2020: Digital transformation is key to business continuity

June 04, 2020 08:59
Photo: Bloomberg/Facebook

Over the past decade, enterprises have been working to overhaul themselves to meet the increasing demands from customers for a connected, engaging and streamlined online experience. Many of them have embraced disruptive technologies, but few investments have achieved their desired levels of efficiency, business growth or new customer experiences. This is often due to lack of funding, restrictions in legacy systems, and not focusing enough on people and processes in executing digital transformation.

However, the current COVID-19 pandemic is shaking up business and consumer behaviour on a massive scale. Many businesses have been compelled to rethink their strategies to minimize physical business disruption. Transforming our places of work to operate effectively is now a major imperative, as numerous businesses have been forced to enable remote working and reinvent virtual communications. However, only a small number of businesses are prepared. Last year, Telstra ran a survey with 3,810 senior executives across 14 markets to find out how organisations rated their digital transformation decisions; only 14% of businesses in Hong Kong described themselves as “digitally mature” and 29% said they did not make digital transformation decisions very well, while a further 26% businesses had not even begun the process. If we re-ran the survey again today, the percentage of businesses that are delaying or reviewing spending plans would probably be even higher.

Technology saves the day

These are the three key considerations for enterprises wanting to digitally transform and maintain business continuity:

Embrace the cloud – During the pandemic, many companies in Hong Kong and globally are advising employees to work remotely as a health and safety measure. Internet and cloud computing capacity demand has significantly increased due to the use of cloud-based video conferencing and online training & education. Hong Kong was early in this trend and has seen greater connectivity including better e-working, e-learning and e-health. Without the cloud, it would be challenging for workers and customers to communicate with each other, or to share and edit documents in a secure and real-time manner. Working remotely and teleconferences are likely to become the ‘new normal’, and it is essential for enterprises to realize the importance of transforming their operations to enforce business resilience and recover after a global crisis.

A few Hong Kong-based retailers are now in a strong position to tackle the current outbreak due to their ongoing investment on digital transformation, as they provide seamless shopping and service experience for their consumers through online platforms.

Having said that, some companies which have just begun their journey in digital transformation should consult with network experts to review the IT infrastructure and seek best practices to manage network usage.

Data led Investments – Big data is increasingly playing a major role in analysing patterns and generating predictions. Not only does this technology help us understand the changes in the pandemic situation and public behaviours around the world, customer-centric businesses have the advantage of gaining insight into how people use their services, to refine and develop new services to meet customer demands.

Understanding the significance of predictive data analytics and the value of customer experience is important. Using these insights and staying aligned with global strategies to drive personalization for a better connection with each customer will further strengthen positive brand perception and market differentiation.

Business aside, we can expect governments will utilize big data and Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor public responses and design appropriate measures to help prevent the next outbreak or other crises.

Security and privacy are critical – Just as humans require a robust immune system to fight off the infectious coronavirus, we also face an increasing array of cyber threats. Computer viruses and malware evolve as quickly as new technologies, so there is never an end to the security journey.

With the increasing amount of data, IT security is crucial. It is not just about investing in security technology, but also about building a security-aware culture internally and externally, focussed on people.

After all, people first

Having advanced technology is not enough without having the right people with the right mindset. There is enormous potential and opportunity for organizations in Hong Kong to focus on the role of their employees in driving digital change and creating a culture of transformation. This digital journey must be led by a clear company strategy from the C-suite and board level down. It involves changing employee mindsets, expanding their capabilities, adapting structures and processes to maximize the benefits of the new technologies being introduced – both tangible and non-tangible.

There is no doubt that turning vision into strategy and action can be difficult, and a pandemic can make things even harder. Hence, it is important for businesses to find the appropriate digital transformation partner to design a transformation strategy, implement the technologies, manage the updated system, and ultimately, create new value for customers, even in a critical situation.

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Head of North Asia & Global Wholesale, Telstra