Microsoft Australia boss calls for “digital leadership” from homegrown players

Microsoft Australia boss calls for “digital leadership” from homegrown players

Steven Worrall points to cultural change as well as as technological change

Steven Worrall - Microsoft Australia's managing director

Steven Worrall - Microsoft Australia's managing director

Microsoft Australia managing director, Steven Worrall, has suggested that the country has reached an important “inflexion point” and needs digital leadership if it wants to continue with its current economic track record.

“While Australia has enjoyed 26 years of growth, it has now slipped to 21st in the world competitiveness rankings and ranks 27th in terms of business efficiency,” Worrall told guests at the software vendor’s flagship customer and partner event, Microsoft Summit, in Sydney on 13 November.

“At the same time the [Federal Government’s’] Productivity Commission has warned that sectoral transformation and innovation means that without careful corporate stewardship, existing workers may find their skills displaced and themselves vulnerable to unemployment,” Worrall said.

However, he also highlighted the Commission’s acknowledgement that a “critical x-factor” in healthy long-run economic growth comes from the application of new knowledge and technologies.

“There is a real opportunity here for enterprise leaders to accelerate digital transformation by leveraging rich technology ecosystems and upskilling staff to meet changing customer and society expectations,” Worrall said.

At the same time, however, Microsoft’s Aussie chief said that to innovate at the speed and scale that is required to reach these lofty goals -- which could see local digital innovation contribute $250 billion to the Australian economy over the next eight years -- the key determinant of success will not be the technology itself, but rather the ability of companies to adapt both their leadership and their organisations for the “digital era”.

“Cultural transformation is the vital ingredient to any successful digital transformation,” he said.

Microsoft’s global head of industry, Toni Townes-Whitley, who was in Sydney to speak at Microsoft Summit, backed Worrall’s comments, suggesting that Australian business leaders have the opportunity to embrace the transformative power of cloud infrastructure to accelerate business innovation.

“Digital leadership goes beyond building innovative solutions and robust technology platforms to transform industries and public sector organisations, global companies like Microsoft need to think of the broader societal implications and transform responsibly,” Townes-Whitley said.

“Where do we stand on privacy? Are we ensuring that our technology is accessible? On artificial intelligence, are we building responsible algorithms?” she said.

Townes-Whitley added that leaders across public sector organisations and commercial enterprises needed to thoughtfully navigate these issues to ensure both optimal business outcomes and principled social impact.

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