Are You in Control of Your Digital Destiny?

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Southeast Asia is clearly becoming a destination of choice today for big corporations and small and midsize enterprises alike. With a regional average growth of 53% in Internet penetration and a 133% mobile connectivity rate recorded this year, the region, without doubt, can play an important role in driving the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)—a period in our modern history which will see the convergence and ubiquity of digital technologies, enough to drive global income levels.

Scott Russell, SAP President for Asia Pacific Japan, rightly pointed this out at the Asian Innovators Summit 2017 when he said that going digital will be the fundamental driver for Southeast Asian enterprises. Highlighting the need for companies to define their digital destiny, Russell suggested that only when companies reimagine their business models can they truly drive their digital transformation forward.


Watch: 4 Questions Every Business Leader Should Ask About Digital Transformation

Many Southeast Asian businesses are eager to start their innovation journey, but they lack the technical knowhow. As Russell noted in his talk, even while companies have an idea of where they want to go, it’s the execution problem that so often derails them from realising their transformation roadmap.

Charting a company’s digital destiny

In defining their digital destiny, business leaders have to keep in mind that this isn’t something that they can map out from the get-go. Sure, businesses can have a grand vision statement to keep them on the right track, but digital destiny is an evolving concept altogether—dependent as it is on changing customer demand, technology breakthroughs, and economic realities.

Simply put, to define a company’s digital destiny means to adopt a whole ecosystem approach that goes deep into the complex relationship of market trends, digital capabilities, and products or service.

Southeast Asia’s innovation formula

Given the strong growth potential of Southeast Asia, what’s needed then from companies is a risk-taking attitude towards digitisation. Key to this is the adoption of 4IR technologies, which, when leveraged correctly, will allow companies to adapt to new systems and drive new value for the market.

Watch: Is Southeast Asia the World’s Rising Star?

See the burgeoning e-commerce trend in Southeast Asia, for instance. With an estimated growth rate of 32%, the region’s ecommerce boom reveals an interesting point about how Asian consumers are now quickly turning to online retail to do their usual purchasing.

But this isn’t just a case of a growing preference for mobile technology. What this reveals as well is a gradually maturing IT infrastructure in Southeast Asia which allows faster internet speeds and pulls in e-commerce giants like Alibaba, Lazada, and

Thailand, for example, has seen in recent years an unprecedented growth in online shopping, outpacing even the sales made in brick-and-mortar shops. Among other factors, the boom can be attributed to the country’s strong social media-based market, as well as to the various development measures spearheaded by the government to increase their workforce’s digital readiness. A programme called “People and Talent Development Program” developed by the Thai government in partnership with Alibaba is a clear example of this.

This is also the same case happening in the retail landscape in Singapore, where even leading supermarket NTUC is now using data-driven models to support their market growth and anticipate their customers’ changing demands.

Watch: Singapore’s NTUC gets data-ready and digital

A sustainable innovation within the region

A sustainable digital transformation is not without its difficulties, certainly. For Southeast Asia to keep its growth momentum, therefore, a whole governance approach is needed, encompassing efforts from regulators, policy-makers, investors, and business players.

Foremost in this undertaking should be the governments’ role in enhancing the ease of doing business in the region, especially so within the context of outmoded policies, an under-developed digital infrastructure, and corruption issues that still plague a number of economies in Southeast Asia.

There must also be a big push for business players to capacitate their workforce, putting premium on the value of collaboration to drive employee engagement. SAP Thailand, Aon’s Best Employers in Thailand for 2017, does this exceptionally well.

The road to globalisation

As Southeast Asia rises to become a global digital hub, companies must likewise start embracing digital to drive their business outcomes. They must prioritise it and imagine a future where digital isn’t just a technology add-on, but an investment on a profitable business model.

Asia’s time is, indeed, now. And the region must begin setting its sights on a smarter and more connected future to chart its digital destiny.

For Southeast Asia to keep its growth momentum, a whole governance approach is needed, encompassing efforts from regulators, policy-makers, investors, and business players.


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