Digital technologies transforming business

Tracey Kennair is inspired by the possibilities for business and the community enabled by technology – especially in a pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges, though it has also accelerated adoption of digital technologies that have changed the ways we interact. And it has transformed business forever.

Tracey Kennair, digital transformation partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), has seen this step change firsthand, through her work with clients, and her roles as Board of Partners deputy chair and Risk Committee chair.

“It is often major events and adversity that provide the catalyst for change,” she says.

The pandemic has fundamentally altered the way we shop, consume services and stay connected."

Kennair is passionate about using technology to enable change that benefits organisations and communities through her work.

Her focus on the government and public sector with PwC is close to her heart and has led to direct community impacts. Working with Victoria Police as its strategic partner to transform frontline policing, she helped implement mobile technologies and body-worn cameras. She also improved its intelligence management systems that solve and prevent crime.

Tracey Kennair portrait.
Kennair is a firm believer that technology can contribute to stronger communities.

Digital solutions

More recently, she helped to establish digital strategies and IT solutions for Court Services Victoria and VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal), enabling online proceedings when COVID-19 restrictions prevented face-to-face hearings.

“The impact my work has on improving services and outcomes for our community is what excites me,” says Kennair from the Melbourne home she shares with her husband and two teenaged daughters.

“Like many parents I am not only motivated by the immediate impact, but also the longer-term benefits for our future generations.”

In 2020, Kennair sat on a Telstra Vantage panel with CEO Andy Penn, discussing PwC research suggesting that digitisation could add up to $90 billion to the Australian economy. eCommerce had exploded, she said, citing an Australia Post report: more than one million households shopped online for the first time in the first six months after the pandemic hit.

So, what enthuses her about the future? “Digitisation and connected technologies, such as 5G, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and automation will enable us to do things differently. It is better access to data and predictive analytics that will enable us to better target our efforts to drive efficiency and effectiveness.”

Hands-on learning

Kennair wears her smarts lightly. Growing up in Wheelers Hill, south-east Melbourne, the daughter of a CEO father who was also an actuary, she was encouraged to dream big. Maths and science came easily, no matter that, in Year 12 computer science, she was the only female in the class.

"I never felt held back on my ambitions, or conscious of my gender. I just said, ‘right, I’m going to go for it.'"

Using university as the first step in a career

Kennair chose to enrol in the Bachelor of Business Systems at Monash University in 1990 because it was an industry-based learning program.

“The program was new and exciting. It offered the opportunity to gain work experience with the likes of IBM, which made it far easier to find employment following my studies and meant I was effectively sponsored to go to university,” she says.

Kennair notes the course is still “hugely” relevant: “At PwC we continue to hire many of its graduates because of their unique combination of university learning with practical industry experience.”

Change-maker

Kennair took up a graduate role with Coopers & Lybrand (which merged with Price Waterhouse to form PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1998) and obtained her chartered accountant qualifications on the job. After five years she joined client VicGrain (now merged into GrainCorp) as applications development manager.

The team she led was all male. “Most were older, and several had gone for my job,” she says. “They were concerned about the potential changes I would bring.

I spent time talking to them, working with them collaboratively to gain their trust, doing what I said I was going to do, and they were really responsive."

In 2000, Kennair relocated to the UK to join T-Mobile as a senior project manager, implementing a virtual call centre across the UK. In 2004 – after backpacking around South America for six months with her husband – she returned to PwC Australia.

The possibilities enabled by change inform all aspects of Kennair’s life. Her volunteer roles include sitting on the Business Advisory Board of Monash Business School, judging The Big Issue’s The Big Idea social enterprise competition and membership of the Victoria Police Blue Ribbon Day Council.

And she was involved in the creation of the Out for Good initiative partnered by the Victorian Government, aimed at providing sustainable employment opportunities for young people who had been in contact with the criminal justice system.

Throw any question at Kennair and her response is measured and accessible, her thinking razor sharp. It’s a demeanour honed, you feel, by a combination of professional experience, the sort of questing curiosity that has seen her visit 52 countries, and a rewarding family life variously involving tennis lessons, school activities, socialising and laptops switched off at weekends.

“Nurturing others is important,” says Kennair, “whatever you are doing.”