Digital Transformation in the 4th Industrial Revolution: A tipping point for ASEAN

Here are four pillars for change

By Michelle Simmons
General Manager,
Southeast Asia New Markets, Microsoft Asia Pacific

I recently spoke at the INSEAD/PwC third annual Emerging Markets Conference in Singapore to talk about how organizations are responding to new possibilities brought about by digital transformation in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

It is about three centuries since first Industrial Revolution came with the invention of the steam engine. And now we find ourselves in a new time of change, where the lines that once separated the physical, the digital, and biological, are blurred. And, three key drivers—data, cloud and analytics—are creating new services and solutions that connect people and empower them to do more, and with greater impact.

A Tipping point for ASEAN
We see the 4th Industrial Revolution as a tipping point for ASEAN nations for the following reasons:

  1. ASEAN nations have a vast and emerging talent pool led by digital-savvy millennials.
  2. Some of the emerging markets enjoy freedom from legacy assets due to their relatively late adoption of technology. This could potentially help them leapfrog existing systems to use more advanced technologies, enabling them be nimble when future change comes.
  3. Modern services, such as financial and medical consulting, will become much more affordable to populations in rural areas.

A recent Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation study shows that 84 per cent of business leaders in Southeast Asia acknowledge that every organization needs to transform into a “digital business” to enable future growth, and 83 per cent believe that new data insights can lead to new revenue streams. However, only 31 per cent have a full digital transformation strategy in place.

From this, it is clear that in order to pivot in the 4th industrial revolution, every ASEAN organization should (and must) embark on their digital transformation journey.

Four Key Pillars
Through digital transformation, an organization can think and operate like a digital company according to four pillars:

  1. Engaging customers: Transformation starts with consumers and in the digital age they are savvier than ever before. To stand out, organizations must deliver a new wave of deeply contextual and personalized experiences, while balancing security and user trust.
  2. Empowering employees: Successful businesses and organizations leverage the power of mobility to empower employee collaboration from anywhere, on any device, providing easy access to the apps and data they need, while mitigating security risks.
  3. Optimizing operations: Technology disruptors, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), are accelerating the potential for businesses to optimize their operations. Organizations in manufacturing, retail, and healthcare can shift from merely reacting to events to responding in real time, or even pre-emptively, to anticipate and solve customer issues.
  4. Transforming products: The opportunity to embed software and technology directly into products and services is changing how organizations can deliver value, enabling new business models and disrupting established markets.
Michelle Simmons

Based on these principles, Microsoft has helped numerous businesses in ASEAN to get a headstart in their digital transformation journey. Great examples of such customers include DBS, which leveraged Office 365 to achieve a more effective collaboration across the business; and Wallem Philippines Shipping, a traditional shipping company that adopted Office 365 to develop a time-saving knowledge management system to replace manual and paper processes across its teams.

Digital transformation begins by asking and answering two key questions: “How is your business being changed by digital technology? as well as “How is your core business model being changed by digital technology? 

Digital Transformation for Everyone
The major gamechanger in the 4th Industrial Revolution is the democratized access to advanced technologies. From Fintech giants in Singapore to SMBs in the Philippines, digital transformation in this new age empowers every person, every organization, and every nation to have the capabilities to leapfrog bigger and more established players.

As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reminds us: Stop thinking about digital transformation as one solution or simple software application—it goes much deeper than that. It really is about envisioning the future of your company as a digital company.

ALSO READ: Five ways to transform leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution