More than digital transformation, consistent digital mastery is key to business resilience

Sumit Nurpuri
Sumit Nurpuri 3/28/2022 05:30 PM GMT+08  • 6 min read
More than digital transformation, consistent digital mastery is key to business resilience
Digital masters are intentionally and meaningfully using next-generation technologies to proactively build their growth engines. Photo: Unsplash
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Undeniably, the Covid-19 pandemic brought tremendous movement within the business landscape, with immense disruption threatening progress. To cope with the serious impediments, extensive paradigm shifts across industries are evident, and as businesses race to stay relevant or face redundancy, many chose to upskill and integrate an increasingly hybrid approach in their value chains. Consequently, we now observe and experience the accelerated, widespread adoption of digital technologies and tools – a trend that looks to be the norm in our post-pandemic future.

Change is the only constant, a key takeaway from the pandemic. Despite the plaguing anticipatory anxiety during this turbulent time, we have seen industries resiliently fighting and competing to stay relevant against the odds stacked against them.

To gain a competitive advantage in their respective industries, businesses have resourcefully sought out new technological innovations and partnerships, widening the capability gap between themselves and their peers and competitors. In a world that heavily consumes and produces information, how else can, and should, businesses actively seek differentiated ways to stand out and entice the distracted masses while still ensuring their message is heard by consumers?

Digital transformation in businesses was hastened across the volatile industry ecosystems, with many businesses embarking on their own change journey. Of the successes, a commonality surfaced: Businesses with strong digital leadership — espousing a cogent and authentic brand message — are able to stay relevant and engage better with customers, ultimately emerging resilient above the disruption.

Digital masters across industries are intentionally and meaningfully leveraging next-generation technologies to reimagine their business while embracing an open stance to demonstrate the “Art of Possible”. But what does a digital master look like and necessarily entail?

See also: Bosses, you risk losing employees because of low investments in data skills training

Digital masters are willing to learn and adopt new technologies

Our report — titled Understanding Digital Mastery today: Why companies are struggling with their Digital Transformation — interestingly revealed that only 35% of the organisations surveyed say they have the leadership capabilities required in 2018 for their digital transformation, compared to 45% in 2012.

Given the rapid advancement of technology and constant introduction of digital tools year on year, this discrepancy in their confidence can be attributed to an underestimation of the market’s expectations and an inability to keep pace with furiously evolving technology through upskilling. Inevitably, the pandemic has also contributed to several disruptions in value chains — further diminishing confidence in digital leadership.

It is easy to get discouraged in our digital leadership capabilities when faced with the realisation of our inability to achieve certain business outcomes. However, it is in managing to look ahead positively — and maintaining a willingness to learn, adapt, and adopt – despite these disruptions in value chains, that will be an instrumental marker to determine business success and true digital masters.

See also: Reshaping the role of the CFO

Beyond achieving successful outcomes, digital masters are primarily marked by their agile stance and mindsets, as well as their willingness to change and embrace the unknown as it manifests itself.

Digital masters constantly seek continual improvement across value chains

With a bird’s eye view of their industry’s landscape, digital masters overlook value chains to seek the potential for growth, innovation, and investments. From overseeing on the top to investing on the ground, digital masters actively analyse the industries they are situated in – through both macro and micro lenses alike — to seek continual improvement across value chains for futureproofing.

Digital masters embrace organisational transformation

As earlier looked at, businesses’ confidence in their digital and leadership capabilities can be equal parts strengthened or diminished by its workforce’s (in)ability to upskill in time to keep pace with the furiously evolving technology and digital tools.

As digital masters begin investing in innovation led by emerging technologies, it is just as crucial that they take measures to also strengthen their talent force, culture, and operations. In laying equal emphasis on upskilling — and by bringing people, technology, and processes to the fore against the backdrop of an enabling culture — digital masters can widen the capability gap between themselves and their peers and competitors.

Seeking inspiration up in the air

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Singapore Airlines (SIA) is an example of an organisation that has invested into its people and culture as much as it has into its digital innovation.

SIA has consistently been committed to innovating and bettering its use of technological tools to elevate the quality of service rendered to its customers. This has led to many “firsts” that the airline can now be credited with. For instance, in 1995, SIA was the first to offer in-flight entertainment across all cabin classes, and in 2001, the first to provide audio and video-on-demand services across all cabin classes.

Digital transformation at SIA is guided by its four pillars of culture, digital capabilities, technology, and collaboration. This suggests how people-centric values of culture and collaboration are just as necessary as hard digital skills in businesses’ digital journeys.

SIA designed interventions with the aim of bringing about a mindset change concerning people, culture, and the way the organisation works. This has helped create new and alternative revenue streams even before the pandemic, which later proved to be effective touchpoints for SIA to engage with its customers amidst an industry disrupted by the crisis.

For one, SIA had previously launched Pelago, a travel experiences platform – with people at the heart of its design – that connects travellers with a wide range of destination activities. During the pandemic, SIA adapted Pelago to the circumstances by modifying its business model to provide local destination experiences for Singapore residents.

Through SIA’s simultaneous adoption of digital technologies, married with a company culture that equally prioritises collaboration and talent upskilling in promoting organisational change, SIA is redefining its role as an all-round true digital master and innovator.

In uncharted spaces

Digital transformation may have once merely been a means to survive. But now, more than ever, it has become a must – and not just an option – for businesses to stay ahead in this new future.

Businesses that aspire to become high-performing organisations need to build their growth engines proactively. Doing so will enable them to remain relevant to their customers, unlock value from new revenue streams, and constantly stay ahead of the curve and in the face of unpredictable curveballs.

With leadership participation and new-age technologies, businesses can chart their route towards becoming digital masters – from merely doing digital (following digital practices and simply implementing tools as-is) to being digital in the truest sense of the term.

Sumit Nurpuri is the chief operating officer of Capgemini Southeast Asia, Hong Kong & Taiwan

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