In a previous blog entry, I argued that everyone needs to digitize their business, but not every business knows what to do. Transforming into a digital businesses, especially if you’re a traditional enterprise, is hard work. However, we believe that Asia Pacific is already primed for digital disruption.
In my report, The State Of Digital Business In Asia Pacific In 2014, we found that, while the highest-profile digital business pioneers are headquartered in North America, market demand in Asia Pacific is more conducive to long-term digital disruption. Asia Pacific has five times as many Internet users and smartphone subscribers as the US and almost as much online retail spending as the US and Europe combined. You just need to look at regional powerhouses like Alibaba.com and Commonwealth Bank of Australia and their multibillion-dollar businesses to grasp the rewards of digital business success in Asia Pacific.
However, knowing what these firms have accomplished is insufficient; knowing how to get there is more critical. You should:
Every business must transform into a digital business. Digital businesses continuously exploit digital technologies to create new sources of value for their customers and increase their operational agility to serve those customers. In Asia Pacific, CIOs have had limited success in driving digital business transformation. Organizations taking an early lead in transforming their business include Commonwealth Bank of Australia, China’s Ping An Insurance Group, and DBS Bank in Singapore.
A true digital business needs to integrate two sides of a digital strategy: digital customer experience and digital operational excellence. My colleague Nigel Fenwick has written extensively on the topic; this infographic, for example, sums up our thinking. Becoming a truly digital business requires a radical overhaul of organizational structures, technologies, measurement frameworks, and operating models. And it’s ongoing.
The organizations coping best with digital disruption are creating:
A digital strategy as a defense mechanism against disruption. The pace of consumer change poses the biggest threat to any traditional businesses that have yet to experience the impact of digital disruption, regardless of whether they’re in the telecommunications, media and entertainment, transportation and travel, or other industry. For example, Australia Post has set up a A$2 billion kitty to aggressively pursue a digital strategy to tap into new revenue sources, including building a new center for the digital delivery of mobile and online products and services.
It’s a fact: Marketers in Asia purchase digital technologies without involving the tech management department. They do it because they believe that:
Digital technologies are key enablers of successful marketing strategies. Customers in Asia Pacific in general, and in Singapore in particular, are always connected and empowered by technology to access the right information in their moments of need. They increasingly value — and do business with — organizations that provide them with experiences that are effective, easy, and emotional across all customer touchpoints. It’s not a surprise, then to see marketing professionals — just like their colleagues in sales, product management, and customer service — source digital technologies to enable such experiences.
The tech management department hinders their business success. This is the more worrying part, but if you take a step back, as a technology management professional, you understand why. You work with technology life cycles that are oriented toward core business, back-end systems like enterprise resource planning and therefore are risk-averse and slow. However, marketers need tech management professionals who are open to innovation, experimentation, and moving toward a risk-tolerant, agile life cycle that supports digital experience delivery.
It’s hard to believe almost a year has passed since our last Summits for CIOs in Asia Pacific. Our team is ramping up preparations to this year’s CIO Summit series and I’m looking forward to meet you at the events which will kick off in Sydney on August 14, Singapore on August 19 and Mumbai on August 21. Themed “Beyond IT: Empower Digital Business in the Age of the Customer”, Forrester’s 2014 Summits will focus on the significant shift we’ve seen in CIO’s traditional focus from the design and deployment of internal systems focused on process control to digital products and services for their customers.
Of particular importance on the digital journey are three domains: customer experience, the mobile mind shift and the transformation of big data into actionable business insights. Each of these topics will feature prominently at the Summits with select analysts flown in to delve deeper into how CIOs can overcome some of these challenges through Forrester guidance.
Last week I presented an overview of cloud adoption trends in the banking sector in Asia to a panel of financial services regulators in Hong Kong. The presentation showcased a few cloud case studies including CBA, ING Direct, and NAB in Australia. I focused on the business value that these banks have realized through the adoption of cloud concepts, while remaining compliant with the local regulatory environments. These banks have also developed a strong competitive advantage: They know how to do cloud. Ultimately, I believe that cloud is a capability that banks will have to master in order to build an agility advantage. For instance, cloud is a key enabler of Yuebao, Alibaba’s new Internet finance business. 80 million users in less than 10 months? Only cloud architecture can enable that type of agility and scale (an idea that Hong Kong regulators clearly overlooked).
My recent report, “Driving Toward Communications Sourcing Excellence,” looks behind the scenes to find out why Formula One (F1) sourcing professionals enjoy such a great customer experience from their network providers. It’s a two-way street: Providers ensure that the F1 team’s network is reliable, always available, and delivers peak performance when needed, and F1 sourcing pros provide the guidance, insight, and support to make sure providers know what teams need. This is as much a concern for CIOs as it is for sourcing pros in their quest to win, serve, and retain customers.
