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Our Digital Futures: 2016 Perspectives from the market

At Aurecon, we’re aware that the corporate world we inhabit changes at an exponential rate.

We recognise that we need to challenge ourselves to build a culture of digital readiness and innovation within our own company.

As we ensure that our own process of digitisation continually improves, our knowledge deepens and we are using this to help our clients digitise their businesses across energy and resources, infrastructure and the built environment.

To better understand how we can help our clients, we spoke at length to a broad group of professionals across many organisations, industries and countries and asked them to share their thoughts on how digital technologies would shape and change their organisations in the future.

During these in-depth interviews we captured feedback and undertook a thematic analysis of what we learned. We’d like to share with you some of the key insights from this research as useful consideration to inform your roadmap to take charge of your own digital future.

When doing so, we recommend organisations take a zoom lens approach across McKinsey’s three horizons and we invite you to contact a member of our digital team to explore this with you.

Digital futures animation

What is ‘digital’?

We live in a digital world. From the moment we wake up and turn on our digital radios till we put down our smart phones at night, we are digitally connected. And for every digital interaction you can notice, there are millions of digital conversations you can’t. For some, this invisibility feels like losing control. For those who are willing to fully embrace digital possibilities, nothing feels more powerful.

But it’s easy to see how digital conversations can be confusing as some of the terminology is often misused. For example, sometimes the word ’digital’ is incorrectly used as a noun instead of an adjective. ‘Digital’ can, therefore, only be defined by its context. ‘Digital’ is, in its simplest form, an electronic way of completing a task. So, in the world of communications, a digital device is one that can convert data into electronic signals. And digital computers are machines that store and process information using a binary system.

In general terms, a digital system is one that replaces something that previously worked in a manual or analogue way and the process of digitisation enables greater efficiency and effectiveness through an electronic means.

People use the term ‘digital’ in many different ways. Some organisations use it broadly to describe making existing processes and systems more efficient, while for others it’s about working towards a future where people’s roles will be entirely different. Some use it more narrowly to describe an electronic function or a new way of working.

As a company you can’t just go ‘digital’, you need to define what needs to be digitised.

What is digital?

Our zoom lens approach to digital futures

We believe organisations need to look at their digital needs today, tomorrow and in the future. McKinsey’s Three Horizons model gives us a succinct way of talking about this landscape of digital opportunities.

The first horizon, the foreground, is the here and now. When thinking about infrastructure, for example, we ask: How can we leverage digital engineering to deliver more effective and efficient infrastructure outcomes? The second horizon, the midground, relates to the emerging opportunities such as intelligent buildings, which has the potential to deliver significant benefits. The third horizon, the as yet unknown future, is where there is likely to be the greatest opportunity to disrupt or be disrupted.

A zoom lens gives you the ability to look at all three, changing your focus quickly and easily, as needed so you can concurrently manage your current and future opportunities.

It’s essential to use the zoom lens to focus close up on the foreground right now. It’s here that you can assess what digital tools and applications will increase productivity and profitably in the short term.

While you must always keep one eye on the here and now, you need another to look ahead and plan for a future, which is only predictable in its uncertainty. By using the zoom lens approach, you can quickly shift focus between the present and the future and stay updated on emerging trends and new technology. By being agile, you will be able to turn disruption into opportunity.

The following sections give details of what we’ve learnt about digitisation and ‘digital’ from the interviews with our clients:

Digital possibilities

From the way we consume entertainment in our homes to how smart phones navigate us around the world, the way digitisation has changed people’s lives for the better is there for everyone to see. How you choose to harness this digital power in the future will be key to the success of your organisation.

Digital inertia

When something moves as fast as the world of digital technologies, there’s bound to be a degree of nervousness around uptake. You might worry if there’s ever a ‘right time’ to make your move but there’s a far stronger argument that the longer you delay your commitment to digital readiness, the more exposed you become to the threat of digital disruption.

Know your customer

By understanding how you can add digital value to your clients and customers, you can define your own digital strategy. Your organisation’s digital solutions will come about through a process of human-centred observation and engagement of your own customers’ needs.

It’s people, not tech

People are the agents of digital transformation. Without their input, nothing will change. When this digital change does happen, it will have a ripple effect throughout your organisation. Some people will, to continue with this same metaphorical theme, take to it like a duck to water, while others will feel like they’re sinking. With foresight, nobody will drown.
Andrew Maher, Chief Digital Officer, Aurecon

Andrew Maher

Group Managing Principal, Eminence, Digital & Innovation
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