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Navigating technology demands to expand business into Asia

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 18, 2018

4 min read

A session at Telstra Vantage 2018 provided insights into the technology and solutions you can leverage in expanding your business, confidently and successfully, into Asia and the globe.

Despite the many opportunities beyond our shores, a 2017 Australian International Business Survey found that just 7.1 percent of Australian businesses are selling goods and services overseas. Partly this may be that it seems daunting, speculated Nigel Stitt, Telstra’s Australia/New Zealand head of sales for global enterprise services.

Asia is not a singular entity, after all. The region has a complex web of cultures, technology infrastructures, governments, regulations and employment and data sovereignty laws that all need to be respected and considered.

But if you pick the right partners, he said, there’s no reason to feel daunted. On the contrary, opportunities abound in Asia — a region that combines crisp and clean modernity with infrastructure and traffic chaos and lots and lots of energy. All the same, it’s best not to just jump blindly into operating in the region. Here are the key insights you need to know.

Preparation is key

Andy Tybell, Telstra’s head of solution consulting for Asia and Australia/New Zealand, advised that any businesses considering expanding into Asia will get the best results if they plan and prepare early. Feasibility studies and resources like Austrade and the Australia China Business Council can highlight the latest business trends and market conditions as well as help to determine how products and services should be localised.

A company’s product line might not be the only thing that needs some localisation in Asia, either. Unlike in Australia, business decisions are rarely made in meeting rooms, Tybell said, but rather tend to occur in informal environments like restaurants and karaoke halls.

Stitt added that you’ll need to leave impatience behind. Executing on a successful business arrangement first requires growing and investing in relationships, which means respecting Asian business etiquette.

That said, even just learning the local greetings in the local language can go a long way when you’re about to engage in a business conversation.

Investing in local talent

It used to be that many Australian businesses would open operations in China to improve their manufacturing capabilities for servicing the market here, but Stitt said there’s been a strong shift towards expanding for in-China opportunities.

Similarly, in other parts of Asia there are ample opportunities to build and grow a new branch of your business that’s been designed from the outset to meet the local market’s needs, as Telstra did with the Telkomtelstra joint venture in Indonesia.

Investing in local talent — at all levels — can be a huge advantage here, especially in the long-term, rather than taking the easy short-term route of flying expats in to fill all of the important roles. And for this, once again, there are partners that can help — both in terms of professional employment organisations and well-connected locals as well as Australian companies like Telstra that can lend their experience and tap into the networks they built during their own expansions.

Technology is on your side

The sheer breadth of technology options available today means there’s never been a better time to expand your business into Asia. Even in remote locations like Papua New Guinea, where terrestrial services are not readily available, it’s now easier than ever before to handle the needs of a technology business.

Satellite connectivity has been bolstered in the past decade by the introduction of mid-Earth satellites, which offer lower latency and higher bandwidth than older geostationary satellites (150ms and up to 100mbps, versus 600ms and 1-2mbps), while high-speed cable and 4G/5G networks have now opened the door for businesses expanding into more built-up areas of Asia to launch light.

“In the past you had to have a heavy capital expenditure — put in equipment, send out staff,” said Tybell. “Nowadays what you can do is you can actually virtualise the environment in the cloud and just go directly to that environment.”

But it’s important from a technical standpoint, he added, to establish a baseline so that you can replicate the user experience — or at least get as close as you can compared to the country you originated in.

To do that, he advised, start at the top-level. Look at your staff. First ask what functions and processes they’ll use to fulfill their role, then map those to the applications that they’ll use — because their user experience is key to a successful expansion.

Once you’ve determined which applications are critical, you can use your current site as an archetype to figure out your approximate CPU, bandwidth and storage needs and get a profile of what the new site will look like. Then leverage your partnerships to make it happen.

Tackling technology challenges and improving business through diversity

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 12, 2018

5 min read

A panel of female technology leaders at Telstra Vantage 2018 discussed the ideas, techniques and actions that will attract more women into the industry.

With a gender distribution of roughly 25 percent women to 75 percent men, the technology industry still has considerable work to do to be more diverse and inclusive. But Westpac CIO of consumer bank Anastasia Cammaroto said we’ve at least reached the point where it’s an accepted fact that diversity and inclusivity are the right thing to do.

The question now, then, is how to do it — how do we address this gender imbalance, at every seniority level, and reap the benefits of diverse teams and diverse leadership in technology organisations? And how do we navigate these challenges while also steering our way through the fourth big industrial revolution that’s underway right this minute, with 300 years of technology advancements crammed into just the next three years?

