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Exclusive interview: CA Technologies on digital transformation in Australia

By Julia Gabel
Tue 5 Dec 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

"There’s absolutely no doubt a chasm exists between where Australian businesses are now and where they’d like to be on their digital transformation journeys," says Jason Pope.

Pope is the chief technology officer at CA Technologies in Australia and New Zealand. Pope says that while companies are talking about how they’re adopting new processes - in reality, the improvements they’re seeing are nowhere near the level expected.

"I’m hearing that across the board – from customers and prospects to peers."

"What I’m also understanding is the growing strategic importance of software and how it’s increasingly seen as playing a role not just for IT, but across all areas of the business."

“Recent local research from CA shows that 82% of Australian organisations recognise the inherent value of software and acknowledge how critical it is to their digital transformation programs.”

The report Pope is referring to is CA Technologies' recent study Don't Let an Outdated Software Strategy Hold You Back, which surveyed 1,279 senior Australian IT and business executives. 

“That said, it’s often not the software development or programs that are holding them back but more basic issues like processes and staffing that are stopping them from achieving their digital transformation goals.”

Did the report uncover or look into any disconnect between what CIOs, CTOs, executives think about where their company is at in its digital transformation and what IT teams think? Are these levels on the same page when considering the barriers their company is faced with?

“There’s yet another gap here; and that’s between what the executive and IT teams believe is needed in the businesses’ digital transformation journey.”

Pope says there’s a high level of confidence among C-level executives but an underlying feeling that the key barriers stem from inflexible technology – mainly legacy systems that are incompatible with newer technologies, as well as a lack of skills and talent.

“Often the two parties aren’t talking the same language – the conversations in the boardroom may be high level and strategic, versus the granularity of IT.”

“We’re also seeing many mature organisations accruing a 'tech debt’.”

Pope explains that businesses that have been operating for a while are making a critical mistake in failing to reassess existing IT infrastructures as part of their digital transformation journeys.

“Many are resorting to short-term solutions, which can only go so far. What we’re encouraging our customers to do is to think holistically and long-term.”

“By doing so, businesses are developing a robust architectural roadmap for the future that enables organisations to be ‘built for change’.”

The report stresses the importance of all businesses thinking of themselves as software companies, can you elaborate on this? How exactly must a company change its thinking, and who is leading this conversation?

“In today’s digitally-driven world, technology impacts every part of a business,” continues Pope.

“Every organisation must think of itself as a software business and put IT functions at the heart of their operations to maintain a competitive edge.”

Pope says it’s the people within the business who will drive this change.

“Change can only be truly embraced when all parts of the organisation come together to work towards a common goal.”

“We believe it’s up to the leadership team to drive this message home. It sets the tone and encourages internal stakeholders to support the initiative.”

Are Australian companies at all resistant to this idea of change?

“Absolutely not.”

“In fact, the majority of organisations know they need to change and want to. Businesses must embrace change to remain competitive in this market.”

CA’s research found that Australian respondents recognise ‘driving new business growth and expansion’ and ‘improving insights into customer needs and wants’ as the areas most positively affected by software, explains Pope.

“So, they recognise the benefit. It’s more that there are still significant factors holding them back – again, development processes and staffing issues being the most prevalent.”

What’s a Modern Software Factory, and how is this blueprint helping Australian companies overcome barriers and remain competitive?

CA Technologies has created the concept of ‘The Modern Software Factory’, adds Pope.

“It’s a framework that helps customers embark on digital transformation – or the reinvention of their organisation – to succeed in today’s digital world. It’s really about how businesses can ensure they are equipped for change.”

“It also means having an agile and collaborative working environment — and the people across the business as well as the processes and organisation to support that.”

Unfortunately, Pope continues, our study revealed that only a minority of organisations today have those necessary disciplines and processes in place.

“The good news is there’s more support for driving change and digital transformation.”

“For example, the federal government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been established with the goal of making it easy for people to deal with government, by helping government transform services to be simple, clear and fast.”

The report identifies a number of barriers holding Australian organisations back, such as attracting new talent. How much of an issue for Australian companies is retaining talent through internal culture and practices? How does a Modern Software Factory come into play here?

“Our report shows 33% of Australian organisations admitted it was extremely difficult to recruit young graduates in software development. That’s a worry given it’s increasingly playing a more relevant role across the business.”

Pope says that while it is a business challenge, he does believe there’s opportunity for Australian organisations to become more involved in education earlier in the process to create the interest in technology, through promotion of initiatives around STEM (science, engineering, technology and mathematics).

“Ongoing training and development is also of critical importance. IT personnel must have access to continuous skill development to be prepared for the next big technology wave.”

“However, our research shows that training and tools for existing staff are insufficient, with just 19% of Australian respondents strongly agreeing that their company has the required IT skills and expertise, or are developing training or recruitment programs to get them there.”

“Only 24% of Australian respondents strongly agree their organisation provides IT personnel with the required tools to do their jobs and 15% that the organisation provides regular training for continuous skill development.”

“Furthermore, what makes recruitment tricky is identifying candidates who have the right mindset, potential and bring diversity of thinking to an organisation.”

“The candidate may be equipped with the right skills for today’s needs but may lack a growth mindset or desire for continuous learning. This becomes problematic for organisations with evolving business needs.”

Pope concludes, “Ultimately, the Modern Software Factory isn’t possible without having the right people or disciplines in place.”

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