From guns, guards and gates to digital defences: Key challenges for today’s corporate physical and cyber security leaders

Posted on June 21, 2019 by Grant White

Back in 2014 I was engaged by an ASX Top 30 company on a Chief Security Officer assignment. Now that seems like a world away… Over the last five years I have seen a heightened awareness of security in organisations, from the historically physical guns, guards and gates approach, to a more strategic, risk-based approach that includes the digital or IoT (internet of things) environment.  Learnings from a number of successive security assignments have continued to reinforce this new perspective.

Feedback from speaking with CSOs of leading corporates and consulting firms highlight the importance of being agile in adopting new practices and adapting your capabilities to respond to the digital landscape.  This topic is further explored in the recent Future of Physical Security, a survey of 200 global physical security leaders conducted by Microsoft and Accenture.

Key takeouts for me from this survey are:

  • Cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning with cutting edge IoT are blurring the lines between logical and physical environments. Traditional security risk management and threat detection are quickly becoming obsolete and Security leaders need to embrace a digital mindset.
  • Whilst Security leaders see the opportunity to enhance risk management with digital capabilities, the industry is at various levels of maturity, and at worst is a decade behind, with reactive threat management and intuition-led decision-making based on subjectivity listed as the two leading challenges facing physical security operations.
  • Despite 89% of Security leaders stating that digital transformation was important, only 30% deemed it urgent.  Digital transformation of physical security is still in its infancy, when compared with other functions.  This threatens organisations’ high-value assets – employee life safety and intellectual property. It can also result in missed opportunities to significantly raise the organisation’s bottom line.
  • Three security aspects that were either not possible before or greatly enhanced by digital transformation:
    • Dynamic identity management
    • Proactive assessment and management of risk
    • Unification of physical and cyber security

At the forefront for me in tackling these challenges is the necessity for a true Chief Security Officer – one tasked with overseeing a converged physical and cyber security function. This has been talked about for many years now, but in the Australian market relatively few large organisations have this combined function; rather Cyber and Physical typically remaining in their individual silos.

What are your thoughts about the necessity of a combined function? What trends or challenges do you see facing the Security function in the coming 12 months?

Greening Australia: A Shared Value champion

Posted on June 28, 2018 by Grant White
Article image: Greening Australia

TRANSEARCH Australia were delighted to recently partner with Greening Australia on their Chief Financial Officer appointment. Independent and apolitical, Greening Australia recently celebrated 35 years of conservation impact with a big, bold vision to lead Australia’s contribution to the global conservation effort. From restoring Tasmania as an ‘Island Ark’ for our most threatened mammals, to improving the health of the Great Barrier Reef, this innovative science based conservation organisation aspires to create healthy, productive landscapes across Australia where people and nature can thrive.


“Shared value is defined as policies and practices that enhance the competitiveness of companies while improving social and environmental conditions in the regions where they operate. It is a business strategy focused on companies creating measurable economic benefit by identifying and addressing social problems that intersect with their business. To qualify as Shared Value, there must be an identifiable economic benefit to the company as well as measurable impact on a social or environmental issue.” – Shared Value Project

Since joining Greening Australia as CEO in 2011, Brendan Foran has led an organisation wide governance and strategy reform program that has led to greater levels of impact, efficiency and resilience. Here he responds to questions about embracing Shared Value and what it means for the success of the organisation.

What does Shared Value mean to you?

At its core, Shared Value is a business strategy, but businesses need an NGO to partner with to create measurable social or environmental value. Therefore, I see it as an opportunity to work with our current or future business partners to return life to landscapes and restore balance to the natural environment with the potential to expand markets, increase productivity and reduce costs or risks.

What led you individually to the Shared Value concept? How did you come across it?

We were looking for ways of partnering with a corporate through either a philanthropy or CSR lens, of course aligned to our strategic priorities, but ultimately as a way of generating revenue for our organisation to do our work on the ground. NAB introduced us to the Shared Value concept and explained they wanted to explore a partnership through that frame and particularly around natural capital, which has since become a project we are jointly working on with them. From there, we delved more deeply into the Shared Value concept and not long after we came on board as a not-for-profit member of the Shared Value Project.

My Shared Value journey started a lot earlier when I was in Corporate Affairs at Alcoa of Australia (from 2002-2011). Alcoa has been a renowned supporter of local community and environmental issues in their 57 years in Australia and during my time there I was involved in a range of projects that would now be considered Shared Value initiatives.

One such project from the mid 2000s was the outsourcing of in-house land management at Alcoa’s Point Henry site to Greening Australia (coincidentally!). There was both cost and ecological benefits at the time, but what started as a leading pilot for native grassland restoration (it was previously thought to be impossible in this country), has evolved into Greening Australia being awarded $10 million of funding from Infrastructure Australia to establish a native seed production area as part of the environmental approvals for the Western Sydney airport – one of the major pieces of infrastructure to be built this century.