For panel moderator Katherine Boiciuc, enterprise operations executive at Telstra, it’s the technology businesses that achieve diversity and inclusivity that will thrive in this period of unprecedented transformation. And for Telstra COO Robyn Denholm, it’s precisely this transformation that should be the catalyst for the change we need to see in our workforce across the board.

Making tech careers more appealing to women and girls

Part of the solution for doing that, she added, is to leverage all this exciting new technology to add a cool factor to the industry so that more kids might then say “I want to be that nerd”, study STEM subjects and make their way into technology careers.

Cammaroto had much more to add on the long view. Westpac set a goal of 50 percent women across all roles, she said, and 10 years later they’ve made it. But achieving this goal took a serious look inwards.

Getting more women into technology and developing them into highly-skilled leaders is not as simple as saying you need them. It requires much greater inclusivity in the phrasing of job advertisements and workplace behaviours and biases, as well as a conscious effort to set role models for the types of values you have in your organisation.

It also means reaching out to girls about the technology pathways they could take in their careers. Westpac has started to run work experience programs for girls at underprivileged schools for this very purpose — because, as Elizabeth Hunter, chief HR officer and shared services at Incitec Pivot, explained, “if they can’t see it, they won’t be it.”

Hunter said that we need to make it clearer as an industry that there are many more kinds of jobs and roles than just being a coder sitting in a room and not talking to anybody all day.

Then once young women enter the field, she added, they need mentors and sponsors who will see their potential and be prepared to give them a go — to help them advance their career and to give them a voice to reframe their roles and step up.

Diversity improves business outcomes

Denholm noted the importance of empowering men to empower women as a practical way to address the gender imbalance. This has had “amazing” results for Telstra in a short period of time, she said, and more broadly the panel agreed that the results of having even a small amount of diversity in your technology teams will speak for themselves.

There’s considerable data to suggest that diverse teams are more profitable, more productive and better problem solvers than non-diverse teams. This goes for diverse leadership, too, with diverse executive teams 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than non-diverse teams.

The panel had plenty of anecdotal evidence to support these numbers. Denholm has been the only woman in many executive teams over the years, for instance, and the men on those teams have often commented that just having that one woman’s presence improved the team dynamics. Similarly, in a previous role in financial services, Hunter learnt that the most profitable team at the firm was also the most diverse.

But Eglantine Etiemble, the CIO of Dulux, cautioned that, for all the many benefits diversity provides, it is also harder to manage diverse teams. You need to work on yourself as an individual and a leader, she advised, to transform yourself and to understand your bias. Only then will the transformation follow.

Hunter echoed the sentiment. Assumptions are often wrong, she said, “So check your assumptions, find out if they’re true, and you might find that a whole new world opens up.”

Greater diversity to tackle the challenges ahead

Business is changing tremendously fast. A whopping 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 don’t exist yet. And these new jobs are likely to require diverse skill sets across our industry.

Christine Russo, technology sales executive at Telstra, said that the future of sales — and all professions — lies in softer skills like humility and empathy and abundance. For that, she said, we need to think about how to build teams where ego is left at the door.

Women leaders also need to think about and choose carefully how to “lean in” to create conditions for women to be successful, she added, while Boiciuc likened diversity to the high school dance. “You can invite everyone to the high school dance,” she said, “but there’s a difference between being at the school dance and being asked to dance at the school dance… So how many people are you inviting to dance?”

Mixed reality and business: bringing value to VR

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on October 12, 2018

4 min read

Telstra brought together three experts on immersive new mixed, virtual and augmented reality technologies to discuss trends and business impact in a panel at the Vantage conference in September.

The panel emphasised that one of the most important considerations to make regarding the three technologies is that they each have different strengths and each lends itself to uses that the others do not. Take VR, for example:

“Virtual reality is as the sci-fi films promised,” said Jumpgate VR founder and managing director Anton Andreacchio. “You can put on a headset and go to a new world. But the way we see it is you can bring places and situations to people.”

No longer “a solution looking for a problem,” experts in the field now understand that the value of VR lies in its experiential quality. It connects deeply with people, and so it’s ideal for engagement with art or ideas or keeping everyone on the same page in complex stakeholder environments.

With the AFL, for instance, Andreacchio said they started out using VR to let people run through the banners with their favourite team, but now they use it to livestream games and train players. And even their understanding of how to do this has evolved, as they’ve learned the importance of the relationship dynamics between players and coaches in the training process.

Augmented reality, in contrast, is best utilised to add information to your view of the world, while mixed reality devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens fall somewhere in between the other two and adds in better capabilities for sharing and collaboration.

