Technology allows businesses to work smarter and harness new sources of growth. Under its research theme of Business and Technology, Deakin Business School (DBS) is helping Australian organisations boost their technology clout.
In the 21st century, technology continues to redesign, if not revolutionise, the way we communicate, work, and live.
From smartphones to streaming, apps to artificial intelligence, robotics to remote learning, the march of emerging technologies continues at an unprecedented pace.
In the context of the modern business world, contemporary technology is crucial. Not only does it deliver essential levels of efficiency and productivity, but businesses operating without it run the risk of outperformance by more technologically-advanced competitors.
But the fast-paced technology push can also bring disruption, and with the increasing pressure to embrace innovation, business leaders can feel simultaneously enthusiastic and overwhelmed.
DBS’s Business and Technology theme harnesses research that’s designed to help organisations employ technologies that deliver competitive advantage.
Theme Director Professor Rens Scheepers says it’s crucial for businesses to focus on a tech-forward future.
‘Organisations compete in delivering value to customers and stakeholders by making smart decisions and transforming themselves for the digital era. Today, technology is central to organisations’ capabilities, the way they make decisions – human, machine and hybrid – and how they transform themselves to compete effectively,’ he explains.
With an increasing range of options for businesses of all sizes, organisations must choose how to distinguish themselves through the technologies they deploy.
It’s this focus that’s at the core of DBS’s Business and Technology theme.
‘From a competitiveness perspective, businesses need to build their unique capabilities across technology, people, processes and values. We do this by looking at unique competitive advantages, the integration with other existing (inimitable) organisational capabilities, innovative cultures and novel approaches. Our vision is to foster technology-enabled competitive advantage creation and innovation in Australian firms as a critical element for competition in the global digital era,’ says Prof. Scheepers.
The theme concentrates on three key areas: technology-enabled capability, technology-enabled decision-making, and technology-enabled transformation.
Technology-enabled capability looks at the competencies that incorporate people, processes, technologies, alongside the values and norms that underpin an organisation’s ethos.
‘We explore how digital technology capabilities – such as analytics and AI – can be deployed in unique ways to enable organisations to compete and innovate,’ says Deputy Director Associate Professor William Yeoh.
Technology-enabled decision-making examines how digital technologies can be utilised in human-assisted, fully-automated, and hybrid combinations within complex organisational processes.
Technology-enabled transformation explores new ways of working in teams, and the processes and places that are enabled by technology.
This means investigating how organisations can best integrate different skill sets, leverage agile approaches, and develop more flexible ways of working to better compete and innovate in the digital era.
But it also means finding out if there’s any undesired side effects from technology-enabled transformation, and if so, how they can be mitigated.
Assoc. Prof. Yeoh explains that the three sub-themes will help organisations that are developing (or reconsidering) their technology-enabled capabilities, exploring new ways to leverage technology decision-making, or implementing digital transformation.
‘We will facilitate this through networking, sharing examples and best practices, benchmarking, and applying sound theoretical principles to guide organisations’ strategies in their specific competitive contexts,’ he says.
Assoc. Prof. Yeoh adds that universities are ideally suited to be a catalyst for change in the technology landscape.
‘Universities don’t have vested interests in particular technologies and are not trying to “sell” a particular solution. Under the Business and Technology theme, our research focuses on difficult problems and looks for solutions that generate tangible and intangible benefits to organisations and the broader community. These include not-for-profit, community-based, and SMEs that are often underserved by larger technology vendors and consulting firms,’ he explains.
Building on a solid portfolio of projects, DBS’s Business and Technology-themed research is continuing to make a real-world impact through teaching, partnership and engagement.
One of these is a multi-disciplinary collaboration from DBS’s Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics and Department of Management with Tata Consultancy Services that’s benchmarking the maturity of data analytics within Australian organisations.
In another alliance, DBS researchers are working with United Energy and C4NET in a project that will improve energy-demand predictions, particularly around electric vehicle charging patterns across the electricity grid.
‘This will help inform energy demand prediction as more consumers adopt electric vehicles. Moreover, the way these vehicles are used by consumers, and subsequently recharged, will inform more specific patterns of energy use that would be helpful for utilities as society adopts greener energy alternatives,’ says Prof. Scheepers.
Some of the ‘difficult problems’ tackled by the theme’s research includes digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics.
‘Digital transformation involves many concurrent decisions and processes in organisations, such as technology implementation, training of individuals, retraining/new role definitions for working best with the technology,’ says Prof. Scheepers.
However large-scale digital transformations require technical, process, and change management expertise, and this can carry risk and uncertainty.
‘Our research theme will help organisations navigate these complexities with exemplary studies of best, or innovative, approaches for bench marking,’ he adds.
While AI and advanced analytics enable new ways of decision support for organisations, they also involve both human-assisted and automated decision-making.
This represents new challenges for organisations in ensuring that decisions are relevant and fit their norms and value suggests Prof. Scheepers.
‘There are lots of examples of “rogue AI” decision-making that run counter to an organisation’s culture and ethos, and so harnessing the best of human decision-making, combined with new opportunities enabled by analytics and AI represents a challenge for many organizations in the digital era.’
As the directors of DBS’s Business and Technology theme, Prof. Scheepers and Assoc. Prof. Yeoh are looking forward to helping Australian businesses to tap into their technology potential.
‘While the technology advances of global giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft are well-documented, innovation across the Australian landscape can be less noticed and is often underreported,’ says Prof. Scheepers.
‘However innovative examples exist in a variety of sectors such as smart services, advanced manufacturing, along with the traditional sectors – such as agriculture, mining and tourism -– in which Australian has competitive strengths. Through DBS’s multidisciplinary expertise, we look forward to celebrating these achievements and inspiring other Australian firms.