What does Shared Value success look like at Greening Australia and where are you at on the journey?

We are still early on our journey with Shared Value at Greening Australia. The opportunity for us lies in better articulating and broadening the conversations we have with corporate partners and private landholders of the commercial return and environmental benefits of undertaking large and ambitious large-scale landscape restoration projects in Australia. Shared Value success at Greening Australia would see our 150 staff understanding and using the framework to help solve some of Australia’s great environmental challenges, demonstrate proof of impact and produce inspirational stories to create influence and get more people to take action.

What is your role individually within Greening Australia to support the company along its Shared Value journey?

I see myself as a Shared Value ‘enabler’ within Greening Australia. For members of my leadership team, our board members and our corporate partners, the Shared Value framework makes sense and I understand that to achieve real scale and impact in our work, we need to create measurable business and environmental value. I am committed to exploring Shared Value opportunities, because I believe they are integral to Greening Australia’s purpose: solving challenges in which nature, communities and economies are all connected, in ways that benefit them all.

How has practicing Shared Value helped you individually in your role or career more generally?

It opens up dialogue with parts of organisations other than those business units we might have traditionally dealt with. In the past these conversations might have been solely with the CSR or sponsorship departments, but increasingly our partners are understanding how our work is linked back to delivering their business strategy. Whether it’s the marketing and communications team at Officeworks or the sustainability team at Virgin Australia, our partners are choosing to partner to enhance their competitiveness whilst improving the environment in the regions where they operate.

It gives me a deeper insight into our partner’s organisation and vice-versa. It’s a strong basis for two or more organisations strategies and objectives to intersect when you can better understand risk and opportunity from multiple perspectives.

What do you think are some pertinent issues in Australia that could be solved through creating Shared Value?

Climate change is one of the most pressing and complex challenges facing us. It is no longer an issue for the next generation and the work we specialise in helps mitigate the impacts and provides the ecological resilience our society and economy has been built on. The Shared Value approach offers a modern set of tools to incorporate climate action into the most critical aspects for businesses. Businesses can create win-win situations where a notable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved with no incremental costs, or even cost savings and perhaps financial return whilst protecting and conserving the environment from further degradation.


If you would like to know more about Greening Australia, visit or reach out to me, Grant White, via the contact details below.


From Knowledge-based Work to Intelligent Automation: analysing emerging trends in Shared Services Organisations

Posted on April 18, 2018 by Grant White
Article image: From Knowledge-based Work to Intelligent Automation


Over the last few years, Shared Services Organisations (SSOs) – typically responsible for back-of-house processes such as Finance, Payroll, HR, and IT – have been embracing new technology with the aim of using innovation to deliver more value to their internal customers or as outsourced external providers.

Reflecting on my personal experience as a Finance functional specialist in Executive Search – partnering with organisations on Shared Services and Finance Transformation assignments – Technology, along with People and Process, have always been central in our discussions.

In recent years though technology, and topics such as embracing Intelligent Automation and how Shared Services Organisations are delivering more value by moving towards knowledge-based work, dominate these conversations.

SSON Analytics recently released its Annual State of Shared Services & Outsourcing Industry Survey Results 2018, which focuses on popular Shared Service organisational models, considers why strategy is evolving from transactional to knowledge work, and looks at how the Shared Services community is embracing Intelligent Automation (IA). You can read the full report here (free subscription required).  

Key take outs from the Report are:

  • Six out of ten SSOs are planning to add IA solutions to their agendas (if not already implemented). IA certainly has the power for disruption, offering far greater capacity for volume, analysis and consistency of transactions than can be delivered by humans.
  • The emergence of front office support is a significant trend. Sales and marketing, alongside data analytics for example, are now in scope for SSO delivery.
  • A scarcity of relevant skills and experience in the local market is a major challenge for Australian SSOs. Australian organisations have typically relied on third party solution providers, as opposed to our Asian neighbours, who are investing in these new, emerging resources. For SSOs looking to embrace automation, having the right talent to implement those solutions will be essential.
  • The greatest skill deficiencies observed are in data analytics, innovation, automation and process excellence. SSOs need to proactively hire and develop talent to meet the gaps in these skill-sets.
  • SSO recruitment priorities are changing. Hiring strategies for SSOs will need to prioritise process excellence, continuous improvement, innovation and customer service focus for future success.

Staying abreast of these changes is key to any executive operating in the business world, and if you’re a Shared Services leader, CFO or CEO, understanding the emerging trends and embracing IA will be key to your success. Clients and SSOs with whom I liaise provide great insights into these emerging trends. I’m keen to hear your thoughts, discuss any challenges you may be facing and exchange ideas.