On May 4, Oracle presented the 2017 Modern Business Experience (MBX) in beautiful, sunny Sydney, Australia. Company leaders from all over the Asia-Pacific region and beyond met up in Australia’s bayside city for a one-day event that focused on adapting to change in order to accelerate business.
This emphasis made the human capital management track perhaps the most informative of the customer conference. Sessions explored the top question on virtually every HR leader’s mind: which systems will help me better compete for top talent and boost business in the future?
The opening keynotes tried to answer this question right away with a presentation from Peter Williams, chief edge officer of Deloitte Australia. “The How of Innovation” was filled with anecdotes and cautionary tales about company culture that HR departments would find useful. “Don’t be the department of ‘no,’” Williams urged, before telling the amusing story of an Aussie company’s “pilgrimage” to Silicon Valley that netted no new organizational ideas.
Janine Allis followed, and the Boost Juice founder and Australian Shark Tank investor connected with attendees by taking us through her winding journey from being the daughter of a traditional “1950s mom” to becoming a business mogul. Risk-taking is paramount, Allis said: “Naiveté helps not to be scared.”
Perhaps the most enlightening presentation for HR professionals was “Leading HR for a Disrupted World,” from Disruptive HR CEO Lucy Adams. Armed with relevant stories from her days at the BBC, Adams delivered a direct, informative speech that offered important reminders (“Customers don’t care where it comes from or how it gets there”) and cut to the heart of the modern HR leader’s dilemma.
“Today, it’s difficult to reconcile my company’s goals with the ‘HR toolbox,’” she said, before introducing her EACH model for HR excellence. EACH is an acronym that stands for “Employees are Adults, Consumers, and Human beings.” Adams explored common challenges in HR, such as the difficulty of measuring success, and offered commonsense solutions. Most insightful was her insistence that HR needs to “move away from the parental role” and that an HR leader should report directly to the CEO.
Adams ended with thoughts on the importance of data analytics in any HCM solution. “If you don’t have that,” she reminded listeners, “it’s the chicken before the egg.”
In the afternoon, attendees heard a few exciting use case sessions, including one from Jacely Voon, head of rewards and HR program management for Fuji Xerox. The case study focused on the organization’s ambitious HR transformation process and featured a highly detailed PowerPoint deck that audience members will surely revisit after the conference. One important takeaway was the suggestion to form a governance committee before such an undertaking. Of course, HR was the center of Voon’s mission: “Make sure to link to HR objectives at the beginning.”
One of the most engaging presentations came from Yazad Dalal, Oracle’s head of HCM Cloud for the APAC region. Dalal enthralled the audience with the thought-provoking session “Demise of the Fittest: AI and HR.” He took attendees through the history of artificial intelligence and the many ways it’s already affecting every business, not just those in manufacturing. For HR professionals, the analytical possibilities are double-edged.
“Will AI also take over white-collar jobs in addition to those in manufacturing?” he asked. “How do we in HR use emerging technology to remove all the tedious tasks without replacing us?”
Dalal balanced the positive benefits on AI-enabled HR with perceptions of dystopian visions we’ve seen in everything from Terminator 2 to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet it was a recent historical drama, not science fiction, that brought one of the session’s most poignant observations.
“Did you see the film Hidden Figures?” Dalal asked, before reminding us of a historical fact from the Space Race of the early 1960s. “Did you know what the main character, Katherine Johnson from NASA, used to be called? A computer.”
Modern Business Experience closed out with a session from Anders Sorman-Nilsson, futurist and innovation strategist at Thinque, Inc. His anecdotes of his mother’s brick-and-mortar shop’s struggles in the age of Amazon were interesting, and brought the day to a fitting close. Let’s hope the APAC business leaders in attendance learned some strategies to navigate through the rapidly changing business landscape.
For more information, visit Hidden Figures.