By Leon Gettler >>

BLOCKCHAIN and cryptocurrency could radically change the way companies do business, and even pay their staff, according to Jonathon Miller, managing director of Bit Trade and Bit Trade Labs.

Bit Trade is a digital platform for the everyday Australians to trade and manage their blockchain assets, including Bitcoin and Ethereum. 

Bit Trade Labs, on the other hand, is an incubator for blockchain and distributed ledger projects. It is a mission of both companies to empower people with the tools and knowledge to trade blockchain assets. 

As the founding member of industry body Australian Digital Commerce Association (ADCA), the companies are committed to the growth and mass adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrencies in Australia.

“They will be able then essentially to connect employees with employment opportunities before they have a bank account,” Mr Miller told Talking Business.

“They can use cryptocurrency as a digital banking platform that they’re not responsible for maintaining so it reduces those costs, it reduces those risks.”

Mr Miller conceded there were still some risks, but it was very much about being informed and educated about its implementation.

DE-RISK BY DESIGN

Mr Miller said there were always risks with internet technologies but a lot of those risks could be addressed through good design.

He said platforms such as Bitcoin and Ethereum were experimental, with cryptocurrencies embedded as part of their token offering.

And businesses, he said, were taking to it.

“Businesses are using tokens to raise money,” Mr Miller said. “Instead of going to traditional market places, they’re going to global market places with tokens. That is now becoming a regulated arena and that is now welcomed.

“What you’re seeing is this trend of businesses using cryptocurrency, using blockchains and we help people tap into these markets. We help people not only tap into a local market for these but a global market.”

BACKING REGULATION

Mr Miller said ADCA was now part of the global conversation on regulating cryptocurrencies.

 “We obviously have to look to the US, we obviously have to look to the UK, Europe and Japan,” he said. 

“This technology is very much part of the internet. It needs regulation that suits that. It has to be on a global scale, it has to have the inter-operable.”

Mr Miller said his firm was using the crowdsource legislation to go out and raise funds in Australia.

“We have investors from all walks of life,” he said. “We’ve got our own customers coming to back us, we’ve got institutional investors who are really excited about this space and we’re seeing interest from people who believe in cryptocurrency and who believe in blockchain.”

www.btrade.io

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.  

ends

By Jamie Humphrey >>

CLOUD computing has well and truly become mainstream and a central part of the chief information officers (CIO) agendas as they rush to digitalise their businesses.

However, knowing what to do and being able to do it in the most efficient manner are two different things. Companies therefore face several practical hurdles in cloud adoption.

Research firm Gartner recently revealed that although software-as-a-service (SaaS) remains the largest area of information technology (IT) spending in Australia, most future growth will be seen in infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), with a predicted public cloud spend of A$6.5 billion in 2019.

That is a 19 percent increase and greater than the forecasted 17.5 percent global average. 

As with other technologies, one size does not fit all in cloud computing. 

With a wide range of providers, platforms, services, and varying cloud computing environments to choose from, the central question for most CIOs is: which cloud, or combination of clouds, best suit my requirements?

NOT SO SIMPLE

Shifting commodity applications like web and email hosting to public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft can be straightforward.

However, business is not always that simple, and it becomes more complicated for other applications and data.

Stricter regulation and governance, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and mandatory data breach notification scheme, and corporate sensitivities around intellectual property (IP) extend strict protocols to protect data.

In many other cases, it makes sense, is required by law, or is desirable, to keep sensitive enterprise data on private clouds (on premise) – isolated from the public internet and with strict access to select groups in an organisation.

THE HYBRID PATH

Hybrid or multi-cloud can offer a direct route through the haze. While the terms hybrid cloud and multi-cloud are often used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two.

Multi-cloud is a horizontal alignment of clouds, where the clouds are mixed across multiple providers. While this mitigates risk by diversifying cloud providers and services, the workloads remain separate and there is no communication or coordination (orchestration) between them.

