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Australia’s digital capability surges, helps keep 3.2 million people working through the pandemic

Australian enterprise has overwhelmingly risen to the operational challenge posed by the pandemic, with new research showing that the transition to digital ways of working spared the economy from a much worse fate and kept 3.2 million people working, including 1.6 million who might otherwise have been furloughed from their jobs with the introduction of social distancing rules.

The study, How technology strengthened Australian business during COVID and beyond also reveals that digitally advanced organisations have grown faster and proven more productive in the six months to August 2020 than peers with lower digital capability.

Analysis by AlphaBeta (part of Accenture), commissioned by Microsoft and released on the eve of a virtual visit to Australia by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reveals that almost half (47 per cent) of Australia’s digitally advanced businesses have grown revenues over the last year.

Meanwhile, only 32 per cent of less digitally advanced businesses saw revenues rise. More than a third (35 per cent) of the advanced cohort has also increased profitability compared to just 23 per cent of less digitally advanced firms.

The report is based on a range of data sources including the Business Characteristics Survey of the ABS and a new survey of Australian businesses experience through COVID.

It found that companies have significantly accelerated their digital transformation, grown their digital capability. and transitioned to a more digital way of working and engaging with customers.

Importantly, the companies which performed best – close to three times better than other firms – harnessed digital solutions and updated their workplace policies and practices.

The research confirms that while no business is immune to the impact of a global pandemic, those fortified by digital capability are more resilient.

“Digital tech intensity is the key to business resilience and transformation. Organisations that build their own digital capability will recover faster and emerge stronger,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “We are committed to helping organizations across Australia apply the power of our full tech stack to not only stay open for business but innovate during this time of unprecedented constraints.”

Microsoft is pleased to be able to support Australian businesses by doubling its local cloud capacity since 2018 and has just announced new Australian Azure Availability Zones to support organisations as they continue to innovate, support their people, create valued customer experiences and explore new avenues of growth.

“Digital tech intensity is the key to business resilience and transformation. Organisations that build their own digital capability will recover faster and emerge stronger,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “We are committed to helping organisations across Australia apply the power of our full tech stack to not only stay open for business but innovate during this time of unprecedented constraints.”

Australian organisations prepare for post pandemic growth

Microsoft is working with organisations across every sector of the Australian economy as they accelerate ahead:

  • DIGITAL RESILIENCE: JB Hi-Fi has deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management to transform warehouse management as part of a digital transformation that enabled a rapid adjustment to focus on online and telephone sales during the pandemic, and keep employees working even when physical stores in Victoria were closed. Richard Murray, CEO said; “Earlier this year we were able to report a strong financial results. Our ability to leverage our digital assets to support a shift in the way customers shopped, as well as how our people work, played a significant role in our continued success. For example, we were able to seamlessly keep delivering from both warehouses and stores – and that was good for customers who needed essential items and great for our team – even if it was quite a different way of working.”
  • REIMAGINE BUSINESS: Volt, Australia’s first neobank, says that already rising demand for digitised products and services has been put into hyperspeed by the pandemic. According to Volt CEO and co-founder Steve Weston; “Customers will be increasingly demanding simple, convenient, and fast products and services delivered directly from their smartphone – which is exactly what we provide as a digital bank.” Microsoft has signed a strategic partnership with, Volt, to develop “Volt 2.0” – a next-generation Banking as a Service (BaaS) platform, slated for release in 2021. Volt 2.0 will be the digital platform that allows Volt’s approved business partners to natively provide full-service banking and payments to their own clients and will act as an extension of pre-existing Volt partnerships with a number of household brands.
  • EMPOWERING PEOPLE: Demand for GovTEAMS – the whole of government communications and collaboration platform – has more than tripled during the pandemic as Federal Government agencies collaborate remotely with one another, other jurisdictions, and their private sector partners. Built using Microsoft Teams, GovTEAMS breaks down department silos and encourages inter-government connections. Clare Walsh, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Finance said; “One silver lining that the APS (Australian Public Service) has drawn from the COVID-19 cloud has been the rapid expansion of inter- and intra-agency collaboration using GovTEAMS. Rising from 30,000 registered users in March to 100,000 in September, the weekly totals of 317,000 messages exchanged and the 13,500 meetings conducted demonstrate that the APS has the capability to connect, consult, and collaborate, in and out of the office, despite the current circumstances”.

Microsoft invests in Australia’s digital foundations, opens Availability Zones

To further strengthen Australia’s digital foundations Microsoft is pleased to today announce that Azure Availability Zones are now available from the Australia East data centre region. Availability Zones provide additional options to improve resilience and high availability for organisations which are increasingly reliant on cloud services to run their business.

In the last six months Microsoft has significantly increased the global capacity of Azure to meet the needs of customers as they have transitioned to remote working, embraced online communication and collaboration, and supported more digital customer engagement. In Australia, since 2018 we have doubled our cloud capacity and are now privileged to partner with market leaders from every sector as they transform, reimagining their operations in a digital-first world.

Azure Availability Zones (AZs) feature in the broad portfolio of services and products that enable organisations to create resilient, highly available applications for mission-critical workloads. With three zones in Australia, customers can be assured of even greater resilience, scalability and performance.  A number of organisations are using Azure Availability Zones already including National Australia Bank and Woolworths.

For big four bank NAB, which as part of its five-year strategic partnership with Microsoft will run up to 1,000 applications on Azure, the additional Azure Availability Zones confer essential reliability. According to Steve Day, Executive Enterprise Technology, NAB; “Trust and resilience are critical for the financial services industry to meet both customer expectations and regulatory requirements. The investment that Microsoft continues to make in its Azure Availability Zones provides us with the peace of mind that our systems and data will be protected.”