Disrupting the Business: It’s not a CEO-Only Dilemma


In a recent interview, Charles Anderson, associate vice president, head of Mobility and Internet of Things (IoT), IDC Asia Pacific shared his insights on what digital business means in APJC and around the world.


How is digital business changing the workplace and what does that mean to the C-suite?

The C-suite understands the challenges created from digital disruption. They also see the opportunities. For the CEO, one of the top concerns is cost. But their challenges are also related to new business models, new customers and the changing consumption models of their existing customers. They need to transform not only the technology, but also how they operate.

It isn’t just about IT. They need to understand the impact it’s going to have on the organization’s operating models. And it’s how to source their workers and resources.

They are also starting to understand that it really has to be top-down led. The C-suite needs to lead by example on this. They need to try to find ways to encourage workers to open up, and share their ideas. On their own, C-level executives can’t drive business transformation. It has to be end-to-end within the company. From the supply chain, all the way to the customers. This allows new ideas to really transform their workplace and their offerings.


How are APJC countries adapting in this age of digital transformation in businesses?

Asia Pacific companies are starting to leverage digital transformation. In Asia there are 650 million mobile-only Internet users. These are people whose only access to the Internet is through their mobile device. This trend is forcing existing traditional companies to transform their business and find ways to attract these mobile users.

It also creates a huge opportunity for companies to target that audience with mobile-only or mobile-first type of offerings.


What are the top areas or industries for digital disruption in APJC?

There are a lot of companies and industries that are going to be leveraging digital transformation to change how they interact with their customers. One of the most obvious is financial services. Looking across the region new companies going into this space are not always traditional banks.

In China you have companies like Ten Cents and Alibaba creating money market funds and are being used as a payment mechanism. That transforms the whole industry.

They are also offering virtual credit cards. I think there’s a big opportunity for mobile-type companies and mobile-financial services to really take off -- and it won’t always be from the traditional players.

However, some of the traditional players are the leaders as well. You have banks like DBS* that are always on the forefront of innovation and are driving new ways to interact with their customers. They’re leveraging things like big data to create this new type of personalized experience for their customers.

Another industry where we’re seeing digital disruption is in e-commerce. People are going for this omni-channel experience or multi-channel where you want to be able to shop online and offline. There’s an opportunity for some new retailers to come in.

You have companies like Lazada and Zalora that are driving 50% plus of their transactions from mobile devices.

If you ever see what happens on “Singles Day” in China, which is the equivalent of the black Friday shopping mecca day in the US. During Singles Day close to 50% of transactions are on mobile. People are realizing that it isn’t enough to have an offline store, you have to be able to offer this full, multi-channel experience to your customers because they want to browse, shop and then transact in different ways.

Another area I think there’s huge opportunity to transform is healthcare. In most big cities in the region, people have access to good healthcare. However we have that emerging billion middle–class that has very poor access so we can leverage things like video conferencing to create centers of doctors that can then support multiple areas around the country and provide them better services than they are getting today.

*DBS (Development Bank of Singapore)


How can organizations in different industries learn from each other?

We can learn a lot from looking at what solutions are being deployed in different industries. For instance, in manufacturing we see a lot of automation to improve operational efficiency. And they do a lot around predictive analytics. That’s where they can extend the life and usefulness of a piece of equipment.

You can also look at digital media signage, which tends to be used within the retail sector. But other sectors can leverage them as well. You can use them in smart city environments to enable citizen services. You can use them in the healthcare environment to enable patient services. You can start looking at this in financial services to do customer self-service or for a mobile operator. It’s about looking at the technology and then enabling it and making it into a solution that you can use for your internal customers whether that’s your employees or your external customers or people in the supply chain.


What role will mobility have in digital disruption across industries?

Mobility is going to play a key role in transforming industries. If you look at the next generation of workers, everything that they do is mobile. The way they consume content, the way they want to transact is all going to be mobile. You’ll see industries evolving especially as that next generation matures.

Mobile is transforming things like retail. Where people are doing their shopping in a physical store but they might want to buy it on mobile. Another great example of this is in the healthcare industry, in the US every year a hundred thousand people die from infections. In the US there’s only a 70% compliance rate of doctors and nurses properly sterilizing their hands after seeing one patient and before seeing the next one.

This is what leads to those types of infections. The US is now leveraging a very basic mobile technology. It’s a consumer wearable. It’s just a band that they put on their collar and it uses things like small cells to know when doctors and nurses are properly sterilizing their hands and they can track this to the cloud and to their analytic platform. This allows them to know where they need to encourage people to change their practices.

By doing this, they end up reducing the number of infections in the hospital and they save lives and you save one lawsuit based on an infection-related death in a hospital. That funds the whole use case.

It isn’t mobility on its own. While mobile might be a great enabler -- on its own -- it’s not enough. You need to think about your entire third platform which means you think about big data, the impact it’s going to have on cloud and the social aspects of it as well.


What can private sector learn from public sector when it comes to mobility, applications and their role in digital transformation?

The private sector can learn from the public sector. Governments have started to realize that there are ways that they can interact with their citizens. They have been leveraging cloud for many years to deliver citizen services to the mobile device.

It’s important that we look at it the other way as well. Governments should look at private enterprises to find out how they are transforming their businesses with digital solutions. How are they driving operational efficiencies to reduce cost by implementing predictive analytics and asset tracking. Or looking at how to leverage technology to change the customer experience and drive stickiness to the customer base and attract new customers. Also how will it move the organization into new markets?

How do you go into adjacent markets that can generate future revenue streams? That’s where private enterprises will be a lot more active.

Governments have the challenge on promising to deliver smart cities but they have to fund them somehow. But it can’t just be a cost center. They have to identify new ways that they generate revenues out of things like parking.

The Internet of Everything creates unprecedented opportunities for countries, cities, industries, and businesses to become digital. Learn more how you can be ready for this digital transformation.