Beyond Innovation Bingo: Doing Business with Government in the Digital Age


We have been living in the 21st Century for almost 15 years, and at last it seems, that governments at all levels in Australia have finally got the carrier pigeon. With Primer Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s very public recalibration of the business conversation towards “innovation”, there has been a remarkable level of energy and dynamism pumped into the the business world. From Wyatt Roy’s PolicyHack to the Telstra Digital Summit, and from the SydStart startup conference to the opening of the Australian Digital Transformation Office, it feels like we are constantly playing innovation bingo.

Will all this talk result in action? And will that action result in anything like lasting change? More importantly, will the benefits of this innovation – the digital transformation programs – actually deliver value and opportunity for anyone other than the big end of town?

On Thursday, 5 November 2015, is hosting an Open Opportunity Forum to address these questions. This breakfast event at the offices of Swaab Attorneys, aims to “provide the highest level briefing of digital engagement – to give [mid-tier technology companies] a practical guide to meeting public sector demand.”

Speakers* confirmed include:

  • The Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science, Australian Government
  • Professor Roy Green, Dean Business School, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
  • Martin Hoffman, Secretary, NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation
  • Adrian Turner, CEO, Data61
  • Patricia Kelly, Director General, IP Australia
  • Audrey Lobo-Pulo, Data Scientist, Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Latika Bourke, Press Gallery Political Reporter, Sydney Morning Herald (Event MC)

In addition, Wyatt Roy MP, Assistant Minister for Innovation will kick off the breakfast with a live cross from Israel. Rounding out the event, I will share some practical tips on what businesses can do today to make a difference tomorrow. It promises to be informative and perfectly timed to help us all make sense of the newly emerging innovation landscape.

Hope to see you there!

Taking Digital Leadership to a New Level

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When I started this blog ten years ago, it began with a rant. A call to action. It was a poetic exploration of what it might mean to focus on your customer above all else. It was also a warning about what would happen if businesses refused to do so.

There are more to the words of consumers than the corporations expect.
We huddle in groups, in chat rooms.
We explode on the keyboards of a million call centres.
Our imagination is unheard of. Our thoughts cancel out the process.
We are your hearts and your minds.
We are everywhere, all places, all over the shop.

Fast forward ten years and over 2200 articles later, and it feels like we might be making a little progress on this transformation in business that we call “digital”.

When I spoke at Telstra’s Vantage conference just a couple of months ago, there was a palpable sense that a shift was underway in the way that Australia’s largest telecommunications company was presenting itself. It was more assertive. Less about cables and wires. More about services and transformation. About helping customers solve business problems.

And with the Telstra Digital Summit, we are seeing a stronger Telstra yet again. Also see Joanne Jacobs’ live blog.

Kicking off with Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra

It was the most comprehensive display of digital leadership that we have seen from Telstra. In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of another company that is making such a concerted shift. There was context setting from Telstra CEO, Andy Penn and newly minted Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, sprinkled with humour, references to 80s music and examples of how Telstra is shifting from its telco base to become more of a “technology business”. There was still a reliance on numbers over storytelling and “core” messaging than vision, but it’s a new dance that Telstra is learning and like anything at this scale, it takes time.

A vision of the future with Robert Scoble

Peering into the near future, Robert Scoble and Kathryn Parsons talked about the way technology is empowering people, students and businesses to transform their own futures. Robert, in particular took us into a world whose future is inextricably linked to technology. Part geek fanboy and part techno-utopian, Robert’s exciting new world is populated by ever more deeply connected, yet strangely disembodied, individuals shuttling between meetings in driverless cars and adventures in virtual reality. Robert is an expert at connecting out-of-this-world market valuations for new technology with a vision for the future that is yet to be created, but in a country that is struggling to spread 20th Century broadband copper across its vast distances, it feels like it may take Australia longer than most to reach this new future.

Decoding the future with Kathryn Parsons

The energy of Kathryn Parsons, CEO of Decoded is palpable. A great storyteller, she effortlessly weaves her own story with that of Decoded – the accelerated learning program designed to get you up and going with coding, data and technology in a day. Soon to be launching in Australia, Decoded’s launch reinforces the fact that education is one of the great opportunities of the early 21st Century. And just as Australia exports a substantial amount of education to overseas markets, we are now seeing more overseas businesses eyeing the Australian markets keenly. Joining the US-based General Assembly, along with almost all the universities, Decoded brings a rapid sense of flair to adult learning. It will be interesting to see the ripples as they roll out here.

