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5 Steps to plan your digital transformation

Five key areas decision makers should consider while planning for a digital transformation. Inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the concepts and examples are based on my views and lengthy experiences in the IT industry.

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By Yeo Siang Tiong
General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky

Being in the IT industry for the last 28 years, I had the chance to observe the many advancements and upheavals in the field – advancements in technology, changes in standards and protocols, mergers and acquisitions, layoffs and re-organizations. But I have never seen Southeast Asia (SEA) transforming at a breakneck speed until this pandemic. 

This transition boils down to one segment – digital. In fact, the region has reached more than the forecasted 310 million online consumers for 2025 in 2020, five years in advance. Thanks to the 40 million first-time internet users last year from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

As a result, there is now an urgent need for businesses to reconsider their infrastructure, their business model, and their ways of doing transactions. The stakes are higher for firms to wade through this digital wave, with this global crisis in the background.

So today, I want to share five key areas decision makers should consider while planning for a digital transformation. Inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War, the concepts and examples are based on my views and lengthy experiences in the IT industry. These 5 areas are – 五事:道、天、地、将、法。

  1. Alignment – Alignment from the board level or CEO to the last men in the front-line like the customer support and sales is important. If aligned, the men will fight the toughest war. The “Shared Values” and “Strategy” in the McKinsey 7-S Model are probably the closest elements to this concept. 

Unfortunately, the modern management theory sees the shareholders as the ultimate people to please, with employees as mere digits akin to the factory workers of the Industrial Age. Coupled with disproportional use of debt-based leveraged buyouts, owners are no longer owners and alas, the employees who staked their well-being on the company, their voices are hijacked. 

Fortunately, this is probably true only for the larger corporations where the gains are meaty. Nonetheless, for all corporations of various sizes, the spirit of the company is the thread that weaves all together. Without a clear sense of direction and purpose that is well communicated, the individual parts can be difficult to summon and align.

Applying this logic to digital transformation, the whole company from the C-suite to the groundwork staff should be structured correctly, aligned, fully aware and on board.

A good example is how companies pivot into digital retail. It is important that the company is well aligned to execute this. The company needs to understand that digital retail is another channel to reach the same customer. So for companies who does not have a consistent strategy for omni-channel, they end up setting up a new department to target this without rallying the other conventional channel to join the race, causing fault lines to divide the company.

  1. Natural elements – Natural elements refer to climate and timing. In this era of digital transformation, timing is the more appropriate element. Interestingly, the concept of timing is also reflected in many ancient Chinese classical philosophical studies, like Lao Tzu’s Tao De Jing, who advocated in flowing with “Tao”. 人法地,地法天,天法道,道法自然. For those who observed the masters in executing the TaiChi movement, counteracting the enemy’s strokes involves the timing of absorbing their strikes by moving along the force, not against. 

Not going so far, we are well aware that the current pandemic has been causing major disruptions across all industries and entities in Southeast Asia. Based on “Tao”, businesses, no matter what shape or size, should move along with the on-and-off lockdowns and restrictions. How? There is no other way but to harness the power of technology. 

With transactions online predicted to hit $1.2 trillion in SEA by 2025, it is timely to start shifting your physical records and dealings online, from forms to be filled, payment, and other in-between affairs. If you have not started or considered it yet, you should do so now.

  1. Physical elements – You may ask how physical elements are related to a non-physical environment such as the internet. During the ancient time, this will be about the soldiers’ marching distance and the war’s type of terrain. Currently, and in digital transformation, it is about your market that you operate in (terrain).

Identifying the right market is critical. This is not just a geographical market identification, it is also identifying the approach to the market, and targeting the correct audience type that fits into the company strategy. For example, a clothing line manufacturer may choose to directly market to the consumers. The manufacturer may choose to go for un-addressed country to avoid conflicting with the existing ecosystem of business partners, or may choose a new target audience (youngsters), reaching them through social media influencers, and selling it purely online.

  1. Managers – One cannot execute a plan without the management’s approval. This pandemic showed that innovation is needed to thrive and our recent survey revealed that managers play a crucial role to enable it. 

A great majority (96%) of surveyed companies confirmed that their board plays a direct role in business innovation. This means that if innovation has more weight behind it, there will be more drive and this not only changes the way businesses operate, but their deep-rooted culture and corporate DNA. 

These are welcome findings and a reminder to loop in your C-suite about your digital transformation plan.

Aligning this across the structure is also important. Execution needs to be aligned all the way to the last person in the hierarchy. That means, the many layers of managers are key to its success, and not just lip service from the top. At times, we see the drive from the top, but the effort is thwarted by managers, especially line managers who are used to addressing old markets, using old tools, or are simply not convinced. 

