Building a digital business

The world has gone digital -- 7 billion people are now using around 30 billion connected devices. This has meant that businesses of all sizes need to create compelling digital strategies that improve interactions with customers.

Digital bank, ING Direct is doing just that, rolling out a single platform -- using modular design principles -- to service customers across multiple channels such as the Internet, mobile, and its contact centre. This follows the transfer last year of ING's innovative 'Bank in a Box' cloud-based test and development environment to its primary data centre.

Simon Andrews, chief operating officer at ING Direct told attendees at this month's CIO Summit in Sydney that the local operation has brought across a digital channels platform created by ING Direct in Spain.

"They [ING Spain] hosted core capabilities around analytics, content management, campaign management, and personal financial management," said Andrews.

"We have taken that across, basically cut it up into modules, and in the process of delivering it [to the business] now. The business will define what services they are and how it looks and feels but we have to get very responsive ... we need to be able to consume other services from third-parties or within the ING Group globally," he said.

But it's not just about providing modular applications that can be shared with third parties. Making sure app integration is complete right down to the middleware layer is vital, he said.

"We have introduced a new methodology for the build called 'blueprinting', which and basically it runs top down rather than bottom up and involves robots working on some of the code. They [robots] start with a template at the front end and go down," he said.

"We haven't delivered this yet but it's what we think is going to be very important because the whole thing will be a complete integration -- not just the modular components of the Web or mobile but common, shared components that you can assemble from the middleware [layer] up."

Meanwhile, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has been through a few years of naval gazing with a restructure and staff cuts meaning that the organisations has had to get on the front foot to deploy new digital tools.

Dan Collins, CTO and head of digital media, at MAAS, told attendees that the last 18 months has been rocky. A new management team initiated a redundancy program to cut costs and MAAS lost a third of its staff roster.

"This was a challenge for us but it gave us space in a sense to look at the digital tools we were using, to make some calls on shutting down some legacy systems and perhaps not playing in as many digital social platforms that we had," said Collins.

"We shut a lot of things down and started afresh. We moved some of systems to the cloud and migrated to Salesforce."

The company has rolled out Atlassian's JIRA and Confluence tools to improve project management and staff collaboration across the business, said Collins. JIRA is used for software development, and project and issue management; while Confluence improves content sharing.

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A new responsive website was rolled out last year in line with the rebranding from Powerhouse Museum to MAAS. Half of the museum's web traffic comes from mobile devices.

"Our next big digital challenge is how to connect mobile visitors onsite to the museum with the vast amounts of information that we have in our collection.

"We've had various apps that we've rolled out for different things. We've created augmented reality and location apps but we really want to bring those apps back to the browser so when people come to the museum they can pull any phone out of their pocket and start finding out information about the museum.

"That's something that we are working hard on at the moment."

MAAS will also need to scan and create digital records of up to 400,000 objects when it moves from Pyrmont to Parramatta. The NSW government earlier this year announced it will sell the museum to raise $200 million for its relocation.

Queensland-based motoring club and mutual organisations, RACQ has undergone a complete digital transformation, following a core system replacement in 2013. A key focus has been on the member experience and ease of use of its websites, group CIO, Greg Booker told attendees at the CIO Summit.

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"We've been live for almost a year with the main components of our insurance quoting engines and our insurance sales online this year are up 131 per cent year-on-year; 25 per cent of our business is now written online.

"The 'click to chat' facilities that we have put in place are now receiving between 200 and 400 conversations on a weekly basis, which has been a huge surprise," said Booker.

RACQ has also rolled out a ticketing app that gives members access to 3500 discounts across Queensland.

"It [the mobile app] has a geo-location capability -- it will push a message if we find a member is walking into a theme park or movie theatre -- [saying], 'use the app to buy your tickets.'

"We are targeting our largest demographic -- ages 16 to 23 -- 360,000 of our members fall into that [age range]," Booker said.

Creating innovative software has helped GE Australia make big inroads into its target markets - aviation, transportation, healthcare, energy management and renewables, said Daniel Felice, senior manager, IT ANZ at GE Australia.

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GE has created software Centres of Excellence around the world -- including one in Sydney -- staffed by 14,000 designers and software engineers servicing these target market sectors.

"All of this is to address what we are seeing on the market -- oil prices are at levels we haven't seen for a long time -- and our customers are telling us that cost is their most important driver," said Felice.

"If you look at that from the customer's viewpoint and imagine what value there would be in knowing when a haul truck was due to fail and actually being able to pull that truck out of service beforehand. Servicing it, returning it back in a planned and controlled manner adds value to the customer.

"Alternatively, looking from a maintenance point of view of those same assets, [they are] identifying when those assets are due for maintenance, based on the data analytics rather than an OEM maintenance schedule," said Felice.

GE's field service personnel are also benefitting from digital transformation, using remote diagnostic data to decide when it's necessary to visit remote sites rather than doing routine service inspections.

"This improves ROI and comes about through a conglomeration of software sensors, data, data scientists and our engineering knowledge base -- and our IT team is right in the middle of that leading that thrust."

"We are very much into problem elicitation with the customer -- spending a lot of time on their site -- we will go through an education process on a data analytics journey and a rapid application deployment approach," he said.


Byron Connolly

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