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Digital Principles: The Kiwi manifesto to demystify digital transformation

Digital Principles: The Kiwi manifesto to demystify digital transformation

The country’s top business technology leaders say focusing on these six areas will make the most difference in succeeding in the digital era.

The purpose of these Digital Principles is to support New Zealand’s transformation to a more digitally competitive nation.

The country’s top business technology leaders have prepared a manifesto on the key areas all organisations need to address as they embark on digital transformation.

The Digital Principles is a guide for organisations to focus efforts on areas that will make the most difference.

“The Digital Principles are putting a stake on the ground, ‘here are six things that we think are important as your business becomes more digital,' says Graeme Muller, chief executive of NZTech. "You have got to do these six things very well.’”

TechLeaders, a group of Kiwi digital and ICT focused-executives from leading organisations organised by NZTech, prepared the document, which will be shared to all interested organisations.

“Larger companies like banks, have already demystified this digital transformation journey,” says David Kennedy, chair of Tech Leaders.

“When you get down to the small and medium enterprises, there is a still a lot of mystery behind it,” says Kennedy, who is also the CIO at Transaction Services Group.

David Kennedy: 'We are creating a platform by which people can congregate and act as a knowledge base for companies to go through'
David Kennedy: 'We are creating a platform by which people can congregate and act as a knowledge base for companies to go through'

At the same time, as noted in the Digital Principles, "Many organisations are consumed by 'busyness', so this guidance might help them become more aware of reduce wasted effort or investment."

Kennedy recalls his experience speaking at a business conference outside Auckland last week.

“They were asking questions around what I think about the future, how can we prepare for what the future holds? What is disruption and how do we defend against disruption?”

He answered them by sharing the six Digital Principles.

The principles align the people to the future and can be applied across all organisations, he says.

Principle 1: Be purposeful

“We will communicate a clear purpose and vision for digital transformation that explains the need for change, the implications and the steps to achieve success. Actively listen to make sure all voices are heard, and work together so we can benefit from skills and ideas from all levels in the business...This approach will generate better ideas, keep everyone involved and engaged in the change process, and produce faster, more sustainable results, regardless of [the] size of business or government organisation.”

Principle 2: Seek to improve  

“Every day we will ask ourselves how we can adapt and think differently. We will foster the working habits, approach and mindset which allows new thinking to flourish, identifies opportunities, and tests ideas to improve ourselves and our environment every day.”

Principle 3: Actively collaborate 

“We will actively promote creativity and fresh thinking by encouraging collaboration both inside and outside our workplaces. We will support this with environments and working styles that break down barriers and create connections.

We will work across industries, departments, communities and with customers to listen, collaborate and find innovative solutions to meet and exceed the needs of our customers.”

Principle 4: Focus on value  

“We will think carefully about how we focus our efforts, and work on activities which best connect to our digital purpose and vision.

We will develop a culture that empowers teams to focus on providing the most value they can, and encourages constructive challenge to enable this. We will actively prioritise activities based on the value and positive impacts they will create.

This value and impact could be commercial outcomes, employee needs, broader social purpose, or customer outcomes.”

Principle 5: Be people centric

Disruption happens when a third party enters the value proposition between you and your customers and delivers value that you do not. Digital technologies enable this disruption on a global scale.

We will ensure our products, services and processes are focussed on the needs of the people who use them, and make the transition easy for everyone, so we can better focus on the outcomes we need to succeed and successfully defend our market position.”

Principle 6: Commit to lifelong learning  

“The Digital Revolution will create jobs and they will require different skills and ways of thinking. For NZ to meet this demand at the scale required, we need to be adaptive and flexible in our approach by creating a culture where everyone, at all levels is continually learning.

We can also be flexible in our approach by supporting non-linear career paths, ‘hiring to train’ and encouraging diversity.”

Graeme Muller: 'The Digital Principles are putting a stake on the ground, ‘here are six things that we think are important as your business becomes more digital. You have got to do these six things very well.’
Graeme Muller: 'The Digital Principles are putting a stake on the ground, ‘here are six things that we think are important as your business becomes more digital. You have got to do these six things very well.’

Step-by-step guides

Kennedy says the next step is to create playbooks or implementation guides for each of the principles. 

He says the guidebooks will also specify symptoms where an organisation may need to focus on a certain principle. “If your company is having these symptoms,” he cites, “you are not living the principle and this is what you should do about it."

He says this particularly resonates with SMEs which will have 50 people or less and their leaders have got “many hats to wear”.

“They don’t have the time to investigate what works and what doesn’t, so we are giving them the knowledge for free,” says Kennedy.

Nicki Raistrick: "We can move the conversation from what is digital to the most important things around, 'How does digital enable innovation? How does digital enable culture change? How does digital enable people centricity? How does digital enable good? What needs to change around the way we manage our talent?'"
Nicki Raistrick: "We can move the conversation from what is digital to the most important things around, 'How does digital enable innovation? How does digital enable culture change? How does digital enable people centricity? How does digital enable good? What needs to change around the way we manage our talent?'"

Nicki Raistrick, managing director of consultancy Innovate and Transform and a member of TechLeaders, says the group started discussions on the Digital Principles early this year.

She says the group had agreed they wanted to use their skills and experiences and share these widely to help all New Zealand organisations step up into the digital economy.

We considered a range of different issues, from social responsibility through to culture, innovation and growth, says Raistrick, who has worked in digital transformation programmes at Fletcher Building and Spark Ventures.

“We thought that the Digital Principles would be a great way of showing what good looks like for organisations undergoing digital transformation.”

Raistrick says the group did not have a specific number in mind, when they came up with the list. "We took a lot of ideas but the majority of the really important points can be distilled down into these six principles."

“A lot of people think digital was a fad,” says Raistrick. Often, one of the first questions people ask her is, ‘can you define digital?’

She says with the Digital Principles, "we can move the conversation from what is digital to the most important things around, 'How does digital enable innovation? How does digital enable culture change? How does digital enable people centricity? How does digital enable good? What needs to change around the way we manage our talent?'”

She says organisations can take one principle and plan things around it.

“You can take it to different directions,” she says. 

The six principles had deliberately general themes. "We chose those that will apply to a wide audience around New Zealand,” says Raistrick.

“You don't want to get into too much detail because every industry is different,” she says.

But all these principles can be found in the big shifts in business cultures and approaches that are meant to happen in organisations, she says.

She cites one principle, that of creating a culture of continuous learning at all level.

“Once you start going down the path of continuous learning, you then open your minds to things you can change around you as well.

“If we are taking our products and services and making them digital, that has a big impact on our employees and customers, and in a government context, our citizens.

“You can’t expect people to suddenly adopt digital services,” she says. “We need to provide support and the transition for everybody.”

She says companies that may have seen training as discretionary investment in the past, now see it is a compulsory investment.


Simon Kennedy: 'Hopefully this will show organisations there is a momentum around it, that there is an agreed approach to digital transformation and they are not the only ones trying to do it.'
Simon Kennedy: 'Hopefully this will show organisations there is a momentum around it, that there is an agreed approach to digital transformation and they are not the only ones trying to do it.'

David Kennedy says the principle of creating a culture of continuous learning at all levels, is “revolutionary”.

“We need to change the way companies think about jobs, and about people,” says Kennedy, who is also talking about the Ministry of Education around programmes to address this.

“In the future, people are going to need to change their role not because the industry changes but because they want to change. They must have the interest and the motivation [to do so].”

“It is quite a shift in culture,” adds Raistrick. “A lot of businesses have quite a command and control and this is moving to a much more consultative and empowered style.”

“It takes a big bold leadership to go down that path but if you look at international companies that adopt these, they really leap across the competition and this is incredibly valuable for NZ businesses.”


Every day we will ask ourselves how we can adapt and think differently

“The Digital Principles will be the starting point of changing the way people think about responsibility for the organisation in terms of helping their staff develop and be ready for the next job and keep many employed as possible,” says Graeme Muller.

“The goal is to have these principles be seen as a standard, in the same way that through legislation, people’s safety in the workplace is standard.”

“In the future, you might legislate that you have to train your staff so they have the skills to keep working,” he says.

But if big companies can do this well and put this out there, we can actually move the dial before that becomes a legislated practice,” says Muller. “It is just the way we behave, that we want to continue training because we want people to do the next job.”

Every single one of these six principles have different maturity levels within an organisation, notes Simon Kennedy, CIO at Air New Zealand, and a member of the TechLeaders.

“Hopefully this will show organisations there is a momentum around it, that there is an agreed approach to digital transformation and they are not the only ones trying to do it.”

He says for large organisations, the six principles can help accelerate their transformation and focus on it a little more.

“For smaller businesses, one of the big benefits is to move them beyond the idea that this is about technology.”

“A lot of SMBs think digital transformation is buying software and tools,” says Kennedy. “We need to move it to the next level of maturity, into what digital transformation entails.”

David Kennedy believes different companies will have varied experiences on which of the digital principles will be most challenging.

“From my personal experience, the first one (‘Work together to create a clear purpose’) can be challenging because it is about collaborating and discussing what the future needs to be,” says Kennedy.

Some companies may be open to it, and already have a collaborative nature, but some will also find it more difficult, he says.

He calls on CIOs across all sectors and organisational size, to work with the TechLeaders team, and also discuss what the future looks like.

He says some of the organisations that he has spoken to and expressed support for the Digital Principles include the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ), and Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ).

“We are creating a platform by which people can congregate and act as a knowledge base for companies to go through.”

The NZTech TechLeaders Group
The NZTech TechLeaders Group

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Tags david kennedyAIdigital economyCIO100NZTechSimon Kennedycontinous learningcontinuous learningNicki Raistrick

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