digital panic because transformation is happening too slowly. Is the pace picking up?

Livesey: Happily yes. In Australia we are seeing a leapfrog of adoption of new technologies and digital. There is more investment from the boardroom as leadership teams and directors expand their technology expertise. We are also seeing the government transforming the way they deliver services to citizens and their adoption of technology, so the market is shifting very quickly in both the public and private system.

Gome: Which core industries are in the thick of it?

Livesey: Financial services led the way in the transformation of personal banking but now it is pervasive across all industries. Different industries however are facing different types of disruption at varying paces like the retail sector ramping up due to Amazon’s entry and this will transform postal logistics.

We are also seeing the mining sector revitalise after its downturn.

Gome: Do the majority of companies approach it from a risk or opportunity perspective?

Livesey: It depends on the sense of urgency and the culture of the organisation. Lots of different things can drive the pace of an organisation’s transformation. A supermarket chain might be heavily invested in stores, so while they might be focused on digital there could be a reluctance to shift customers to online.

Gome: So how do you approach that problem?

Livesey: One of my clients describes it as being bold. Leaders are having to challenge traditional business models and be prepared to experiment with new products, services and relationships with their customers, employees and partners.

Gome: So what’s next?

Livesey: Many organisations started with building new ways to interact with their customers through portals and apps. A lot of these experiences weren’t heavily integrated into the back end. You might order something online and that request would generate an email which would require human intervention to enter it into the ordering and billing system so the orders can be fulfilled. It’s not efficient and it often it breaks down. So the next phase means on top of creating a digital experience, clients are focused on how do we accelerate the transformation of the legacy systems so they are not holding us back?

How do we digitise the business, IT and operations so all three components come together in an efficient way to improve the experience? That’s complicated also because clients have procured technology and have different providers, and when you look at an end-to-end footprint you see multiple trade-offs and huge inefficiencies. So it’s exciting but not simple.

When you are digitising the world there has to be inherent trust. We have social responsibilities around what we are building.

Jane Livesey

Gome: You are an expert in digital transformation. Now we are in a digital world, does everyday life irritate you?

Livesey: Sometimes. I might be sitting at the airport and there are frustrated customers and I watch what’s happening. I can observe the customer journey and see where the experience breaks down and then in my head I redesign the service through technology, changing the way the staff communicate, maybe changing the marketing and bringing it all together to improve the customer experience.

Gome: What’s the main way to drive fast change for a client using digital?

Livesey: We start with insight, putting our analytical tools across core data from multiple systems and understand what it tells us. We often start with understanding the basics but quickly we find that clients start asking the types of insight questions they might not have thought to ask before. You might start with looking at some core security data and it prompts you to look at how you can enhance a service to make it both more efficient and more secure.

Gome: A lot of businesses have been run on people’s guts. How often are the insights different to the way things have been running?

Livesey: Sometimes it confirms the intuition of the business, sometimes it challenges them. It’s amazing when you can see the efficiencies you can create by doing things differently.

Take mortgage approvals in banking. By understanding where the process breaks down and looking for key areas that can be automated, you can speed up approvals for clients wanting to buy homes. Analysis guides us on where to focus our efforts.

Gome: What do you love about what you do?

Livesey: That we can get together a great bunch of people and rethink the way the world works and lives. Creating the right environment and bringing the ideas and the solutions together make a big difference in how you can accelerate delivery and execution.

Gome: Do the people now have different skills to five years ago?

Livesey: Today you are looking for a combination of hard core experienced technologists that understand the existing landscapes, designers and creators and leading-edge technologists who understand tools such as AI and robotics.

We achieve the best results by combining these skills, strong strategy and business knowledge. We bring entrepreneurs and enablers together.

Gome: You were one of the most senior women at Accenture as managing director of the technology group for Australia and New Zealand. So why PwC?

Livesey: I had been there for more than 12 years. It was a great learning experience. The thing that excites me here is we have a great entrepreneurial spirit and agility and we are not tied to large scale, traditional technology business. You can think about a problem differently without worrying about what you have already created, giving you freedom of thinking. PwC has a brand in the market and its ability to participate in corporate, boardrooms and government is phenomenal.

Gome: What keeps you awake at night?

Livesey: Ethics would be one thing. When you are digitising the world there has to be inherent trust. We have social responsibilities around what we are building. Some of the biggest disrupters such as Uber and Airbnb are being given huge trust. We are trusting them to behave in certain ways and we see it in the media if they don’t live up to expectations.

Gome: So how does that responsibility translate into how you work?

Livesey: When we build digital solutions we have to think about how we use the information, how we interact and what is ultimately in the clients’ interest long term. We also have to think whether it aligns with our own values that we hold as an organisation. 

The Press is a publication by PwC Australia, aimed at sharing expertise, capturing insights and working together to solve important problems.

This article first appeared in Edition 3 of The Press
By Amanda Gome, Editor, The Press

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