Matt Cadieux, the CIO of Infiniti Red Bull Racing, said, “AT&T has a dedicated F1 account team that I meet for regular account reviews to discuss our requirements and plans. In the rare event of a problem, we also have excellent relationships with AT&T’s top executives. AT&T has consistently delivered projects when required; for example, in 2014 it provisioned new access networks in England and France and at racetracks around the world. These circuits have been fully operational — we show up and they just work.”
What It Means
My colleague Tracy Stokes believes that a consistent customer experience builds a trusted brand, and I couldn’t agree more. It also leads to:
Organizations in Asia Pacific (AP) have become cognizant of the fact that they have entered the age of the customer — an era in which they must systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. In the past two years, most AP firms have primarily focused on using mobile apps to connect their organizations with internal employees. However, in the age of the customer, this trend will reverse. Results from Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets and Priorities Survey, Q4 2013 show that 44% of AP technology decision-makers will prioritize building a mobile strategy for customers or partners, while only 39% will prioritize it for employees. Firms in Australia, Indonesia, India, and China will lead the region.
In order to compete and win in the age of the customer, organizations cannot be simply “customer-centric” anymore — they must become “customer-obsessed.” To do so, firms must embrace the mobile mindshift and build mobile systems of engagement. This can be done by leveraging social, cloud, and predictive analytics to deliver context-rich mobile applications and smart products that help users decide and act immediately in their moments of need. Such systems will focus on people and their immediate needs in context rather than processes, as is the case with traditional systems of record.
Building mobile systems of engagements is even more critical for firms in AP, because:
VMware recently announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire AirWatch, a leading provider of enterprise mobile management and security solutions. The acquisition is expected to provide customers with the most complete solution to manage users, devices, and applications across server, desktop, and mobile environments.
VMware obviously has had to expand its penetration beyond the server-centric virtualization market. So far, it has had mixed success with selling virtualization as a platform in the region, even though it has successfully entrenched itself as a leading hypervisor provider (unfortunately, VDI has proved a difficult sell for VMware in AP). In order to gain much deeper penetration and traction, VMware needed to add an end user computing offering to its portfolio. The pairing should result in:
I am currently in the process of wrapping up a report on implementing cloud collaboration solutions in Asia Pacific. For this report, I interacted with technology vendors, collaboration service providers, and customer organizations to understand the current state of cloud collaboration adoption in Asia Pacific and the drivers and key criteria that organizations need to consider when evaluating a solution and service provider. Three distinct business scenarios emerged as the most appropriate for cloud collaboration services deployment:
To reduce the total cost of ownership. Compared with an on-premises infrastructure, public cloud deployments offer a lower total cost of ownership to individual companies, as multiple customers share the service provider’s infrastructure and associated costs such as hardware, software upgrades, and IT maintenance. While it’s beneficial for organizations across all segments, it’s especially advantageous for small and medium-size businesses with limited IT budgets and small IT teams.
Implementation in greenfield projects. Existing legacy communications infrastructure investments discourage customers from adopting cloud solutions. But this works well for newly established companies, as it offers better flexibility and efficiency at a lower operating cost — a critical business requirement, especially during the first few years of operation. Furthermore, lower upfront expenses help customers boost business agility and utilize funds for functions that are critical to operations and help them gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace.
When I interviewed clients for a recent telecom sourcing best practices report, I heard a recurring refrain: “We need to drive down costs.” Both CIOs and sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals measure the health of their department with the amount of annual cost savings they can achieve. While this is a laudable metric, over time it can skew SVM pros’ perspectives and cause them to miss an opportunity to provide value to the business in the form of a vital “always-on” service.
SVM pros should:
Accept that cost savings are limited and short-term. Telecommunications is highly regulated in Asia Pacific; local competition is limited and governments own significant stakes in incumbent telcos. While cost savings can be had, they will diminish over the lifespan of a contract. SVM pros must understand how to work with lines of business and suppliers to create more value for the organization.
Focus instead on always-on service availability. Firms must focus on the fundamentals: ensuring that their communications services push toward always-on service availability. Getting the right price for services is important, but SVM pros in Asia Pacific must align business needs to service sourcing and ensure that the service delivers the expected value in terms of availability and quality.
Engender trust with providers with long-term commitments. View service providers as long-term partners; this will take the uncertainty out of the relationship and engender trust. One company was happy to lock in a five-year rental with an equipment supplier, eliminating a source of business risk in a volatile Asian economy. Focusing on long-term contracts gives providers the impetus to serve you well.