Enterprises learning to dance – Telstra’s Muru-D accelerator

Annie Parker, founder of Telstra’s startup accelerator, Muru-D, showcased two of the current businesses working through the program. When I first saw Holly Cardew talk about her Pixc business, it was all images, and online products. Today, just months later, it’s storefronts, investments and ecommerce – a dramatic and welcome move up the value chain. And Cate Hull’s vision for FreightExchange – an uber for excess freight capacity – remains clear and eminently viable as it did on day one.

Dazzled by data – Lithium’s Rob Tarkoff

Rob Tarkoff, CEO of Lithium dazzled the audience with insight, data and a world of big data experience. He toyed with the audience – testing our understanding of Daniel’s Market Theory (ie there is no theory, Daniel is his son) – going on to explain how the “born digital” generation are already exhibiting different behaviours and expectations from businesses and communities.

The rear view from out in front – Uber in Australia with David Rohrsheim

Uber’s David Rohrsheim was a crowd favourite, riding the wave of popularity that Uber is experiencing in Australia. When he asked how many in the audience had taken an Uber in the last week, almost the whole audience raised their hand. Here, David was preaching to his choir. This is where I hoped for a little more than the “why Uber is so uber”, but the audience certainly loved the storytelling.

X marks the spot with Brian Solis

After lunch is one of the most challenging speaking slots. Stepping into the void, Brian Solis took us the challenging landscapes of customer experience. As ever, Brian delivered insight in a smooth, easy to understand way. He is certainly one of the most accomplished speakers I have seen – polished, word perfect and authoritative. This time he was all these things, but with another quality. A depth or humility that I had not noticed previously. And this made his talk on X – customer experience, the crossroads for business – so good.

A brain on legs – Larry Marshall moving CSIRO to a new tune

We often say that “if you are the smartest person in the room, you need to get out”. And if this is the case, Larry Marshall, CEO of the CSIRO, is likely to find himself meeting-free for years to come. A great combination of entrepreneurialism and scientific chops, he has a clear vision for his 90 year old startup. Echoing Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s push for innovation and “agile government”, Larry challenged not only the audience but his own teams – “we have to be beta all the time”.

Telstra’s digital journey with Kartsen Wildberger

Rounding out the day was Telstra Group Executive, Karsten Wildberger sharing part of the Telstra digital journey. He touched on the challenges as well as some of the wins. It was refreshing to hear Karsten taking on the challenge of disruption, reframing it as opportunity rather than a threat – and encouraged the audience to think the same way. “Keep the customer at the centre of everything”, he urged.

Lethal Generosity with Shel Israel

The nicest man on the internet, and in many ways, it’s chronicler, Shel Israel, stepped us through what it takes to be “lethally generous”. And he is that in person. In fact, this is the title of his new book, generated to the millennial generation which he sees as the “greatest hope for the planet”. Listening to Shel, you hear not just a connection to technology but also a sense of the great underlying humanity which the technology was created to serve. As he says, “great customer service, even if it costs you a sale, gets you a customer for life”.

What the tweet – Twitter in Australia with Karen Stocks

Rounding out the day – in the last presentation before drinks – was local Twitter CEO, Karen Stocks. Given that the whole room could be categorised as “early adopters”, it was a shame that the presentation didn’t take us more into the future of Twitter. Clearly there was a lot of love in the room for Twitter and for Karen as CEO – and the segments on #likeagirl and Periscope reinforced the power and relevance that Twitter has created in the community. But it would have been great to hear more about their story with data and the tools that are available for businesses, their partnerships with companies like IBM or new features and capabilities coming down the track.

What’s next for the digital summit?

It was a broad brush conference and tied together many of the digital challenges in easy to consume, shorter, 20 minute snacks. There was fabulous diversity in the speaking line-up – it certainly wasn’t yet another conference dominated by MAMS (middle aged men in suits). The tweet stream provided some great, light hearted moments and worked to engage the audience across the day.

The faster pace also kept the audience focused and the energy levels high. And Telstra’s new-found confidence was surprisingly refreshing. Where once, their positioning was tinged with the air of superiority and arrogance, this conference felt like a more hands-on, let’s get things done attitude was pervading proceedings.  Some ideas for the Telstra Digital Summit 2016 (hey ideas are free):

  • More Australian speakers actually speaking about Australian businesses and conditions. It would be great to hear from Telstra business customers and the successes they are having. Some of the Telstra Business Awards winners had compelling stories and amazing digital outcomes. More of that please
  • Breakout sessions for case studies and deep dives. There’s plenty of room in the exhibition area to have mini-talks on digital topics. This would be a great way for Telstra to showcase their depth of expertise and “lethal generosity”
  • Connecting the audience. With around 1000 people attending the conference is now at the scale where connecting and networking with others is a challenge. With plenty of conference apps now available, it might be worth investigating something that helps connect people, ideas and opportunities.

