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Adapt or fail – building a digital foundation for the post-COVID world

June 2, 2021

Andrew Yeong   

Head of Sales for APAC

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation at a rate no one ever expected, but how businesses continue to adapt will shape their future success. In this blog, Tata Communications’ Andrew Yeong, VP and Head – Asia Pacific, discusses how businesses can continue to evolve their digital capabilities to keep pace with changing business demands. 

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Charles Darwin’s proverb has never rung truer as COVID-19 upends how we live, work, and communicate. As the pandemic situation remains fluid, businesses will need to remain agile and constantly evolve to stay relevant and thrive in the shifting landscape.

To give businesses the extra boost they need to adapt and position themselves for the future, several initiatives announced in this year’s Singapore Budget were focused on helping businesses shift from business continuity to invest in digital technologies that can help them evolve, innovate, and capture future opportunities. It is estimated that the growth of Asia Pacific’s digital sector can result in more than US$8.6 trillion of economic surplus over 5 years, till 2025.

Furthermore, the pandemic has irreversibly changed consumer behaviour, leading to a permanent and significant increase in digital services usage.

“In 2020, as many as 40 million people came online for the first time in just six Southeast Asia markets, pushing the number of internet users in the region to 400 million.”

Evidently, organisations can reap massive economic benefits if equipped with the right digital capabilities. While more than 70% of organisations in Asia Pacific have stepped up digital transformation due to the pandemic, it does not necessarily mean that most organisations here have the capabilities to seize the immense opportunities emerging in the digital space.

During the pandemic, the driving force behind many digital transformation projects was to alleviate the situation’s immediate severity and maintain business continuity. They were not meant for the long term. Businesses will need to continue to evolve their digital capabilities to keep pace with changing business demands.

Reassessing digital technology investments to support internationalisation endeavours

For most businesses, the transformation they underwent so far is only the first phase of their journey. In the years ahead, one key trend we can expect is a surge in internationalisation efforts as businesses expand across geographies and enter new market segments to find new revenue streams and drive growth. This will lead to the emergence of more businesses with operations and consumer bases across multiple markets.

One of the first steps these businesses can take is to reassess their technology capabilities and strategise how they can connect with customers much more intimately across borders through digital platforms. This will enable them to access new segments and respond quickly to market changes in different locations.

“The need to improve how businesses connect with their customers digitally is especially pertinent for companies looking to expand their footprint in Southeast Asia.”

More than two out of five consumers in this region said they were dissatisfied with their digital experience.

For businesses with a presence in markets that are still working to flatten the COVID-19 curve, it is important to provide customers with an immersive, personalised digital journey that can rival the physical in-store experiences the company provides in more mature and developed markets. This ensures customers have a consistent experience, no matter where they reside, enhancing the brand promise and equity.

Achieving this will require businesses to provide their teams with unified, collaborative platforms that work seamlessly across functions and geographies. Furthermore, to enable their employees to continue to deliver exceptional customer services, they must provide the infrastructure to support remote access to enterprise applications. Concurrently, businesses will also need to implement measures, such as zero-trust connectivity and privileged identity management, to mitigate the potential cyber risks emerging from remote working.

The ability to provide a seamless, secure and connected workplace will not only ensure greater collaboration across borders amongst employees, partners and customers, but also create a more dynamic and productive work environment as employees will have the chance to work with their counterparts from around the region, or even the world. This will facilitate the transfer of knowledge and allow employees to broaden their horizon and adopt a more globalised mindset, driving more innovation and meaningful change for the company and customers.

Developing intelligent, resilient cross-border supply chains for the future

For businesses looking to expand and internationalise, their supply chain is another key aspect they need to re-evaluate and transform for the future. With the disruption of global supply chains and the prolonged closure of much of our physical borders, businesses will need to increasingly rely on their digital ecosystem to operate, grow, and innovate. This will require businesses to connect the different ecosystems within their organisation – including new digital technologies, legacy systems, supply chain, vendors, and partners – in the right way.

Furthermore, to better manage their cross-border supply chain and reinforce its resiliency, businesses will need to leverage the capabilities of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics, to improve operations and processes, from optimising the supply chain with enhanced end-to-end visibility and transparency to improving operational efficiency.

“Advanced data analytics can also enable businesses to isolate issues in product lines across different locations faster.”

This can shorten the time needed to identify and rectify issues. Additionally, AI and data analytics can enhance businesses’ strategic decision-making process and create a more intelligent supply chain by forecasting demand and identifying potential supply chain disruptions.

Businesses today are at an inflection point as our society shifts away from the shadow of the pandemic and the economy starts showing signs of recovery. As businesses start planning for the next phase of their transformation, it is imperative for them to take stock of their current digital tools and technologies and figure out how they can continue to evolve their capabilities to capture future opportunities and meet customers’ emerging or unfulfilled needs. Importantly, they will need to build an agile, scalable digital foundation that can enable them to continuously innovate, grow, and adapt in the years ahead.

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