Future Fit

with Steve Hannan - NBNCo. General Manager of Marketing


Even a year ago, you might have considered that Steve Hannan, General Manager of Marketing for the NBN Co. had one of the most challenging, and perhaps the most thankless, jobs in Australia. But the media has stopped using it as punching bag and, as users grow, its benefits are becoming clearer and its role as a driver of Future Fit Australia understood. Hannan, who has guided NBN Co. through a minefield, has a front row perspective on what Future Fit means to business.

The telecommunications industry is like a canary in the coal mine. A predictor of what’s ahead for business. Even if that’s constant change. Every business depends on telecommunications technology. It moves quickly, reinventing itself every five to seven years. And how effectively, or inventively, a business uses it determines to a large extent whether success lies in its future.


“What you think the industry was going to be five to seven years ago never quite looks like it when you get there.”

NBN Co. has recently released a report called the Connecting Australia Report that shows a significant socioeconomic growth amongst communities that have the NBN connected, especially those that have been connected for a couple of years. “We're starting to see more women than ever start businesses, for example,” Hannan notes. “And smaller businesses are becoming more sustainable because they've got a bigger customer base because they've digitised for the first time.”

“The lasting legacy of NBN Co. will be whatever people want it to be, Hannan states. “If you build a proper, digital backbone for the nation - literally for everyone - whether they’re out past Alice Springs or down at Circular Quay, there's a lasting, forever upgradable backbone to the nation to connect to whatever the the future is.


“You can be a giant digital business without needing to digitise everything straight away. And you don't always need amazing, cool tools to do things. The good fundamentals are a great foundation. If you haven't thought about them, you haven't allocated resources appropriately and you haven't considered the challenges you're addressing, it doesn't matter what tools you have, they're just tools without purpose.”


Technology will inform effective investment, Hannan states. “The focus for the next five years of marketing, especially at the larger firm level, is going to be delivering for the business,” Hannan predicts. Companies have invested vast sums in systems and processes and now they want to see that money perform, he notes.

“I think the truth telling comes from that. We're going to see what really works. While you're investing lots of money in systems and processes and you're trying to do marketing on the other side, it's a little hard to determine what's been a valuable investment and what hasn't.”

The second difference is marketing accountability. “Has marketing made wise investments in tech and agencies? Truth telling is coming in terms of what you buy from an agency and what you trade out in the open market,” he states, “and also truth telling around what's effective in terms of what makes money for the business and proving that you didn't over-invest in a platform that costs so much money to run it absorbs half your marketing benefits.”

The third change Hannan expects is the digitisation of marketing. Intelligence grows with experience in business, he says. People with enough digital experience to be able to critically appraise digital opportunities will be at the spearhead of thriving businesses.


Of course, all of this transformation isn’t going to happen all by itself. There are three things that will enable it, Hannan explains.

#1: People: “You'd be amazed at what people can achieve if you just let them do what they've really good at.”

“My first step in the job of any business transformation is choosing the right people. The second bit is setting a really clear and simple vision for them,” Hannan explains. “You clearly outline the bit they can control and can go and do. They go off and they do that.

#2 Objectives: “I think, if you're lucky, you get one NBN in your career.”  

“Everyone at NBN Co., for example, has been really motivated by the single-minded task of achieving eight million homes and businesses by 2020. They understand what we're here for,” Hannan notes. “I think we're pretty lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of a one-time opportunity like the NBN.”

#3 Empowerment: Step in only to clear roadblocks.

“The executive team at NBN Co. did an amazing job of getting people focused on what was important and putting all the effort and resources behind them that they needed to do their job.” Hannan says. “They made sure that if there was a problem, that there was a pathway to fixing it.”


What does Future Fit mean to NBN.Co?


Being Future Fit means that every Australian will have a super-fast, connected future to enable whatever it is that they want to do.


What does being Future Fit mean to you?

“If you operate on good fundamentals of strategy, development and implementation, you'll always go a long way into doing the right job”.  Then there’s staying up to date with what you do, he adds; “I never knock back anyone from an agency who wants to come and have a chat to me because you never quite know when the next thing that is really well thought out applies to you is going to come along.”