President of APJ Commercial, Dell EMC
Illustration of startup business. (Shutterstock/File)
The digital era has rattled multiple industries, and the signs are that this is just the beginning. Startups offer increased convenience to customers at lower costs, facilitated by the integration of ubiquitous high-speed mobile connectivity, the internet of everything and advanced analytics.
The barriers of entry have come crashing down with motivated and driven entrepreneurs competing with traditional businesses. The new innovations are no longer just coming from the traditional epicenters of various industries. San Francisco, Beijing, Tel Aviv and Bangalore are some of the global cities where clusters of digital startups and entrepreneurs are charting the future of industries ranging from finance to space travel.
The examples of industries disrupted by digitalization are all around us. One of the earliest examples was the media industry impacted by the rise of online publications using real-time online journalism and crowd sourced content. This has been taken one step further with artificial intelligence (AI) being used to write earnings stories.
Startups like Uber, Grab and Ola have transformed the taxi industry, which in the near future might get disrupted further with the coming of driverless cars. Customer expectations have also evolved with the advent of new, personalized experiences enabled by digital startups and there are a growing number of them in Asia. India has more than 19,000 technology-enabled startups, China has doubled its startup population between 2010 and 2014. Startup growth is also ramping up in developed countries. For instance, the number of high-technology or knowledge-intensive startups in Singapore grew by more than 90 percent since 2004.
Enterprises in the region are realizing that they need to innovate fast. According to a survey by Dell Technologies, the majority of Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) businesses, 83 percent) consider digital startups a threat to their survival, either now or in the future. The survey also revealed that about six in ten businesses in APJ are unable to meet customers’ top demands, such as 24/7 faster access to services and information. In contrast, startups typically have more agile mindsets and digital technology infrastructures that allow them to meet customer demands better.
To operate and innovate at the speed of startups and successfully navigate through the murky waters of the digital era, traditional businesses will need to:
Prioritize a centralized technology strategy for business
Businesses need to start making purposeful, data-driven technology choices by drawing-up three-year investment plans. It is essential to incorporate technology in all functions of their businesses. Digital startups have the edge as they build their technology infrastructure from scratch. Businesses dealing with legacy IT infrastructure need to align their technology strategy with their digital objectives.
Cultivate an obsessive focus on customer engagement and satisfaction
The balance of power has shifted from businesses to customers. A rising generation of consumers, whose insatiable appetite for faster, slicker, personalized services is creating a fertile environment for nimble, information-driven companies. Companies need to enhance their focus by meeting customer needs by making them a top driver behind their digital business strategies.
Acknowledge that software enables a digital world
In the near future, almost every business will need to have software development expertise at its core. Companies, who have never written a line of code, will have to embark on a momentous digital journey in order to keep up with clients’ demands. New digital products and services will drive the transformation of IT infrastructure as businesses need to manage a thousand times more users and data.
Build products and services that make mobile and social media capabilities accessible to employees and customers
Putting mobile at the center of the product and service development process has become essential. With ever increasing computing power, a mobile-centric strategy provides a blueprint to success. At the same time, social media has transformed how we interact with businesses and people. Whether established platforms like Facebook or fast growing ones like Snapchat, businesses have to be prepared to provide social media capabilities with their products and services.
Time is running out for companies to compete in the digital era. Technologies that enable change are becoming more powerful every year. Slightly over half of APJ businesses (52 percent) have already seen the writing on the wall and fear they may become obsolete in the next three to five years due to competition from digital startups.
Committing to transform people, processes and the technology upon which the business is built, from the edge to the core to the cloud, is critical. The digital transformation journey does not have to be undertaken alone, with partners available with the breadth and expertise in digital transformation to help businesses accelerate digital transformation.
Where there is risk, there is also opportunity. There is still a long way to go for businesses in APJ, but there is definitely still time to get it right if they act now.
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