Qualities we need to look for in good managers are : wise, trustworthy, benevolent, courageous, strict ( 将者,智、信、仁、勇、严也。)

  1. Structure and Protocols/Process – Technological advancements freed us of the need to maintain roads for military supplies, to marshal armies in proper subdivisions, and to control military expenditure. However, this was changed to the need to plan our steps, consider our assets, redefine our protocols, and train our employees regularly. 

For instance, the same survey revealed that 95% of innovations in a company fail before the launch and the culprit is lack of planning. Reverting back to digital transformation, it is important to have defined protocols, comprehensive security measures and tools at hand, and a clear road map and division of tasks to make it possible. 

It is important to equip your company before diving into an irreversible transformation. Be sure that you have the updated and secured tools, revisited and adapted your process flows to a digital-first approach, and trained all your employees about securing and managing your evolving IT environment.

What part then, does cybersecurity play in this transformation? One thing that companies mistakenly think is that cybersecurity stifles innovation. In our recent survey, 54% of our respondents shared this thought. But news about data breaches and ransomware attacks should be considered a clear warning about this thinking. Any such breaches will set the company back in terms of digital transformation as it shakes the transformation at the foundation layer. This is akin to old times when you move the front troops too fast, stretching the supplies line and risking the hijacking of your food supplies, and starving the front troops before they reach the destination.

So yes, it is essential that your digital transformation plan include a comprehensive look into cybersecurity at the earliest.

Tech & Innovation

Social media can be a lifesaver for international new ventures

Newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

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The use of social media can be beneficial to international new ventures and help them to survive. This is according to a study – Early Internationalization in the Digital Context: A Capabilities-based Approachfrom the University of Vaasa, Finland, which also showed that newly established international firms and start-ups with limited resources can effectively use social media to learn about their new foreign markets and customers in a fast and inexpensive way.

For any international new venture, acquiring enough foreign market knowledge can be a matter of life and death. According to Emmanuel Kusi Appiah’s doctoral dissertation, an international new venture can use social media, and then employ ambidextrous learning in its knowledge development process. Ambidextrous learning means using two diverse ways of learning: exploratory learning and exploitative learning.

Exploratory learning helps the company to discover new threats and opportunities in its environment. Exploitative learning, on the other hand, utilises the current market information the firm already has.

“A company can use social media for exploitative learning, but also for exploratory learning to survive in foreign markets. The company can also switch between these two approaches,  according to the situation and company strategy. The use of social media has a positive impact on ambidextrous learning,” says Emmanuel Kusi Appiah.

Firms can benefit from social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook in their networking efforts. In addition, social media tools such as Buzzsumo, Tagboard and AgoraPulse can provide the necessary knowledge about customers, competitors, and existing and new markets, thereby reducing the difficulties a new firm would otherwise face in foreign markets. Acquiring knowledge is usually more difficult when a firm is new, especially if it is new and foreign.

Ambidextrous learning can help firms to combine new external knowledge with existing knowledge and prevent inefficiency and short-sightedness. It can also help firms to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.

Emmanuel Kusi Appiah reminds us that applying ambidextrous learning is not straightforward. Entrepreneurs and companies that are planning to move into a new market internationally need to understand the drivers and mechanisms that support ambidexterity. The dissertation provides valuable information regarding this aspect.

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Tech & Innovation

Eastern Communications announces holiday deals

Bounce back and spur productivity with Eastern Communications’ special limited-time offers, featuring its reliable Fiber1 and Internet Direct Service (IDS) connectivity solutions paired with exclusive promos and freebies for new subscribers.

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The holiday season is right around the corner and it is the busiest time for many enterprises, catching up with the demand of customers. While there have been ups and downs that helped strengthen various sectors, businesses have gradually returned to normalcy in their day-to-day operations.

With the steady demand for connectivity and ICT solutions in the new normal, premier telecommunications company Eastern Communications treats SMEs with its latest holiday deals to help them further emerge in the most anticipated season of the year.

Bounce back and spur productivity with Eastern Communications’ special limited-time offers, featuring its reliable Fiber1 and Internet Direct Service (IDS) connectivity solutions paired with exclusive promos and freebies for new subscribers.

Business Boosters

Recommended for retail and e-commerce start-ups and SMEs, Eastern Communications offers Business Boosters to new subscribers of the Eastern Fiber1 or IDS Select plan until December 31, 2022. Aside from the high-speed internet service, businesses are eligible for up to Php3,000 worth of Lazada Gift Cards. With these gift vouchers, you can now check out the business devices on your wish lists!

Festive Freebies

They say great things come in threes! For businesses in Metro Manila, new Eastern Fiber1 subscribers can choose this promo to receive exclusive freebies such as three months of free monthly service fee, a Microsoft Surface Laptop, and a Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Security License.

This promo is recommended for emerging companies that have plans for expansion. With integrated ZTNA and a world-class next-generation endpoint product, the free Sophos Intercept X Endpoint Security Solution is perfect for remote working setups. Don’t miss out on this exclusive holiday promo until December 31, 2022 only.

Empowering business to emerge from the pandemic, Eastern Communications has been reaching out to support SMEs throughout the year with its expansion efforts, promotions, and award-winning E-Huddle webinars, and aims to continue doing so in 2023.

For more information about Eastern Communications’ products and services as well as promos, visit www.eastern.com.ph/ or call 5300-7000 (Metro Manila) or 0919-081-7788 & 0917-300-7788 (Regional).

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Tech & Innovation

Food advertisements on Twitch can lead to cravings, purchases

Fifteen percent of study participants reported experiencing cravings of products they saw advertised on Twitch, and 8% reported buying the advertised products.

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Food advertisements on social media are pervasive, but research has not yet comprehensively documented the effects of these ads on adolescents and young adults. A new study by researchers at Penn State and Dartmouth College found that advertisements on the social media platform Twitch can lead to cravings for and purchasing of nutrient-poor foods like candy and energy drinks among some adolescents and young adults.

Twitch is a streaming platform that allows viewers to have conversations while sharing a common video feed. It offers channels across a broad range of topics including travel, sports, food, art and music. But videogame play is the original — and by far most common — use of the platform.

The use of Twitch is growing rapidly, with over six billion hours of content viewed on the platform during the first three months of 2021. This represented a 97% increase over the same period in 2020.

“People can be baffled by Twitch, but anyone old enough to have played home videogames as a teenager likely had a similar experience,” said Travis Masterson, assistant professor of nutrition, Broadhurst Career Development Professor for the Study of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, and co-author of the research. “You would go over to a friend’s house after school, or on Saturday morning, and if they were trying to get through a particularly tough part of a videogame, you might sit and watch them play. The videogame was an excuse for a conversation. This was certainly true for me. Twitch offers the same opportunity to hang out in a community with your friends, but now it is all online.

“Endorsement deals on Twitch can be worth many millions of dollars, and younger people — who are always attractive to advertisers — are moving their eyeballs away from television into these more interactive forms of entertainment, often to Twitch specifically,” added Masterson.

The researchers noted that, as the popularity of Twitch increased, advertising for nutrient-poor foods like candy and energy drinks became more common on the platform. The research team, which included Jennifer Emond, associate professor of biomedical data science and pediatrics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, and Catherine Pollack, Emond’s former graduate student, wanted to understand how advertising on Twitch affected the cravings and purchasing habits of viewers.

The team recruited 568 Twitch users through Reddit. Participants were predominantly male and either non-Hispanic White or Asian. Using three existing instruments for measuring food cravings, the researchers sought to understand whether they could predict which people were more susceptible to food advertising.  

In a publication in the journal Public Health Nutrition, the researchers demonstrated that some Twitch viewers are more likely than others to remember, crave and purchase brands that they see advertised on the streaming platform. The researchers also found that three questions from an instrument called the External Food Cue Responsiveness inventory could help identify members of this “highly susceptible” group. Highly susceptible viewers endorsed the statements, “I want food or drinks that I see others eating,” “I want to eat when people talk about food” and “I notice restaurant signs/logos.” 

Fifteen percent of study participants reported experiencing cravings of products they saw advertised on Twitch, and 8% reported buying the advertised products. Masterson said that the researchers were concerned that people who are highly susceptible to advertising and who spend multiple hours per day on Twitch could be prone to buying foods that undermine their health.

“In academic research, we are playing catch up with food advertisers,” Masterson explained. “Advertising is pervasive for a reason: It works, and companies understand how it works. People tend to understand that children are susceptible to advertising messages, but we often like to think that once we grow up and start making our own decisions, adults are immune to advertising’s power. But advertising didn’t grow to be a $100 billion-plus industry in the United States because it is ineffective. Advertising works on us, and on a subset of us, it is especially effective.”

Masterson added that academic researchers need to understand consumer behavior as well as advertisers, so that society can determine what advertising is or is not safe in different environments.

“This is a single study, and these results cannot be generalized to everyone, but the study still has broad implications,” said Masterson. “This research shows that some people are highly susceptible to advertising and that the External Food Cue Responsiveness inventory can help researchers identify those vulnerable people.

“I am a gamer. I am on Twitch and am part of these communities,” Masterson continued. “It bothers me when I am watching League of Legends, for example, and I see a branded candy ad in the middle of the game. It bothers me because I know that these ads affect people, including me. This work provides researchers with one tool for understanding who is most affected, and in the long run, that could promote greater health for gamers and everyone who is exposed to food advertising.”

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