In 2020, we saw a lot of digital transformation and businesses evolving in the technology space due to COVID-19. In this episode of TALKS, we chat to Peter Ward. Peter is the Chief Solution Officer at MOQdigital, a large IT solutions firm. He’s a really, really sharp operator in the IT and vendor space and has a lot of really cool stories to tell and some really good insights around digital transformation and the aggressive nature of everything that’s been happening due to COVID-19. 

 

I guess to kick things off, it would be really great if you could give us a bit of an understanding of what MOQdigital does as an organisation. What are your sort of specialties and then what your role, Chief Solution Officer, that’s quite an innovative role, what your role is inside the organisation? 

Yeah fantastic. So look, really, the core DNA of MOQdigital is helping organisations accelerate their digital transformation journey by leveraging technology to be able to then successfully deliver that vision and that outcome there. And look, that’s a wide ranging set of solutions that we provide for organisation focus across not only digital services, but also traditional foundation services. And so my role as Chief Solution Officer, I’m response for the go to market, which really is the strategy and the products that we bring out to our customers, what we know and identified in the marketplace for, but also assisting customers to then ensure that those solutions are successfully sold and delivered for them. 

So the role of CSO or Chief Solution Officer is a new role that’s recently been formed in MOQdigital. I’ve recently joined the MOQdigital family through the acquisition of Wardy IT Solutions. So previously I was the Ward in Wardy IT Solutions and loving being part of the MOQdigital family and helping enable transformation for organisations.

 

How long have you been inside that bigger MOQdigital framework, like obviously being, like you said, the Ward in Wardy IT Solutions. How long have you been in that big organisation since that meeting of the minds, so to speak?

Yeah, so Wardy IT Solutions has now been part of the MOQdigital family for 12 months.

 

One of the big themes of 2020, no doubt, probably second only to COVID-19 itself would be the rapid, rapid transformation of so many businesses from a digital perspective. And that can be anything from ecommerce to IT, cloud infrastructure, comms infrastructure, there are so many different sort of avenues that business are going down. You read all of the sort of headline grabbing stories of huge banks or huge financial institutions that had 7+ year IT transformation projects that just jam them, that were just jamming them into 30, 60, 90 day sprints. How have you seen that, that sort of halo effect brought on so rapidly by COVID-19, how have you seen that affect MOQdigital positively or negatively or otherwise?

Yes, so I think Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, summed it up really well where he described that two years of digital transformation literally occurred in two weeks for organisations as they rapidly pivoted to be able to respond to not only the COVID-19 challenges, but all the associated challenges associated with. Whether that was working from home, whether it was educating students from home or businesses were having to then pivot to a true online presence. And I think that transformation occurred not only at the big end of town, but I often describe my local fruit and veg shop and deli at Clayfield markets there that I frequent on Saturday morning, pivoting to be able to then buy all of those things online and you know family businesses, three generations old, being able to then adopt and play and be able to then compete on the same level as some of the large multinationals and be able to then continue to engage and deliver those services.

But if I look back at some of the things that I’m proud of that the team were able to deliver, I think it was really being able to mobilise mobile learning for students around Australia. So being able to then deliver teams and enabling then students to be able to undertake their learning outcomes and successfully able to achieve them, and being able to then assist schools who traditionally are often laggards in regards to their technology investments to change learning, being able to then help be part of that and see that we’re able to then continue to underpin that foundation and that next generation of education, despite all the challenges that COVID provided.

 

Yeah, it’s definitely, there’s so many laggards in the adoption curve that are really just sort of awoken, so to speak, and just move so quickly. Do you feel like education is really one of the key standouts in terms of sectors that are really sort of spun, pivoted and adopted quite aggressively this year?

Yes, it’s interesting. So if you look at education broadly, they’re adopters of technology, but not traditionally from a learning perspective, so very structured around face to face learning and the ability for them to be able to then, especially adopt Microsoft teams and be able to then continue to deliver that learning outcome for students, no matter where they were based. So I think one of the things that organisations are starting to see is that that continual pivot of digital transformation and I think often digital transformation is a buzzword that almost sort of gets dropped as sort of a phrase that really doesn’t mean a lot. 

But I really want to think about digital transformation. I think about my father. So my father worked for Metro Ford at Spring Hill in Brisbane. He’d worked in the same job from when he started at 15 years old to when he retired at 65. So he saw a lot of change from a technology standpoint. And when you think about what business transformation is, it’s how do we actually effectively change our business process to be able to adapt to the needs of our clients, whether that’s from a personalisation perspective or whether it’s enabling us to do more with less or effectively engage more effectively across our supply chain. And he describes that when he started in that job, that there was an in tray and an out tray. He would come in in the morning and there’d be a pile of papers piled high. The last piece of paper off the top, undertake the business process, whether that was a warranty claim or whether that was booking somebody for service, he would take that piece of paper, move it into an out tray, and that would then get moved along by someone with a trolley to somebody else’s in tray.