Interestingly, while reading back over my blog, I found this article from 2008 urging Telstra to embrace an “almost unmatched opportunity” on the digital frontier. It has taken six years to hear these words from the lips of a Telstra CEO. Let’s hope that this forward momentum will continue.

DiG Festival – Australia’s Best Conference You’ve Never Heard Of

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There is a low murmur sweeping in to the auditorium from outside. There are people moving in and out – greeting each other, chattering, delivering coffee (yes, true, and more on that below). On stage, author and digital transformation leader, Jesper Lowgren, is stepping through the “new thinking and new doing” required by businesses to deal with the challenges of digital disruption. All around me, I can see people taking notes, nodding, whispering to each other.

“This is great,” I think to myself, “Jesper is going to make my job easier”. I’m speaking next, sharing the “Seven Unbelievable Rules for Survival” in the age of disruption – and I’ve been focusing on the positive aspects of disruption in my recent talks. It makes opportunity more tangible. Realistic. And “disruption” can often feel too loaded and combative for an audience.

DiG 2015 – Jesper Lowgren

Swede Jesper Lowgren is a published author, keynote speaker, member of board of advisors for Enterprise Transformation 2020, and a business & digital transformation thought-leader with Telstra. Produced by eluminate:

2015-10-13 10.05.38-1 This year’s DiG Festival focuses exclusively on “digital disruption”. It’s a theme that almost every business is facing but few have plans for. In almost every client interaction I have had in the last 24 months, we touch on disruption and innovation, but always find a lack of preparation or willingness to tackle the challenge beyond the technology. But the challenge is profound.

Macquarie Bank research evaluated the potential impact of disruption to the Australian payments system at $27 billion a year. And while this has spurred an interest in “fintech” startups and innovation labs within parts of the financial sector, there remains plenty of wheel spinning. Not only is there more to do in financial services – many other sectors are still just covering the bare basics of digital strategy and execution. The retail, healthcare, pharmaceutical and mining/energy sectors – Australia’s engines for economic growth – are notorious digital laggards.

But digital disruption is not all about technology. It’s also about culture. Opportunity. Diversity. It’s about shared value and a vision for the future. And it’s about education.

And this is where the DiG Festival outstrips the performance of almost every other conference.

Over the next two days, we are treated to a feast of international and Australian speakers, workshops, announcements and networking opportunities.

Is DiG Australia’s SXSW?

Originally envisioned as Australia’s answer to SXSW, DiG is punching above its weight, attracting world-class speakers on business essential topics:

  • Women in Tech advocate, Ruthe Farmer, head of strategy development and partnerships at the National Center for Women and Information Technology in the US, is blazing a trail that we are just embarking upon. She has spoken at the White House, advised the United Nations and has a formidable list of achievements
  • Rebecca Caroe lays bare the hard truths of working with millennials and what it takes to challenge and grow the next generation of leaders. Her talk was jaw droppingly insightful as well as entertaining – and saw her swamped by questions in the breaks
  • The University of Newcastle used the festival to announce its new Entrepreneurship and Innovation program scheduled to start in 2016
  • The dynamic Eve Mayer flew solo off-the-cuff to step through the gory details of social media in a serious business context. Inspired by the University of Newcastle’s new program, she offered one lucky student an internship in her business in Texas. Now it was just a matter of sponsoring travel and accommodation. Within minutes, business leaders were jockeying for position.
  • Trent Bagnall from Newcastle’s Slingshot startup accelerator launched into my favourite topic – corporate innovation, sharing the hard won stories of innovation mis-matches, middle management anti-bodies and the successes of their partnership with the NRMA JumpStart program
  • Scott Yates from content crowd sourcing machine, Blogmutt, showed just how powerful crowd generated content can be when focused around your business goals and strategies
  • Alison Michalk shared the process of “birthing a business and launching a baby” while building a global business without an office, but with a strong sense of culture and purpose.

And like any good conference, there was more. More great speakers. Fantastic ideas. Workshops were jam packed. And the open areas were abuzz with conversation. The whole vibe was one of collegiality and good will. Speakers and audience members easily mingled, drank coffee and exchanged cards. Speakers vowed to return. Business leaders left inspired.

But this conference should have been 10 times the size. The topics and insights delivered are hot for Australian business leaders right now. Luckily, the DiG Festival team are packaging up the conference content and will make it available online. Register your interest online. And next year, show up in person. You’ll be glad you did.

