New Zealand’s digital leaders share their Priorities
Over the months of January and February of 2023, we interviewed 20 senior leaders in a number of corporations and government departments on the topics of issues and priorities in both their businesses and across the digital sector in Aotearoa New Zealand. This was the third year we have completed this report – you can read the precious years report here.
Despite much optimism at the beginning of 2022, the digital skills shortage and talent acquisition challenges leaders faced in 2021 continued to be an ongoing battle throughout the year. With international borders reopening, digital leaders had expected to see an influx of digital skills from returning Kiwis and migrants, however, this did not come to fruition. It was certainly not enough to offset the ‘brain drain’ of New Zealand digital talent who started leaving the country again after the last few years closed borders.
“The biggest challenge really wasn’t about digital at all, it was people leaving.” Marion Dowd, CIO, Western Bay of Plenty District Council
With growing digital agendas and appetites, pressure on banks to meet regulatory requirements resulting in IT projects, and a backlog of pre-pandemic IT projects, the already tight, competitive labour market became even hotter.
Our leaders said this challenge of retaining and recruiting for digital skills was expected (this was a top priority from our previous report), but the extent of the disruption was a surprise. Digital skills were in such high demand that some leaders saw a 20-30% attrition rate for key roles as they battled for “access to experts”.
“The biggest surprise was just the sheer disruption and churn of resources we had.” Cobus Nel, General Manager Information Services & Technology, Transpower
As employees faced yet another ‘return to work’, leaders grappled with the challenge of finding the new ‘new normal’. Flexible working policies were tested and hybrid models of work became more embedded.
“The uncertainty through last year drove challenges around creating the new normal as we were saying back in 2020. Now even with hybrid working, we’re still seeing people not sure which side of the hybrid they’re landing,” Darren Smith, Chief Product and Technology Officer, MYOB.
With the question on many leaders’ minds: ‘Should our organisation be set up as digital first or primarily office based with remote capabilities?’ Darren says, “It’s not necessarily one or the other but we still haven’t really embraced what is the go forward model.”
Digital leaders also had to find a balance between BAU and digital transformation projects, long term and short term digital investment, and the overarching change management to support the workforce to continue to change and adopt new systems and technologies being rolled out.
Foodstuffs’ Chief Digital Officer Simon Kennedy said, “The big challenge was trying to steer a digital capability growth agenda while also delivering on reactive requirements based on market conditions.”
Cybersecurity continued to be an ongoing challenge as organisations looked to protect their systems from the ever present and increasing threat of cyber attack.
Aotearoa’s Digital Priorities in 2023
From our interviews we found that in 2023 these are the priorities that our leaders were focused on: