By Justin Spelhaug, General Manager, Marketing & Operations, Microsoft Asia Pacific
Technology is changing the world at exponential speed. What took 70 years to adopt new innovations is now taking seven years (or less), and this timeframe continues to compress further. Imagine this – 90% of the world’s data was created in just the last 24 months alone!
The tipping point
Each industrial revolution fundamentally altered the way we lived, worked and related with one another. Let’s put this pace of innovation over the course of history into perspective.
In the late 1700s, mechanical innovations saw the invention of the steam engine, railroads and production equipment. In the 1800s, we entered a second revolution, with the power of electrification igniting the ability to develop products at unprecedented scales. The 1970s was an era most of us would be familiar with – the birth of the microprocessor that brought mainframes, personal computing and the Internet into the world.
We are now at the tipping point of the 4th industrial revolution – shaped by an interplay of physical, biological and digital technologies. In the physical world, autonomous vehicles, robotics and 3D printing are already here, and it is just a matter of time before they become mainstream. We will also see huge leaps forward in the fields of biology and genetic engineering that will change not only human health and the healthcare industry, but the way we think about and manage livestock.
Digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain are drastically changing efficiency levels work. According to renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil, by 2029, AI will be at about the level of intelligent adult humans. After this point, AI will learn and improve itself and be a primary engine for commerce engagement from planning and running supply chains to creating new modes of customer interaction. Today, new and disruptive business models in the form of apps are already on our phone screens. Game changers like Uber are not only impacting entire industries, but revolutionizing the way consumers interact with services. There’s a lot happening, and it’s all becoming very real in our lives.
With data now becoming the new currency, the question is how do we as leaders leverage this to accelerate innovation and growth in our industries? Importantly, how ready are we? In our recent study on digital transformation, 80% of top business leaders in Asia Pacific agreed that every organization needs to digitally transform to stay relevant in this 4th industrial revolution. Almost 80% of them also see the importance of data insights for new revenue streams.
Digital transformation is changing entire business functions. In marketing, for example, creative product and brand managers were traditionally highly valued. Now, there’s a premium on ‘data scientists’ and marketers that can code, so that each stage of the customer journey can be instrumented, analyzed, automated and improved daily.
Empowering the modern consumer channel
It wasn’t too long ago that the primary mode of engaging customers was either online or through brick and mortar. Today, digital transformation is enabling these two worlds to seamlessly blend together to create an omni-channel experience.
At Microsoft, we believe that digital transformation will generate four key business outcomes for organizations which are impacting consumer channels and businesses:
- Engage your customers
Consumers are savvier than ever before, having access to valuable data before even engaging with providers. To stand out, organizations will need to deliver a new wave of deeply contextual and personalized experiences.
Telstra, Australia’s leading telecommunications company had a vision to reinvent its device shopping and service experience. By using Windows 10 and the Universal App Platform, they were able to use engaging and adaptable content and applications across a broad range of devices and displays throughout the store. Today, 40% of customers who interact digitally in store continue their interaction online, presenting additional opportunities for Telstra to win customers and drive sales through upselling and cross-selling.
- Empower your employees
Employees are increasingly mobile, and employers need to make them just as productive in the office, at home or on the road. With the growing volumes of data needed for greater insight, how can companies truly empower its employees to access and make sense of all this information that can otherwise be nearly impossible? Crystal Group in Hong Kong, a leading garment manufacturer in fast fashion, uses technology to help their employees radically compress the time cycle to design new clothes. In this mission-critical industry, speed in innovation is crucial. By using custom, fashion-forward apps built on the Windows 10 platform and the cloud to expedite its entire sales cycle, employees can now make design concepts a reality in just 12 hours versus weeks!
- Optimize your operations
New technologies like IoT are accelerating the potential for businesses to optimize their operations. For example, field equipment once isolated and siloed can now be connected on a continuous basis to gather data across a wide, dispersed set of endpoints, draw insights through advanced analytics, and then apply those learnings to introduce improvements continuously.In New Zealand, one of the world’s largest Kiwi Fruit production companies, Zespri, uses technology to overcome operational challenges. With supply chain at the core of their business, Zespri ships its perishable products to 54 countries worldwide. Zespri needed a fast, reliable platform for their SAP Production Environment that would allow them to absorb the peaks in business and enable efficiencies in the valleys. So they decided to migrate 95% of their global SAP platform and other applications to Microsoft Azure to meet the growing IT demands of its business. The results were incredible – they reduced IT costs by as much as US$1 million, insulated its business against natural disasters, and gained instant IT scalability to accommodate global growth.
- Transform your products
Every company will eventually embed software and technology directly into products and services to deliver value and enable new business models.Football powerhouse Real Madrid transformed their core offerings by creating a new platform to elevate the experience for their 450 million passionate and loyal fans, a significant number of them in Asia Pacific. At the core of what Real Madrid is offering is the ultimate soccer experience – to bring the stadium as close as possible to each fan, no matter where they are around the world and from any screen through the Real Madrid app, devices and Microsoft Cloud. By using technology and engaging with its fans in more personalized way, there were more opportunities for the club to increase revenue, customize marketing initiatives, and reinforce the club’s leadership position in the worldwide sports industry.
These examples demonstrate how customers are truly embracing digital transformation to accelerate growth, innovation and disruption for their business and industries. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in many ways, the path to digital transformation is just as much about transforming people and cultures as it is about capitalizing on new technologies.
This requires business leaders to embrace a different way of bringing together people, processes and technologies. It requires leaders to have the courage and openness to re-envision traditional business models with the mindset of a digital first company.