Hybrid cloud, on the other hand, is a vertical alignment and refers to the pairing of public and private clouds, which are bound by proprietary technology or a fabric, thus enabling data and application mobility. Within this environment, data is securely shared between applications sitting in either cloud environment.

Multi-clouds are not necessarily hybrid arrangements, but hybrid clouds are always multi-cloud arrangements.

So, hybrid cloud can integrate and intertwine a mix of private and public clouds as well as on-premise environments such as hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). And while each of the environments has various touch points and integrations, they remain fully independent, preventing risks of data leakage from one platform to another.

Therefore, hybrid lets enterprises reduce risk, but also benefit from increased efficiency and productivity, as well as refining the operations of the business to add the entire value of its data for the betterment of the customers and the company.

GOING MAINSTREAM

In 2017, the Australian Government announced its Secure Cloud Strategy to simplify government agency transition to the public cloud for improved visibility and operational effectiveness.

The goal is to ensure that the individual visions of each agency is supported and can offer a common platform, accessible across agencies to encourage collaboration and standardisation.

What the strategy, and many like-minded strategies across industry and government, fails to acknowledge, is that not all clouds are made equal.

There are a number of obvious advantages to public cloud, but it also has some significant limitations and drawbacks. What is certain is that hybrid cloud’s combination of public and private resources maximises cost-savings, productivity and innovation while minimising latency, privacy and security issues.

It’s been a long road to recognition for hybrid – first ignored, then dismissed, and finally embraced. The incumbents who praised the exclusive virtues of public cloud have gone silent, or even hit reverse on their cloud strategies.

Hybrid cloud is fast becoming the mainstream in Australia as the rush to unlock the true value and full potential of cloud accelerates.

Many early adopters and innovators have long advocated for a hybrid model, while lamenting the limitations to business of inflexibility and the ‘one size fits all’ restriction of public cloud. It seems now, everyone else does too.

As businesses and governments look for the freedom to invest, create and innovate, it will be left to the instant access and control of the ever-increasing cloud networks to provide that freedom. This will result in software-driven enterprises being free to focus on enhanced customer and citizen experience and shape the future of business and the economy. And for that, there is only hybrid cloud.

The clash of the clouds is now in full force. All efforts, energies and entities have their sights set on the next frontier in business improvement and efficiency. And given the players that have suddenly entered the fray, the growth figures for the sector mentioned earlier may be underestimated – by a long way.

www.nutanix.com

Jamie Humphrey is the Australia and New Zealand managing director for enterprise cloud company, Nutanix.

ends

By Leon Gettler >>

COMPANIES need to reconsider their print strategies with the growth of mobile employees and remote workforces

Adam O’Neill, the managing director of Y Soft, said it was particularly critical with the ‘bring-your-own-device’ movement sweeping through the workforce, where people are bringing their own technology to work with them.

“We are talking about whether they’re travelling staff, field first staff such as sales and services personnel, we’re seeing an increase in activity-based work environments where staff internally are moving from location to location – and all those things naturally direct staff to devices with greater battery life and something that’s a bit more mobile to carry,” Mr O’Neill told Talking Business

“So when a business looks at what to implement from a print strategy, they need to look at how their staff is working and what their preference is.

“The other thing they need to consider is what paper-based workflows does the business use at the moment.” 

He said while there had been an anticipation that print was reducing, this had not happened to the degree the market had anticipated.

Mr O’Neill said the key was to develop systems that would allow employees to seamlessly and securely use the company’s printers from anywhere in the world, using their own mobile device.

This meant replicating their existing workflow from a laptop on a mobile device.

PRINT POLICY VITAL

Mr O’Neill said implementing a print management system combined with a print policy within the organisation would reduce printing costs.

“One way of doing that is assessing those reports, having a look at what we might deem to be unnecessary printing, like printing emails in colour, and then implementing a rule that would automatically enforce that and say change your colour email to black and white, just to reduce costs, and so on,” Mr O’Neill said.

He said this was easy to implement but the biggest issue was change management, addressing that human element and assisting people with that change.

One of the biggest challenges was being able to change the process of the paper coming out of the machine and having the print job come out of any device.

“It is a change to how people work and that has to be addressed through, I guess, education,” he said.

This tended to involve just short training sessions and advising people why the change was being implemented, whether it was cost driven, environmentally driven, convenience driven or a combination of all three.

In the end, Mr O’Neill said, it boiled down to internal advertising.

Done properly, it would ease costs by putting less pressure on the help desk, he said. 

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

By Leon Gettler >>

How does a small florist start-up disrupt Australia’s flower industry? Through technology and artificial intelligence.

Rob Lambert has done exactly that through his online business Flowers Across Australia.

The team behind Flowers Across Melbourne – who set out to completely disrupt the flower industry 10 years ago – has quadrupled the size of their business in five years, averaging a growth of 42 percent year on year in that time and now employ 40 staff.

The directors are a married couple, Rob being the tech ecommerce genius (who taught himself to code) and his wife Nadina, a florist.   

Flowers Across Melbourne are one of the biggest florists in Melbourne and have one of the largest ranges of flower and plants in Australia. The team has sent out 300,000-plus bouquets and arrangements since its inception. They have two sister companies based in Melbourne, Plants Across Melbourne, and Hampers Across Melbourne as well as a branch in Sydney called Flowers Across Sydney.

As well as managing the four ecommerce websites, Rob Lambert has also custom built his own app which tracks employee KPIs and happiness, via the iPads that all the florists use across the company.

And while most florists use Interflora, Flowers Across Australia made the intentional split because it wanted to control the process.

“The florist industry, when I started building the app, was very old school,” Mr Lambert told Talking Business. “We wanted to make it run better, run more smoothly with less mistakes.

“So we started building the app and started building KPIs. So every florist in the store has an iPad. We batch process orders, we have an automated system to give them the most urgent orders.

“The system itself understands when the next driver is coming in. The machine is doing that in the background. It’s trying to understand who I should give this arrangement to because we have different levels of florist as well.

“We want to make it more streamlined, it’s all about the customer experience.”

Mr Lambert said the business had grown spectacularly over the last 10 years, quadrupling in size. He said the next phase of growth was to move into Brisbane and Adelaide.

Flowers Across Australia sends flowers across Sydney and Melbourne, covering a 20km radius around both cities.

Most of the orders come in online, but some come in on the phone.

Flowers Across Australia also operates a gifting business, providing teddy bears, candles, and wine with the flowers.

“It makes a lot of sense because we have the logistical ability to do that,’’ Mr Lambert said. 

“Not everybody wants flowers all the time. There are different occasions where a hamper might be more appropriate.”

www.leongettler.com

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness

Digital business insights: By John Sheridan >>

IN MANY WAYS traditional politics is dead. The ‘tennis match’ of left and right, liberal and labour, socialist and conservative continually hitting the ball backwards and forwards, shouting a lot, but not actually doing very much is not delivering the goods. 

And meanwhile the world moves on, for good and for bad. With some very large ‘wicked problems’ emerging for us all to deal with.

The times of big picture strategies and visionary leadership seem to have slipped behind us. Yet many of those initiatives still look good in hindsight – e.g. The Marshall Plan, The Square Deal, Public Health System, Free Schooling and so on. But that was then and this is now.

Times have moved on, and the digital revolution has presented us with so many new challenges and possibilities. It has connected the world. And given us a host of social levers that never existed before. 

But so far, both vision and tools have been hijacked by ‘business as usual = the 20th century’. The technology is just being applied to reinforce the way things were.

When it could be applied to open the way to a new world of possibilities, driven by vision, expedited by the new tools of the 21st century.

One of the biggest barriers to effective change is simple. 

Recognising the ‘power of one’. 

