Charting the Next Leap Forward in Digital

If there is one thing that we could all agree on, it would be how the dire events over the last 12 months have acted as an accelerant for digital transformation. This was the consensus of participants at the recent “2021 Digital Trends: Charting the next leap ahead in digital” virtual roundtable moderated by CDOTrends in partnership with Adobe.

The meeting began with Adobe’s Scott Rigby sharing noteworthy trends from Adobe’s latest Digital Trends report, followed by participants who explored issues around improving the customer experience (CX), driving growth and strategy through digital initiatives, and hard-won lessons of the ongoing pandemic.

A mishmash of technologies

Rigby, who serves as Adobe’s Chief Technology Advisor and Principal Product Manager in the Asia Pacific (APAC), noted that organizations in Australia and New Zealand are more likely to be using a cloud-based marketing data platform compared to the rest of Asia. In the latter, Rigby observed how organizations either rely predominantly on multiple technologies or vendors without a unifying platform or a self-developed management platform.

There are some downsides to an internally developed solution. Rigby says: “If this is not your core capability as a business, then obviously this raises a lot of risk in respect of your ability to build technology that's available off the shelf and ready to use today, versus building something that might take 9, 12, 18 months, and you may not necessarily get what you hoped to get out of it.”

“And obviously, during that entire period, you're left behind by competitors that have taken an off-the-shelf technology, and are deriving value from that, gaining from that experience, and continuing to evolve from there.”

Thrown into the deep end

There is no question that the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation (DX) initiatives. On this front, Ahmad Izuddin Abdullah of Tenaga Nasional Berhad observed that IT teams are overstretched right now. And though everyone agrees on the need to invest in technology, the real challenge revolves around prioritizing the right initiatives, he said.

Juliana Chua of Essilor Group pointed to how larger organizations might face challenges around getting different regional offices and branch locations across multiple countries to work together. Some might be encumbered with legacy systems that they cannot easily migrate from, she noted.

“Their workflows might not be digital yet – there might be challenges are within the layers of the organization to make digital transformation happen. While pandemic has given everyone a very big opportunity for digital transformation to take shape very quickly, the challenge is how we can leverage it to ensure that digital [becomes part of the core operation].”

Of digital innovation and agility

Terence Tan of British American Tobacco Malaysia is not resting on his laurels. He shared how his team is currently building new capabilities to better support fragmented marketing functions and deliver a better customer experience: “How can we bridge the gap between marketing and both the front and back office to deliver a better end-to-end experience?”

“We're working on how we structure ourselves, how we simplify to make sure we have the right operating model, and how we look at innovation not only for the consumer but also in terms of internal innovation. This includes improving operational excellence, back-office capabilities, and leveraging disruptive technologies such as AI,” said Tan.

And least one is tempted to think otherwise, Eric Mun of Sembcorp Industries pointed to the electricity market deregulation in Singapore to highlight how even established sectors are not immune to disruption. Mun shared how Sembcorp Industries had embraced digitalization with the implementation of business dashboards and RPA projects, and is even looking to develop new products and services.

“We also have to start looking at new avenues of growth and new businesses, as well as improving the experience in terms of employee experience. We are building up a new system to deal with how to onboard new customers and co-branding. This is something new for us to learn – our CX journey is just beginning.”

Bring the people along

Several participants also spoke of the importance of continual education. Johnwee Lee of Petronas shared about his two-hour per week of personal training that he undertakes on top of what is needed to stay on top of what is mandated by regulatory requirements.

He explained that understanding the business is important to help organizations move away from a “That’s how we’ve always been doing it” mindset, ensuring that it can forge ahead with new DX initiatives quicker while ensuring that crucial considerations are not overlooked.

Success entails building agility and ensuring that organizations have the right culture – and making investments into employees, agreed Rigby. “Most organizations are going to get an increase in funding over the next 12 months. How do we position this funding and utilize it to build that [digital] foundation to accelerate the growth of your business, establish new channels, and build new services?”

Rigby posed a final question as he summed up the various discussion topics: “Do you want to be building your entire technology stack? Do you want to be trying to hold it together with you want to be utilizing an integrated technology stack, so you can spend more time focused on either your customer or your employee?”

Paul Mah is a senior editor at CDOTrends. He likes (almost) all things tech and enjoys writing about data science, AI, and digital transformation. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/metamorworks