Australian industries lagging in digital maturity and sustainability goals

Andy Cunningham, Senior Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand at Autodesk
Andy Cunningham, Senior Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand at Autodesk

Autodesk Inc has released the Australian findings of its 2023 State of Design & Make report, revealing 36 per cent of local organizations regard themselves as ‘more digitally mature’ than their competitors, slightly behind the global average of 38 per cent, and behind China (57 per cent). Australian companies are also lagging global sustainability targets, and have experienced issues resulting from talent shortages more than other nations.

The 2023 State of Design & Make report is a study of more than 2,500 business leaders – including 262 in Australia – in the industries that comprise of the Design and Make category. Some of these sectors include architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO), product design and manufacturing (D&M), as well as media and entertainment (M&E).

What were the findings of the report?

The report found the top challenges facing Design and Make companies around the world are attracting and retaining talent, managing costs, and responding to the volatile global economy and global events. It also revealed differences in resilience and performance for companies that are digitally mature, or further along in using digital tools to modify their businesses.

Australian companies better prepare to weather the storm

However, it is important to note that Australian companies are better prepared to weather the storm; 63 per cent of local respondents agreed their company is prepared to maneuver changes, outranking the United States (51 per cent) and European (58 per cent) counterparts.

The study shows that although 36 per cent of Australian respondents consider their organizations to be ‘more digitally mature’, 22 per cent are still in the ‘early stage’ of their digital transformation journeys, with 42 per cent situated ‘right in the middle’, 21 per cent gradually ‘approaching the goal’, and 15 per cent having already ‘achieved the goal’.

Autodesk also discovered that Australian Design and Make organizations are much more prepared to increase their digital investments, with 73 per cent of these organizations planning to do so in the next three years, compared to a global average of 67 per cent.

Attracting and retaining talent remains top challenge

Nearly three quarters of respondents worldwide said that the workforce has evolved more in the past three years than in the last 25. This is a startling given that the previous quarter century gave rise to internet, email, smartphones, mobile apps, and mobile computing, but shows how daunting workforce changes caused by the pandemic have been for employers.

Today, attracting and retaining talent is a top challenge for 48 per cent of respondents. Access to skilled employees is posing a barrier to business growth for 64 per cent of respondents. A total of 93 per cent of respondents stated that upskilling was important to their companies. Skills of the future include those related to tech, collaboration, and regulatory knowledge.

In evaluating the existing workforces, Australian organizations (alongside Japan), were the most likely to identify that they experienced major issues regarding their ability to meet innovation goals due to their inability to find the right talent in the past 12 months.

At the same time, Australian companies were the least likely to cite an ageing workforce (38 per cent) or slowness to adapt to a younger generation’s needs and desires (34 per cent) compared with all other nations studied in the 2023 State of Design & Make report.

Sustainability moves up the chain

The 2023 State of Design & Make report showed a consensus emerging on the importance of implementing sustainability measures. Some of the respondents said taking sustainability measures will eventually account for a substantial increase in their income and revenue.

Unfortunately, the 2023 State of Design & Make report data revealed Australian companies were less likely to have taken sustainability measures and actions around carbon, including:

  • Creating clear goals for carbon neutrality – 13 per cent compared to 25 per cent worldwide;
  • Helping or requiring decreased carbon emissions from suppliers – 13 per cent versus 21 per cent worldwide;
  • Participating in voluntary carbon markets or carbon offsets – 13 per cent compared to 17 per cent worldwide.

Meanwhile, only six per cent of the respondents have a demonstrable commitment to sustainability measures based on their activities or memberships. From a global perspective:

  • 80 per cent of respondents said improving sustainability practices is a good long-term business decision;
  • 82 per cent said customers are influencing their sustainability activities;
  • Nearly 90 per cent said their industry or organization has made changes to improve sustainability.

Decreasing waste, using more recycled materials, and designing with sustainability in mind were among the top measure respondents reported their companies implementing.

Digital transformation and technology boost business

Digital and technology transformation is greatly boosting business by reducing costs, increasing innovation, improving performance, as well as enabling products and services to launch even faster. Indeed, 79 per cent of respondents worldwide mentioned that the future development of their company will substantially depend on digital and technology tools.

When Autodesk critically analyzed the business metrics generated including customer satisfaction, profit margin, as well as revenue from 2019-2021 it was discovered that:

  • More digitally mature companies outperformed less digitally mature companies;
  • The performance gap between more and less digitally mature companies appeared to grow.

More digitally mature companies planned to increase investments over the next three years in:

  • Technology to improve project outcomes;
  • Product or service innovation;
  • New product or service development.

Despite the progress yet to be made for many on the digital front, 60 per cent of Australian respondents identified their companies as top performers in 2021, which is a significant jump from 24 per cent in 2019. Furthermore, the global average saw a significant increase of 35 per cent in 2019 to 51 per cent in 2021, reflecting a higher rate of digitalization down under.

What do the findings mean to Australian companies?

Megan Stanley, Manager of Technical Applications, at GHD
Megan Stanley, Manager of Technical Applications at GHD

“Sometime ago, the value of data was realized and today, our sources are endless which has created a data explosion. The information generated through sources like project information, communications, sensors, and tech, provide access to high-value data. The challenge for organizations and industries is how to collectively create standards and a consistent approach to realizing that value,” said Megan Stanley, Manager of Technical Applications, GHD.

“It is a crucial time for Australian companies in the industries that comprise Design and Make. We are seeing increasing ambitions to digitalize processes to improve how our communities are architected, engineered and designed. However those objectives are stunted by challenges in recruiting the right people, and a slow response to doing so sustainably,” said Andy Cunningham, Senior Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand, Autodesk.

“Although Australian companies are in a stronger position in terms of their digital transformation in comparison to other regions, it’s important we, as a collective industry, focus on the progress that needs to be made. As digital investments continue, local organizations will see vast untapped opportunities to evolve how they operate internally and collaborate with third parties and contractors, all the while reducing environmental impact.”

Andy Cunningham further stated that, “At the same time, Australian companies will become better equipped to attract, retain as well as train new talent. All of these factors will be progressively combined to put them in a more resilient position as they tackle unpredictable macroeconomics conditions, along with the uncertainties that come with it.”

Download the 2023 State of Design & Make report.