THE POWER TO DO

What can I possibly do to make a difference … little old me? This question holds so much personal energy and potential in check.

Quite a lot, actually. Because, all positive change in history started with one person.

Understand that, and then understand the potential of using internet-based tools to add leverage to individual power through collaboration. 

And the equation changes.

1=1 = ‘what can I do?’

Changes to…

1 + 1 = 2, 1+1+1 = 3, or 11 or a thousand or more = and together ‘we can do anything’.

But it starts with the ‘power of one’. That has to be first recognised and realised by each of us.

Who do we see in the mirror every morning?

An actor? Or a commentator? 

A doer or a viewer?

Work that out. Then – we can all get on with it. 

In many ways, it doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is. Acting rather than observing and commentating is refreshing, inspiring, powerful and cathartic and can lead to further action.

I am not suggesting action without vision or focus. I am simply suggesting that we do what our ancestors did 12,000 years ago and move from hunter gathering and start ‘gardening’ or ‘farming’ our limited resources with intelligence. Much like farmers and gardeners do today.

But we need to manage all the productive resources we have not just seeds, animals and soil.

Productive energy with no direction = jungle. 

Productive energy with vision and direction = garden. Farming. Agriculture. 

We need to apply that same thoughtful, considered approach to everything that we do. Economic agriculture. Social agriculture. Innovation agriculture.

POLITICAL JUNGLE?

The current ‘jungle’ condition we live in is actually not the fault of politicians – local, state or federal. 

Politicians are themselves constrained by bureaucracy and the way government works. Many politicians have good intent (not all) but are frustrated by timing, budget, factions, ideology, external influence and then the slow mechanics of bureaucratic response to ministerial direction. 

Many of us could do something in three weeks or three months that would take government 2-3 years. And they would mess it up. I spent 20 years in advertising and became used to tasks being set, responded to, creative solutions being created, then measured against a strategic brief and turned into production in 6-8 weeks.

But government doesn’t act this way. Government usually gets driven and directed by fixed ideology rather than ‘good ideas’ which can come from anywhere and do. Nobody owns good ideas.

And they seem to enjoy the theatre of politics and the adversarial ‘tennis match’ just a bit too much, forgetting the primary function of government = service, management, fixing things and delivering the goods.

For it’s a digitally, connected and interconnected world we now live in, yet government rarely views issues holistically – which is where all the ‘wicked problems’ live, so fails to fix the real issues we wrestle with in society every day. 

Just about every citizen, in every country in the world could dictate a list of the biggest problems we face. And it would look pretty much the same, no matter where the list originated. The OECD created such a list a few years ago and nothing much has changed since then.

And there is no reason at all – why collectively – we shouldn’t have a go at fixing those problems. We don’t have to wait for permission.

There are big problems, medium sized problems and small ones, and if we can tick them off one by one, then who knows what might happen. 

There is no rule that says only people that visit Davos once a year, get to discuss ways of making the world a better place to live. 

It’s back to the ‘power of one’ – me and you. That is where initiatives start.

THE RED TOOLBOX

Over the years, I have met with chairs and CEOs of corporates and they mostly have the same issues as the rest of us and the same frustrations with lack of government vision and action. So I figured if we could address these problems and frustrations together, jigsaw puzzle piece by jigsaw puzzle piece, then we may just be able to collaboratively create a big picture of solutions. That anyone can use.

That’s all the RED Toolbox is – http://theredtoolbox.org – a set of tools for anybody to use to address problems.

The framework of regions (52), sectors (19) and themes – innovation, investment, future of work, export and sustainability – is simple, deliberately so, because hardly anybody has an argument with any of those themes.

And we don’t need to elect a leader or leaders within that broad context. We just get on with it.

We just need doers. Actors. Willing to work with others. Sharing value. In the same way that ants achieve tasks with no control from the queen. They just collaborate to do stuff as it arises. 