Untethered, hands-free, remote computing

Microsoft HoloLens evangelist Lawrence Crumpton said that Microsoft is famous for putting a PC on every desktop, but now 80 percent of workers don’t actually have a PC. That’s as many as two billion people underserved by access to technology, who can’t carry traditional computers around with them and who in many cases do jobs where they can’t hold their hands in front of their face either.

It’s little wonder, then, that mixed reality — which essentially involves wearing a self-contained computer on your face — is quickly transforming how we conduct all sorts of business activities, especially in fields that involve 3D visualisation.

The construction, engineering, architecture and urban design industries have already embraced mixed reality, Crumpton said, because it improves their ability to manage tasks, change workflows and see instructions — all in 3D, without ever having to stare at a manual — and it allows them to get instant feedback about their work.

Specialist engineering firms, too, have found that with mixed reality they now have the capacity to solve problems remotely rather than flying people out to help in person — saving days of lost productivity for both them and their clients on every single machine breakdown or parts failure.

Solving impossible problems

Tatham Oddie, the managing director at Telstra-owned companies Readify and Kloud, talked about how mixed reality helped Qantas re-imagine big problems. The airline dramatically reduced the turnaround time on assessing and repairing damage to aircraft grounded after lightning strikes when it adopted a mixed reality solution that superimposes the inner wiring and systems onto a HoloLens wearer’s view of the plane’s panels — kind of like an x-ray — so now they can trace the problem without pulling anything apart.

The value of mixed reality here is not just on the business productivity side, either. Engineers and architects have begun to use mixed reality to give their clients walk-around tours of buildings during conception and early building phases.

Figuring out whether mixed reality — or perhaps instead AR or VR — will help your business comes down to understanding not only the context of how they each work but also, Andreacchio suggested, the dynamics at play.

The mixed reality solutions that are having the biggest impact consider the interpersonal side of a problem, and they reflect a company’s culture, values and people.

This doesn’t mean that you need to be an expert on the technology to understand how it could fit with your business, however. Crumpton suggested that businesses should look to partners with experience devising and implementing immersive technology solutions — like Telstra and Jumpgate — to help think through a problem. And also to leverage their expertise to chase after the big solutions — because you’ll never get the full benefits of digital transformation if you test the water with small, inconsequential problems.

Instead, he advised attendees, “pick the impossible problem. The thing you cannot solve another way. The thing that will not work on your mobile phone or your tablet or a large screen. The thing that involves people collaborating remotely because now you have a tool that allows you to solve it.”

Vantage 2018: the business of sport

Telstra Vantage™ Entertainment

Posted on September 20, 2018

4 min read

Straight from Telstra Vantage™, hear more about how industry is transforming itself for the future from inspirational thinkers in an open discussion with host Adam Spencer.

Subscribe to the Telstra Vantage™ – Behind the Mic podcast now on iTunes, Whooshka or your favourite podcasting app.

Sport is changing, and the business side of it especially is in a constant state of flux. For AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany, that’s what makes right now such an exciting time to be in it. Telstra Vantage – the pre-eminent business, ideas and technology experience makes its highly anticipated return this September, touching down at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre right in the heart of Melbourne’s iconic CBD.

Speaking in a Business of Sport panel at Telstra Vantage™ 2018, Delany noted that these days – at least from a broadcaster’s perspective – trends and changes happen so quickly that everything is urgent.

There’s been an uptick in the number of disruptors in the business over the past five years, he said, driven largely by new technology and changing media consumption habits. Viewership is shifting away from free-to-air broadcast into cable TV and a plethora of digital viewing options. And the stakes are large, with $20-30 million decisions in a landscape with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in revenue each year.

On the technology front, the big ticket item is currently the emergence of 4K. High definition was a big step up – five times the resolution of standard definition – but 4K is another four times bigger than that.

Shifting, diverging audiences

Telstra Enterprise Group Executive Brendon Riley noted that this year was the one where mobile sports viewing took off, which puts pressure on traditional free-to-air and cable broadcasting. To McLachlan and Delany, that’s proof of how consumption is changing.

Of the 1.7 million people who watched the Melbourne vs Hawthorn AFL game last week, for instance, Foxtel had around 460,000 hardcore fans watching ad-free siren-to-siren with deep analysis, while Channel 7 offered more of a “for everyone” TV presentation style and Telstra’s mobile coverage of the game allowed fans to jump in and out as they went about their lives.

Delany noted that a lot of this digital growth is not new viewers. It’s not an ever-expanding audience pie but rather “mostly just pieces moving around,” he said.

Keeping fans engaged

The other side of the disruption in sport is this viewer-led change. It’s how sport is watched and engaged with by fans. McLachlan said that there are a million members paying more than $50 to support their favourite AFL clubs, and many of them don’t even attend the actual games. The key is evolving this emotional connection with fans, and growing the game by bringing in new fans.

The AFL has four key growth platforms for its long-term future: they want to be relevant to children, women, new Australians and to people in New South Wales and Queensland – where the supporter share is lower compared to other football codes.

Every business decision is filtered through these growth plans. McLachlan said that means looking at broadcast and sponsorship deals as long-haul partnerships, not billboards and eyeballs. And it’s much the same for Foxtel with their sports coverage. Delany said they favour sports governing bodies that see the long-view because that then allows more room for innovation with technology and fan engagement.

Moving forward

For Foxtel, 4K is just the tip of the iceberg. The cable TV giant plans to introduce a kind of “Netflix of sport” at some point, gamely disrupting its own business model in recognition of changing consumption patterns. And for the AFL, too, even on the back of a record year for attendances, there’s an understanding that change is a necessity.

When asked if the AFL will change its rules, McLachlan admitted that they’re thinking about it. “If we’re not changing things, in real terms, we’re going backwards,” he said.

The key for them is to continue to take the business forward – to follow the market – without breaking the heritage links with the traditions and history of the game, which means the same thing it does for all businesses with a long history – to look at the core product and enable it to be the best it can be through good research and inclusive customer (or in this case AFL fan)-focused processes.

To watch the full panel session at Telstra Vantage™ 2018, see below.

Low-cost and scalable asset monitoring with Track and Monitor

Telstra Vantage™

Posted on September 20, 2018

4 min read

Straight from Telstra Vantage™, hear more about how industry is transforming itself for the future from inspirational thinkers in an open discussion with host Adam Spencer.

Subscribe to the Telstra Vantage™ – Behind the Mic podcast now on iTunes, Whooshka or your favourite podcasting app.

Telstra has introduced Track and Monitor at Telstra Vantage 2018 – a new low-cost and scalable asset-tracking solution for Australian businesses that’s set to launch on October 16.

“When I look back on my career, I’m optimistic that I’ll see this day as the day when IoT came of age in the Australian marketplace,” began Telstra executive Mark Chapman during the product launch presentation at Vantage 2018.

Billions of dollars of assets go missing each year, and when this happens businesses are faced with a choice between two bad options: increase the cost to customers to cover the loss, or suffer from reduced margins.

Either way they lose, and regardless of their choice the missing assets can throw out schedules with horrible cascading effects — imagine a generator stolen from a building site, for instance, which then prevents concreters from doing their work in the two-day window they’d set aside for the job and thereby delays construction, throwing everyone else’s schedules out too.

In another example, Chapman mentioned a construction company that had been spending $750,000 per year just to hire replacements for things that they’d bought and that had gone missing.

Track and Monitor promises to leverage IoT to fix these sorts of problems. It aims to transform asset tracking for businesses of all sizes, fixing problems with supply chains before they turn disastrous and making it economically viable to track the things that used to be too hard or too expensive to monitor. It does this with three different types of tracking technology: Bluetooth, WiFi and Cat M1 IoT.

The Bluetooth tracker attaches to small objects like keys and wallets and schoolbags, and it’s available in both consumer and enterprise versions, with a Bluetooth-finding relay network built on the back of Telstra’s 14 million mobile phone customers — who can opt-in to join this network through Telstra’s 24×7 app. The WiFi tracker is suited to tracking larger objects like shopping trolleys and transport pallets and the Cat M1 tracker is designed for use on shipping containers, with a solar battery that lasts about six months from just a couple of hours charging time.

Visibility at a glance, detail at a click

These trackers hook up to a cloud-based monitoring and management platform that scales easily from just a handful of assets — which you can follow using an app — all the way up to thousands.

The platform portal has been designed and tested at every stage of development in conjunction with customers. It allows businesses to set up geozones around key work sites and warehouses to make it easier to check whether an asset is in use, missing or just misplaced, and also to group or filter assets using self-managed tags and other parameters.

Automated tracking can save time and frustration by putting asset locations at your fingertips. A business that urgently needs to use one of its trailers for a job, for instance, could check the portal and see that while none are sitting in the depot there happens to be one nearby that’s been stationary all day and so is probably unloaded and available for use — ready to be shared with the new job.

Driver schedules can be optimised, too. If, for instance, they were previously driving to multiple set locations every week to check for new pallets, they can now use the Track and Monitor portal to check remotely in advance and plan a more efficient schedule.

And that’s what it’s all about. “If you exploit the power of where,” Chapman said, “you can deliver better customer experience, optimise your business operations and deliver better margins for your business.”