And that was a business process that worked. But he then describes that when he left the role, he had a PC on his desk that had an ERP system and a CRM system allowing just in time parts delivery tied in based upon who was coming in from a warranty claim. So all that information existed directly on a PC. What he didn’t see, though, is that move from the digitisation era into then the data and AI era. So we look at products like Tesla today. So all of that information sits directly on the car and rather than a spare parts mechanic having to then worry about ordering the parts, it can determine then the particular deterioration of that part and know in advance. So I’m not quite sure whether I’m ready to have my firmware updated while I’m sitting at the red lights, but that’s effectively sort of that classic example of business transformation that really that digital world then underpins.

 

Yeah, yeah it’s moving more and more advanced every day. One thing I wanted to ask you is, so you’re obviously seeing a lot of transformation right now. What are some of the things that you were seeing pre COVID-19 because I mean, there was almost fever pitch level of digital, like you said, digital transformation, digital projects, digital ops, whatever you want to call it, happening before COVID-19, it’s just the rapid acceleration of it during COVID-19. What are some of the things that you had seen prior that are now really ramping up in terms of any themes or any projects that a lot of a lot of clients or businesses are undertaking? 

Look, I think one of the things that we’re constantly seeing with organisations is the move to the personalisation of experiences. So being able to then tailor solutions to the individual requirements of consumers, whether that’s in B2C scenario or whether that’s in a B2B scenario. Really that personalisation is something that’s allowing organisations to rapidly evolve because that personalisation allows them to then transform their products, so the individual offerings that they take out to market. It allows them then to optimise their operations by understanding their customers and the customer journey, but also then means that they can empower their employees more successfully and have that ongoing feedback loop and being able to constantly engage customers as part of that journey. So we see that that personalisation is continuing to then move faster and faster, especially as the rapid access to then technology such as AI and machine learning really start to be democratised in organisations rather than being only available to those few organisations that can afford it. So it really has leveled the playing field with the access to that technology.

 

Yeah, that’s that’s a good answer for sure. And your, I guess we sort of talk a bit about Microsoft Teams and just sort of digitisation of prior face to face experiences. Something I wanted to check in with you about, was business development and marketing. The art of business development or getting the deal done, so to speak, has historically revolved around shaking hands and wining and dining the deal making processes. How do you sort of see that playing out now when we can’t shake hands, people are using Teams or Zoom from home predominantly or from home office or what have you, we’re all distributed, we’re all socially distant. How do you see business development happening in the future?

Yeah, so I think what we’re starting to see and we’ve seen this for the last few years, is more and more of a move towards inbound marketing. So where the customer is actually more and more educated, so they’re further through the deal cycle before they reach out. So often I think that business development is moving more to an education focus, so being able to have content that actually then helps actually then articulate to the customer what the value proposition is, but also demonstrate the capability of the organisation through having very rich content and that rich content actually then helps accelerate and educate that buyer throughout that journey. But what we’ve seen is a number of innovative solutions that allow us to then be able to continue to engage with customers and also then be able to then increase our capability and our reach. Because I think one of the things that moving to then, from face to face, is all of a sudden it reduces the borders that we had previously. So rather than just focusing on a particular geographic area, it then starts to then expand the offering to then be a global offering that can be adopted by anybody around the world rather than just something that you can get to a plane at six o’clock in the morning from Brisbane to Sydney or Sydney to Melbourne, etc.

 

Yeah it’s definitely breaking down those barriers. And I guess to sort of wrap it up, the future question or the looking glass question, your space that IT sort of space, technology space, how do you see it evolving in the future beyond COVID, just trying to look forward a bit into the years to come? How do you see IT industry as a whole evolving?

Yeah, look, I think one of the things is that data is going to continue to be prevalent because data is now the second most important asset that organisations have after people. And what I think we’re going to start to see is those organisations are going to leverage that data to then harness competitive advantage are going to then continue to then rapidly move beyond those that aren’t investing in that area there. So I think that data management for organisations is going to become critical, but it’s also then going to underpin them being able to then successfully implement AI and machine learning technology to be able to then have greater insights across that data that they’ve got and continue to rapidly grow and expand that competitive advantage. And we’re seeing that through some of the disruptors that are in the marketplace today that have been able to then successfully take on some of the traditional bricks and mortar by being able to then rapidly adopt from a technology standpoint. But I think that barrier is going to continue to decrease and make it easier for organisations to take advantage of, especially with the ability to then fire that up in the cloud services so easily, especially with technology like Microsoft Azure.