BACK in the day, the image of the future was filled with caricatures of flying cars and robots. Pop culture in the 70s and 80s promoted future society to be one that is advanced in all aspects - from transportation and entertainment to the world of work. Surely, these were not accurate predictions as we are still eons away from using flying cars. What absolutely changed was the way we do things.
The 2000s saw how society jumped from manual to digital means of living and working. The advent of advanced computing systems and smartphones offered ease and convenience for doing almost everything, from communicating, doing errands and studying to doing business. What's even more interesting is that these advancements show no signs of slowing down.
Many sectors of society are looking to digitalize their processes to keep up with the times. Businesses, on one hand, are quickly catching up to the trend of digitalizing business processes to promote ease in doing business. This is what business experts call digital transformation.
According to management consulting firm McKinsey, digital transformation is "an effort to enable existing business models by integrating advanced technologies." In other words, digital transformation is more than mere digitalization and technology, it is a dedicated branch of business that incorporates digital technologies into existing business models to change the way businesses operate.
Kick-starting digital transformation
It goes without saying that digital transformation for businesses is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. There are many areas that digital transformation aim to address that go way beyond just technology. Technology is not the prime focus of digital transformation as there are many essential elements needed to implement it properly. Beyond just technology, the essential areas include customer and people experience, goal setting, digitalizing operations and processes, and fostering a digital culture.
Customer experience involves gaining insight on a business' evolving market, trends on how customers perceive and experience their world, and how they will perceive it in the future. After all, a large chunk of digital transformation comprises the application of digital solutions and processes to enhance customer satisfaction and business offerings.
In the Philippines, there is considerable business interest to enhance customer experience. According to a study by Oxford Economics, Filipino businesses believe that customer experience can help them stand out, naming service excellence, product excellence, and innovation as their organization's three primary sources of value and differentiation. Businesses in the Philippines have started acting on customers' feedback and are actively improving customer data analytics. The same study showed that Filipino businesses have started investing in user-friendly digital experiences.
Our country is still considered as an early adopter of digital transformation but its interest and optimism indicate that there is a bright future for us.
Aside from customer experience, understanding people's experience offers a solid foundation for a business' plans to digitally transform. Gaining relevant insight on your people will help your organization advance its goals. Companies which practice transparency and value people experience tend to have easier transformation because their genuine care for their people builds mutual trust.
For many Filipino companies, the pandemic was a true test of prioritizing people's experience. Since work arrangements quickly shifted to remote working, business continuity plans heavily involved the use of technology. Experts predict that business continuity will continue to be an essential part of business plans here in the Philippines. The areas companies are interested in are cloud networking, remote access solutions and network automation.
Digital transformation involves heavy planning and setting targets. Coming up with a holistic vision and strategy will help you navigate transformation in a more goal-oriented manner.
To create an effective vision and strategy, there are questions to be asked:
- Where do we want to go?
- What needs to happen to get there?
- How do we measure and manage the journey?
- How do we facilitate tech processes?
These questions will help refine an organization's goals of going digital.
Digitalizing operations and processes
When venturing into digital transformation for the first time, business leaders must approach their organizations' processes and operations with the mindset that everything can be digitized. Once this is accomplished, priorities must be set according to urgent need. Meticulous research must be done to survey all available technologies.
It is recommended that operations involving customer experience should be prioritized. Technology must be used sustainably and not just to get ahead of competitors. Using technology smartly involves using it to solve existing problems or to prevent problems in the future.
One example of this is Filipino firms addressing supply chain problems with the use of artificial intelligence and automation. Retailers and service providers have been investing in digital solutions that help them cut costs while boosting efficiency.
Fostering a digital culture
Transformation takes a significant amount of time. For most companies, changing workforce culture to welcome digital transformation is not just something that involves the chief information officer and their department. Every individual from top to bottom should be part of this process. A culture that is not readily aware of technological changes may face organizational challenges in the future.
Digital transformation for everyone
The Global Connectivity Index report by Huawei Technologies showed that the Philippines ranked 59th out of 79 countries, indicating that our nation is still in its early stages of digital transformation. Thanks to the growing interest of our firms, we can see a climb in rank in the next few years. It is now up to business leaders if they are ready to further invest in more digital transformation initiatives.
The main goals of digital transformation lie in optimization, efficiency and innovation - and these are beneficial to not just business. Different sectors can harness the power of digital transformation to improve the lives of Filipinos in many ways. Hopefully, we see a future that embraces technology in an inclusive and sustainable manner.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 14 July 2021