Thrive in an Age of Disruption


Disruption is the new normal. Everywhere we look we find traditional business models under threat from emerging players, technology creating new opportunities for fast-moving businesses and the creaking bones of industrial age enterprises labouring to stay current, fresh or even just relevant. The darlings of our blue chip stock markets have given way to tighter, more technologically aggressive firms who wield tech not for COMPETITIVE advantage but to create UNFAIR advantages. Facebook and Google are the obvious examples, but there are more. Many more.

Many of these massively scaled companies have locked their valuations away from the markets – creating a vibrant behind-closed-doors market where Venture Capital firms tease out $1 billion valuations. Just take a look at the Wall Street Journal’s Billion Dollar Startup Club to get a sense of the scale in operation. Uber, with a current valuation of over $50 billion, leads the pack and now boasts a valuation way in excess of General Motors.


But while Uber, is on the surface, a business about transportation – and cars in particular – it is far from being a car company as we have known them. It is, in fact, a technology company. A software company. And a data company. It is disruption paradigms at every turn.

Even on a more micro level, disruption is taking place in our suburbs and in our streets. The NBN – when it arrives at it eventually will – will sweep non-digital businesses away in a tide of data. And those local institutions like post offices and newsagencies that are the hubs of our suburban malls, will be the first to go (if they have not disappeared already).


Disruption is not destruction.

It is possible to not only thrive in an age of disruption but to also prosper. And this is what I will be discussing at Newcastle’s DiG Festival on 12-13 October. In fact, the whole two days of the conference are devoted to the theme.

So if you’re wondering what disruption has in store for your career, business or enterprise, you might find this is the best investment you have made in years. See you there!

Digital and the Future of Marketing


When we think of the future of marketing, we often think of our customers. What trends are they adopting? Which devices? Where are they and how can I reach them? But there’s a double-sided impact to the future of marketing – and that is to do with the future of marketers.

There have been some massive improvements in the world of technology – with automated content and engagement platforms seeming to do amazing work. Just look at the journalism robots created by Associated Press that now publish around 3000 stories every quarter. This is journalism content “without a human byline”. It is a cocktail of 1 part excitement, 1 part absolute dread. After all, what happens when those “journo bots” turn their attention to marketing?

It’s time for us to grapple with the future of marketing

I recently spoke at the Marketo MarketingNation roadshow – and discussed our marketing-technology future. I will leave you to watch the video in your own good time, but I will also raise a couple of points:

  • Data is not your only answer – you need to work with the PANDA principles to deliver broad and deep value as a marketer
  • You need to create not inherit the future – what is the future you’d like to see? If you have a vision for a creative and vibrant marketing career, it’s time for you to step forward and voice those ideas
  • Time to skill up – if you don’t have any tech skills, it’s time to work on that. As we rush towards an increasingly connected customer experience model, technology will feature more and more. It’s essential you at least have the foundations (this is covered in the presentation)
  • Get some digital muscle on your Board – the same principles apply to Boards. Without the digital expertise available at a strategic level, you’re business longevity will decline. It’s time to bring diversity and divergent thinking onto your Board.

Autobots, Decepticons, Technology and the New World Order #MarketingNation


marketoWe all say that the world has changed. That the customer is at the centre of our business and marketing strategies. We say that our marketing teams are going to spend more on technology than our tech teams. And we say that customer experience is at the heart of what we do as businesses.

But is this all talk? Or is it smoke and mirrors?

On Friday, August 28, 2015, the Marketo Marketing Nation roadshow rolls into town – and the agenda promises to answer these questions and more.

With keynotes from Marketo CEO, Phil Fernandez and firebrand CMO of Xero, Andy Lark, it promises to be a great day of market and marketing insight. And also a day of action.

  • Charles Ross, Senior Editor Asia-Pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit is speaking on the rise of the marketer: driving engagement, experience and revenue
  • Andrew Lark, CMO, Xero will be discussing the connected customer: Why and how enterprises must transform to achieve greatness
  • Jennifer Arnold, Head of Marketing, SAP Australia and NZ looks at digital engagement: Australia’s performance through the eye of the customer
  • Rose Herceg, Chief Strategy Officer, STW Group and Author of The Power Book will examine the agency of the future
  • Cheryl Chavez, VP Product, Marketo will share what’s new in the world of personalised engagement marketing
  • Lara Brownlow from LinkedIn will share five key trends for marketers
  • Chris Savage, Growth Accelerator, PR Leader, Inspiring Business Advisor will explain how you can keep yourself relevant in a changing world.

There will also be customer panels and plenty of opportunities for networking.

After the lunch break, I am speaking on the way that technology is not just changing marketing but also IT – establishing a new world order. And it is in this new world order where marketers need IT skills and IT teams need marketing skills. It’s like the world of The Transformers. Who is the Autobot? Who is the Decepticon? And what do we need to do to explore our shared future?