The purpose of the RED Toolbox was just to create structure for ‘the river of ideas and projects’ (regions and sectors), with direction generated by the five themes of innovation, investment, export, future of work and jobs, and sustainability.

That simple framework allows anybody to do stuff both with and without government support, recognising that no government on the planet has yet addressed the issue of governing holistically. Which represents an opportunity for the rest of us.

Roughly 97 percent of people are good folk. About 3 percent are sociopaths and 0.3 percent are psychopaths – so we should try to leave them out of it, as much as possible and focus on the 97 percent.

And there is no need to define or restrict the projects as long as they align with the key themes.

So government policy and direction then becomes largely irrelevant. It is all about what works.

And whenever businesses and citizens start collaborating to do things, most governments tend to offer support anyway – and we should always try to give mayors and politicians flags to wave and ownership, whenever and wherever applause is due.

Keep the politicians informed, but get on with the game regardless. 

Accept the ‘power of one’. Cast off ‘fear’. Do something.

Commentators sit and debate in the stands. Players play the game on the field.

We all only have a short time here on the planet and there is more than enough to do.

So 2019, full steam ahead. Let’s get doing.

#

John Sheridan is CEO of Digital Business insights, an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia, which focuses on helping businesses and communities adapt to, and flourish in, the new digital world. He is the author of Connecting the Dots and getting more out of the digital revolution. Digital Business insights has been researching and analysing the digital revolution for more than 15 years and has surveyed more than 50,000 businesses, conducting in-depth case study analysis on more than 350 organisations and digital entrepreneurs. Now DBi is turning that research into action through a series of digital business development platforms, the first of which launched in 2016, the Manufacturing Toolbox. DBi has now also launched a series of international online trade showcases, promoting Australian goods and services to specific countries and promoting use of those showcases in those countries. The first, just launched, is the Australia-Taiwan Trade Showcase. Coming soon are trade showcases for Japan, Hong Kong-China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and India. Australia's Regional Economic Development (RED) Toolbox has now been launched at http://theredtoolbox.org.

http://www.db-insights.com/

By Leon Gettler >>

IN 2004, Townsville local Luke Anear transformed his workplace health and safety consultancy into a software start-up, SafetyCulture.

The firm started in a garage and Mr Anear is determined to keep it that way.

The firm has developed iAuditor and Spotlight, innovative, low-cost, mobile-first applications that allow users to create safe and efficient workplaces by conducting centralised audits and, in real-time, quickly evaluating safety and quality.

“I used to be a private investigator spying on people who had been injured at work and thought this was pretty crazy … waiting for people to get injured and then spying on them,” Mr Anear told Talking Business.

“I created a training document business for the Australian construction industry, and that was great, but by 2011 you could see people had a computer in their pocket and they were people who normally didn’t sit in front of a computer. 

“So I thought it was a chance to build some tools and we built a check list app – and people would download it and use it in their workplace,” he said.

“It is all human entered information and high quality stuff.”

The downside is that it relies on people to check stuff all the time, so SafetyCulture is now developing an automated system.

One of its tools, Spotlight, has schools in the US using it in a unique way. They use Spotlight for tagging a potential shooter and notifying teachers and the sheriff’s department.

“We are facilitating the flow of information that wasn’t collected before,” Mr Anear said. “The starting point was pens and paper and some people have desktop software that is quite cumbersome and takes a lot of time to use so people will avoid it.

“We’re helping people share information and making it easier and fun.”

The firm now employs 280 people and is moving into hardware and the internet of things (IoT).

He said maintaining the start-up culture of the company was all important.

“If we don’t maintain a great culture, then we don’t attract and keep those people who can build those great products coming through. It’s something we pay a lot of attention to and making sure that people who are coming in are adding to our culture.”

www.leongettler.com 

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at www.acast.com/talkingbusiness.

By Neville Vincent >>

THE TECHNOLOGY industry has a habit of inventing terms and phrases that are virtually incomprehensible to those outside that inner circle.

