Across Australia, companies are beginning to digitise their workflows as part of strategies to address the changing business landscape being driven by new technology, new business models and changing customer expectations.
Even the Australian Government has released a digital transformation strategy that aims to digitise the government’s services so that all public interactions with its departments and agencies occur online by 20251.
The idea is that digitisation will enable a more responsive and adaptable workforce by streamlining processes.
It’s also the first step towards a ‘smart office’, where technology is used to automate routine tasks, optimising work and improving productivity2.
And at the heart of a smart office is the electronic storage and management of information.
By digitising information, it becomes collective knowledge that can be accessed by everyone in the company via an interface of all available sources3. Incorporating communication and collaboration technology complements this process, creating a business environment that fosters collaboration, greater employee autonomy and constant knowledge sharing.
The benefits are more transparent governance arrangements, workflows with audit trails, a single source of truth and improved data accuracy.
However, for many businesses in Australia, digital skills gaps are preventing them from starting the digitisation transition and as a result, we’re lagging behind other developed countries.
According to the Foundation for Young Australians, the demand for digital skills increased by more than 200% since 20134, yet Australia’s digital inclusion remains only moderate. Infosys 2018 Digital Acceleration Study gave Australia a Digital Maturity Index score of 53 in 2018, compared to the global average score of 57, putting us second bottom in the seven regions surveyed5. A lack of digital skills was cited as the main reason for this score, preventing businesses in Australia from accelerating their digital transformation journey6.
This demonstrates how important the role of training providers is in ensuring graduates are entering the workforce with the skills needed to be successful in the workplaces of the future.
The Foundation for Young Australians predicts that approximately 60% of the current workforce will need to be able to configure and use digital systems in the next two to three years to perform their roles effectively7. That’s why RMIT is actively incorporating digital skills into vocational education programs.
One of the most successful examples of this is in the Diploma of Business Administration, which implemented a simulated digital office environment four years ago as part of the course.
Run in conjunction with industry partner TIMG, the Digital Office teaches students how to operate the Paperlite system to design workflows and integrate documents through a full approval system. Students learn digital skills in a real-world setting, particularly focused on the electronic storage and management of information, digital administration systems and working in teams.
“Graduates from our course go on to roles such as administrative coordinators, office managers and personal administers so they’re at the forefront of improving workplace efficiency,” says RMIT Diploma of Business Administration Teacher Hazel Sims.
“Industry has been very clear that they want graduates with digital literacy skills, so we make sure our students are able to work on digital projects. We still want students to understand paperwork and the importance of it but we’re focusing more and more on how to manage a digital environment. This includes providing an understanding of document storage, metadata, online backup, data privacy, workflow integration and compliance issues.”
These digital skills, along with innovation and problem-solving, will be invaluable to businesses facing digital disruption as workers with these capabilities will be the ones driving change and workplace efficiencies.
“We’re producing graduates who are able to identify what’s missing within a business, diagnose at a practical level and fit a digital solution within the function of a department,” says Hazel.
This is thanks, in large part, to the collaboration with business partner TIMG, as this ensures students are assessed for competency in current industry standards. The Australian Industry and Skills Committee says similar cooperation between industry and education providers is crucial for developing a dynamic and appropriately skilled workforce that can help businesses adapt to rapid changes in markets and technologies8.
As information is increasingly moved online and workflows are digitised as part of transitions to smart offices, this will be even more important.
Partnerships between businesses and TAFE ensure that workers coming into the industry are equipped not only with the right business expertise but also the digital skills required to manage change,” says Hazel.
Author: Adelle King
1 Digital Tranformation Agency 2018, 'Digital Transformation Strategy', Australian Government, viewed 15 April, <https://www.dta.gov.au/our-projects/strategies/digital-transformation-strategy>.
2 Uzialko, A 2016, 'The Smart Office: How Connected Tech is Redefining the Workplace', Business News Daily, viewed 15 April, <https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/9463-smart-office-responsive-workplace.html>.
3 Dobner, R 2018, 'The digital office of tomorrow', PanAgenda, viewed 15 April, <https://www.panagenda.com/2018/09/the-digital-office-of-tomorrow>.
4 alphaBeta 2017, The new work order - Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past, The Foundation for Young Australians.
5 Nott, G 2019, 'Lack of digital skills and change management nous holding back Aussie businesses, report', CIO, viewed 15 April, <https://www.cio.com.au/article/657581/lack-digital-skills-change-management-nous-holding-back-aussie-businesses-report>.
6 Thacker, R 2019, 'Australia trailing behind in digital transformation', Dynamic Business, viewed 15 April, <https://www.dynamicbusiness.com.au/news/australia-trailing-behind-in-digital-transformation.html>.
7 The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) 2018, The New Work Reality. 8 Australian Industry and Skills Committee 2017, Future skills and training - A practical resource to help identify future skills and training.
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