Top Six Takeaways from ADAPT Digital Edge 2019


In an industry bombarded by ‘must-attend’ events, it’s safe to say that all conferences are not equal. We know this, because we’ve attended our fair share of them over the years.

A good indication of the calibre of an event is the calibre of its delegates. In the case of ADAPT Digital Edge, an invite-only event which carefully selects senior and c-level executives who are either in the business of delivering digital transformation projects or about to do so in-house, it’s safe to say that the conference was very much quality over quantity. On this basis, we were absolutely thrilled to not only attend but take to the stage with our friends at Rackspace and Sitecore to present a 1-hour session on the theme of customer-driven innovation.

Steve Nelson & Nick Jones from Switch at Adapt Digital Edge 2019
Steve & Nick at Adapt Digital Edge 2019

Alongside Linton Burling, GM at Rackspace and Andrew Busuttil from Sitecore, we presented to delegates on the topic of balancing scale with quality in creating customer experiences. The session then branched out into a panel debate on digital future-proofing strategies, followed by a lively roundtable discussion amongst attendees, focusing on how to foster an ‘experience-first, technology-second’ team mindset. It was wonderful to be able to participate in some of these discussions, especially among leaders who are currently in the midst of digital transformation projects and facing these exact challenges.

I’m often baffled by the wasted opportunity at industry events, when delegates are invited to sit and listen, or to talk amongst themselves, but are rarely invited to share their own experiences in a way that can be easily shared. At ADAPT, all attendees are surveyed beforehand and their insights shared on the day in a research report. Simple yet hugely effective!

This year’s event revealed some interesting (and some worrying) responses. Here are some of the key findings from this year’s ADAPT Digital Edge delegates 1:

  1. More than 50% of respondents revealed that their employees struggle to change the way the way in which work is done

    Let’s just think about that for a moment. In companies that are currently planning or are in the process of a digital transformation, 50% have employees that struggle to accept change. Unfortunately, change is often something that employees either love or hate, but either way, it’s unavoidable in a digital transformation and the biggest factor toward success or failure.

  2. 88% list ‘Improving Operational Efficiencies’ as their top priority for 2019/2020

    It appears that incumbents are still struggling with being cumbersome. Changing the entire structure of your business overnight, in order to make it more proactive and agile, is something even Australia’s biggest brands are finding difficult. Last year, NAB invested $1.5 billion in order to streamline its 160 year old business.

  3. 90% recognised that their IT function ‘could do better’ in adopting a positive, forward-looking culture

    This is an interesting one for me. The IT department is often perceived as the barrier to progress by beleaguered marketers. The problem lies in expecting teams who aren’t tasked with digital transformation to suddenly be completely bought into the idea, but incentives (and humans) don’t work like that. Often the most successful digital transformations are those that have a completely separate, dedicated team devoted to delivering digital transformation. There’s no marketing vs IT because digital transformation is bigger than both.

  4. Only 35% of respondents consider their digital transformation project to be ‘advanced’.

    Advanced meaning the status of progress, rather than how innovative or extensive the transformation has been. Unsurprising, but also a worrying indication that incumbents may be suffering from analysis paralysis rather than failing fast.

  5. Of the top four technology investment priorities, three are human enabled: chatbots (82%, machine learning (70%), natural language processing (62%).

    Some good news, at last! I’ve already discussed the importance of conversational AI in previous posts, so here we can see evidence that leaders are recognising the trend and wasting no time in building voice into their customer experience strategies.

  6. Only 19% expressed confidence in their employees’ abilities to use all the tools and technology at their disposal.

    Similar to the first point, this suggests, at best, that poor processes are preventing employees from taking advantage of the right tools; at worst, that either a lack of skills or a fear of change is holding employees back. The former is far easier to fix than the latter.

Needless to say, Digital Edge was a day very well spent! If you weren’t one of this year’s exclusive invitees, you can check out the highlights from the day or take a look at the delegate posts and themes.

— Steve Nelson

1 Source: ADAPT Digital Edge May 2019, CIO Edge Feb 2019, Connected Cloud & DC March 2019. Sample size 308 Australian and New Zealand CIOs, Heads of Cloud & Data Centre, Digital Leaders.

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