Despite our overall lack of comprehension, these terms take off and become hot topics and ‘ones to watch’ quite easily.

Blockchain frequently dominates our headlines, due mostly to its intrinsic link to the madness around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – but how many of us actually know what it is? 

Others are easier to understand, such as artificial intelligence (AI), though our interpretations might be skewed by some memorable fiction over the years.

One that is growing in prominence but understood by few is DevOps. It’s a concept that’s either ignored completely or labelled as ‘best left to the techies’.

However, DevOps is among the most important business-level technology trends gaining real traction, and it’s high time business leaders in Australia took notice.

SO, WHAT IS DEVOPS?

DevOps, a combination of development and operations, is less a new technology and more a culture, practice and even a movement. At its core, it’s about people first; empowering teams within business departments with digital tools they need when they need them.

Any digital service – which could include new applications to manage finance or human resources, video conferencing, data analytics, and much more – involves a number of steps to go from concept to reality. These steps are usually research, design, construct, test, deploy and manage.

Traditionally, these steps have taken a long time, a lot of blood, sweat and tears and required huge financial investment, meaning businesses needed to carefully choose which digital services they adopt.

DevOps advocates the use of automation and monitoring at all stages of development and aims for shorter cycles so that digital services aren’t such a chore and can be spun up quickly.

The key ingredient to DevOps is perhaps the overused but at least well-understood term – agility. New technologies emerge every day and businesses need to be ready to react and deploy.

GETTING STARTED

Step one to creating a successful DevOps environment is implementing a simpler, more sophisticated information technology (IT) environment.

Modern environments, such as public and private cloud and hyper-converged infrastructure, are effectively automated to the point where they don’t need ‘management’.

That means your IT team has more time to focus on building a DevOps culture.

From a financial point of view, investing in an IT environment has always been a bit of a guessing game.

CIOs had to judge the amount of resources they would need over the period of about five years and then make a case to their CFOs and management. This often meant paying for more than was needed at the start of that cycle, and potentially being stretched thin by the end of it.

Cloud is scalable and has enabled a more favourable operational expenditure (opex) system for this spend. Bite-sized investment can be made as and when needed, meaning the IT environment is never behind or ahead of business requirements.

Consuming IT in this way often means vendor consolidation, ticking another box for CFOs and business leaders.

With a scalable environment, more resources can be deployed quickly and easily to manage the applications and services that come from DevOps.

CONTAINERS

If DevOps is a poorly-comprehended term, containers are likely to be flat out baffling, but are an important tool to add to your new IT environment to help enable DevOps.

In simple terms, container services such as Kubernetes and Docker are private spaces where applications can be run in a number of different ways.

Remember our list from earlier? Research, design, construct, test, deploy and manage. In a container, these stages are easier, faster and cheaper to work through.

There’s a lot more to containerisation, but that can be left to the techies – the takeaway message here is that a container can help enable a DevOps culture.

BUILDING THE CULTURE

With the right foundation and tools in place, the vital next step is to build the culture within the organisation. While DevOps must be led by management and the IT department, it requires buy in, cooperation and communication on an interdepartmental level.

Each department must communicate what it needs from a digital transformation standpoint. This can then be assessed, and a strategy can be formed that satisfies the need in line with what’s possible and what fits in with the company’s digital roadmap.

This is less about technology and more about change management. People can be resistant to changing the status quo and most outside of the tech department won’t understand what DevOps and containers are and why they should care.

What people should understand is the benefits DevOps can deliver – speed, agility, meeting customer needs with technology, automating daily repetitive tasks, the list goes on.

Communicating these benefits and building a DevOps culture in the right way will help bring the speed and agility businesses crave, and simplify the tedious tasks of people at all levels, and that is something we can all get behind.

Neville Vincent is vice president for Australian and New Zealand, ASEAN and India for enterprise cloud company Nutanix.

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