Shetler: At home in Stone & Chalk

James Riley
Editorial Director

Outspoken digital evangelist and delivery guru Paul Shetler has landed in a new role as an Expert in Residence at Sydney FinTech hub Stone & Chalk, and aims to bring new energy and expertise to Australian brownfield sites struggling with the new economy.

The former chief digital officer at the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency – and CEO of its predecessor Digital Transformation Office – announced last week he would be working with Stone & Chalk CEO Alex Scandurra to plug the skills gap felt by companies struggling to build digital strategies into their existing business models and legacy processes.

Mr Shetler says many companies don’t yet realise that they are now internet companies, and that consumers will judge them – and their service delivery – against the same standards of global tech giants like Amazon, Uber, Apple, Facebook or Alibaba.

Paul Shetler: On a mission to help Australian brownfield businesses drive digital delivery

Just as tech companies are moving inexorably into adjacent markets that may not have been previously been digital – think Apple into music or payments or health records; or Amazon into streaming TV or supermarkets – traditional businesses must become tech companies.

This is an existential challenge. In part, Mr Shetler’s role at Stone & Chalk will help build a skills bridge between the expertise with the Stone & Chalk startup ecosystem and traditional businesses.

Mr Shetler will present a keynote address and chair the Open Opportunity Brisbane forum on June 27. Details can be found here.

While startups have the advantage of being able to build new digital products and services from the ground up – on an entirely greenfield site – more mature businesses have the more complex challenge of finding workable digital strategy that brings its legacy systems and processes into a competitive digital state.

It is not an easy challenge, and something Australian companies are struggling with. At Open Opportunity Brisbane, Mr Shetler will deliver a keynote on “Moving From Square Of Despair To Competing In The Digital Economy.”

The four corners of that so-called “Square of Despair” is made up of old thinking on Procurement, Funding, IT and Governance, the fundamentals that map the core of the challenges mature businesses face.

The square maps the kind of technology projects that were typical just a decade ago, these hugely capital intensive projects where procurement planning extended out six or 12 or 18 months, and where risks were managed through heavy-handed, iron-clad governance measures and funding models that mirrored these giant waterfall endeavours.

To further mitigate risk on these large projects, companies would outsource to large specialist consulting houses and delivery companies. But in the digital world, Mr Shetler says this model put core expertise outside of the business, making it impossible for an organisation to take charge of its own business.

“That’s a problem. Because the feedback loops are indirect and slow exactly when you need to them to be direct and fast,” he said.

“Compare that to how Uber, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon and other digital native companies work. They don’t outsource everything to third parties,” Shetler told the AFR last week. “They take charge of things, and when they do procurement it is small and fast and nimble.”

The Stone & Chalk role will soak up Mr Shetler’s time for a couple of days a week, while he is understood to have an under-the-radar side project in development.

Following a tumultuous period as CEO of the former Digital Transformation Office, and later as CDO of the DTA under Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor, Paul Shetler seems relaxed.

Having been an outspoken critic of parts of the Commonwealth’s digital program when he initially left the public service, he has found the project where he can bring maximum value to Australia. That is in helping traditional businesses that are under threat – the ones that are struggling with building an effective digital infrastructure into their organisations.

Mr Shetler has written extensively – and authoritatively – on issues related to digital delivery in brownfield site that can be found at

For Open Opportunity Brisbane, Mr Shetler is joined by a who’s who of policy and digital specialists from state and Federal governments. This is a must-attend event for technology suppliers to government, and for IT and procurement departments inside government that want to engage with digital specialists and better understand the opportunities on offer.

These speakers include:

  • Hon Leeanne Enoch MP, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business, Queensland Government
  • Paul Shetler, Expert-in-Residence, Stone & Chalk and former Chief Digital Officer, Australian Government
  • Paul Martyn, Deputy Director-General, Strategy and Innovation, Queensland Government
  • Cat Matson, Chief Digital Officer, City of Brisbane
  • Maree Adshead, Chief Executive Officer, Open Data Institute
  • Monica Bradley, Non Executive Director, ‎B Corporation Australia
  • Glenn Van Duikeren, Managing Director, eSwitch
  • Elaine Stead, Executive Director, Blue Sky Funds
  • Tracey Kay, Co-Founder, Axalon
  • Ivano Bongiovanni, Researcher with the PwC’s Chair in Digital Economy’s Innovation Sprints, QUT

The Open Opportunity Brisbane forum will be held in Brisbane on June 27. You can book your seats here.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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