If you are coming along to the conference, be sure to say hello. And if not, check out my live tweeting at #MarketingNation or live streams on Periscope or Meerkat.

Periscope Captures from the ADMA Global Forum


Live streaming using apps like Periscope and Meerkat have revolutionised conferences of all kinds. No matter whether you are hosting a small lunchtime gathering of friends, colleagues or experts, or attending a massive conference, these easy-to-use apps allow you to share what you are seeing with the wider world. Or at least those who follow you on social media.

With this in mind, I thought I’d put both Meerkat and Periscope through their paces at the ADMA Global Forum. The ADMA Global Forum brings the world’s leading data driven marketers together to share insights, best and emerging practices, case studies and strategies. This year, there is strong representation from technology firms with good stories to tell. Oracle, IBM and Marketo are represented. Facebook is too. I also dropped by the stands of IVE, Minfo, and others. This year is an improvement on last, but there’s more work to be done on their exhibition stands and their ability to talk to marketers on their own terms. If you have a tech brand needing to talk “marketing”, then maybe we should talk too.

I live streamed and recorded a number of sessions and embedded them below. Tomorrow I will go deeper. Do some interviews. Chat with the teams on the exhibition stands and some of the audience. Let me know what you’re interested in and I will see who I can talk to.

@AndyVen from TheOutNet

Marketing Automation with @Missguided

Case study from @Missguided

Case study from Bosch

Case study from Regions Bank

Content Strategy from @TheOutNet

Case study from Getty Images

Personalisation strategy from Sitecore ANZ

ADMA Global Forum in Pictures


The Best Case Study Music in the World


I have written case studies, I have submitted case studies for awards. And I have judged awards. But they can often be an unemotional slog.

By their nature, case studies tend toward the factual. They’re often devoid of “feelings” – and struggle to tell story of impact. But what if there was the case study equivalent of the Tenacious D song “Best Band in the World”? What if there was a way to tell a case study as a Tribute? What would that mean? And would it change things?

The good folks at ADMA have taken on this challenge – producing a song that can be readily inserted into the background of your case study video.

It’s going to turn problems, solutions and results into gold, silver and bronze trophies,” said ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster. “The air freight bill back from Cannes next year is going to be astronomical.”

But what goes into creating the best case study music in the world? Here’s a quick video of the process, featuring many of the Australia’s leading agencies and creatives in a surprising surge of collaborative spirit.

The Case Study Song of the Year can be purchased with lifetime rights and comes with a complimentary ticket to ADMA’s Creative Fuel event, Thursday August 6 at the Seymour Centre in Sydney. It’s a chance to not only hear the live premiere of this creative masterpiece – you can also hear from some of the best creative thinkers around.

Social: The Present is Mobile. The Future is Wearable


There was a time when the battle for social media was simply one of recognition. For some time, brands and businesses held out. Restricting firewall access to social networks. Directing marketing spend to broadcast. Ignoring the trending shift to digital across a range of categories – from marketing to HR, supply chain to finance.

Now, this pent up force has been loosed and it is transforming the way that we work, why we work and how we work faster than we could have anticipated. As a result, we are seeing disruption almost everywhere we look:

  • Who – this is not just about “digital natives” or “digital immigrants”. We now have no choice but to adopt a “digital nomad” perspective. We need to move with the digital times, building and refining skills, networks, and connections. It’s touching every one of us in profound ways.
  • What – we used to be able to cordon off “home” and “work”. These days, there is only what Nina Simosko calls a life continuum. What we consider work is no longer restricted to what we do and is becoming more closely aligned to “what and who we are”. This is having an enormous impact on the nature of work, the workplace and what it means to have “purposeful work”.
  • Where – the disruption began at home, in our palms and quickly spread through the networks.  But as we know, culture eats location, and that means our “where of working” is infinitely more mobile, flexible and time-shifted. This is challenging workplace structure, services and cohesion.
  • Why – We are paid to work but businesses continue to struggle with motivation, morale, and engagement. As our Baby Boomer generations retire, we will be left with a massive experience and capability gap within our organisations. To attract the best talent, we’ll need a much better understanding of the needs and expectations of our employees.
  • How – this is where the most obvious disruption and transformation is taking place. The “tools of our trades” are increasingly digital, data driven and mobile.

Kate Carruthers brings this together elegantly in this presentation made at the recent CeBIT conference in Sydney. She makes the point that we need to keep looking towards the horizon – for while the present of social is mobile. The future is wearable and the internet of things. And that future is not far away. In fact, it’s already in your pocket.