DRA stays ahead of the curve

John McGuire, Chief Innovation Officer, DRA Global

John McGuire, Chief Innovation Officer, DRA Global

The volatility brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has recalibrated the relationships companies have with their customers and conventional solutions are no longer the norm, according to new DRA Global Ltd chief innovation officer John McGuire.

DRA is widely recognised for its close working relationship with clients, particularly around the way the now dual­listed engineering and project management group can inject innovative processes into operations for the desired outcome. However, the ongoing global health crisis means the landscape is constantly changing and further challenges will inevitably arise.

To that end, DRA has appointed renowned innovation expert and strategy executive McGuire to ensure the company remains on top of its game for the best interests of its clients.

"There's no doubt the last two years have really changed the game for all of us," McGuire told GMJ.

"You really now have to focus on that relationship with your customer and you've really got to be saying, 'am I providing value to that customer along every step of the value chain?'. There's no doubt the pandemic is yet to see the full implications on the economy, on workforce, on the resources industry, and the ripples through what the consequences will be. It's still unfolding.

"In that world, I think innovation, as a mindset and as a culture, is incredibly important. In fact, if anything, it will differentiate and distinguish organisations for the way they go about the work that they do, how they deal with their clients, how they deal with staff and the ideas they can bring to their clients.

"We're moving away from the time when, as engineers, we were just simply problem-solvers - find the problem and we go off and solve it. We've now got this shift to being a problem finder and making sure that you're solving the right problem to start off with."

An engineer himself, McGuire brings more than 35 years of industry experience to DRA, including a stint with international engineering, design and advisory group Aurecon where he held the roles of both chief innovation officer and chief design officer and led its global innovation and strategy management.

During this time, Aurecon was named "Most Innovative Company" by the Australian Financial Review.

While only a matter of weeks into his new role with DRA, McGuire has already started sinking his teeth into new initiatives around products and services and how digital innovation can positively impact the way the company provides its solutions.

"It's [innovation] a broad-reaching gambit, it's very interlinked closely with the strategic direction of the business, and it's very linked with the how we do work with our customers and changing the customer's experience that they have with us," McGuire said.


"If you take conventional approaches to how you work with your customers, you're going to get predictable outcomes. So, in the world of volatility that we see today, do our clients really need conventional solutions, or are they looking for and need people who will work with them to challenge the status quo? Look at the what ifs, what might be's, run experimentation for possible futures, all those types of things. And that's going to cascade down through every element of our business."

John McGuire, Chief Innovation Officer, DRA Global

"We will be taking our staff on a capability-building journey, particularly around the key topics of things like design thinking, design-led innovation, disruptive innovation, sustaining innovation and then embedding that into how we go about our work."

Work connected to the precious metals space accounts for nearly a fifth of DRA's order book, with McGuire stating the gold sector continues to be a "great absorber" of technical innovation.

"I think the sector has done really, really well but the question now is how can we keep improving it?" he said.

"What's the next range of technologies that we can think about? What will blockchain do for it? What will machine learning do for it? What will quantum computing do for it? What will predictive analytics do for it? What are those possibilities that will build upon what they've done already, which is no mean feat?

"DRA has been front and centre with a lot of that work already. We want to take our teams further and be able to co-design those possibilities with our clients. The rate of change around us is exponential and our job, in DRA, is to be interpreters and translators of technological change into our clients' businesses.”

By Michael Washbourne for the October-December 2021 edition of the Gold Mining Journal