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Key insights on digital transformation shared at CIM Annual Conference


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Friday, 18 August 2017 00:00


0103By Charumini de Silva

The Chartered Institute of Marketers’ flagship event, the CIM Annual Conference 2017 held on the theme of ‘Digital Transformation’, held for the 17th consecutive year, focused on strategy, tactics, action, control, objectives, trends and situation analysis for Sri Lankan companies to thrive in the digital era. 

The event brought together nearly 450 eminent personalities and experts in their fields, with world-renowned digital guru Paul R. Smith, who is the founder of SOSTAC, delivering the keynote address this year on the concept of digital transformation.

Smith, describing the concept of digital transformation, emphasised that it was now converting old organisations and giving birth to new types of businesses, creating hyper competition and a new type of society.

According to him digital transformation includes the evolution of business models, processes and supporting systems to more effectively compete in a digital economy, while increasing profitability, competing for new markets and improving customer and employee relationships.

Digital transformation, 

a great opportunity for SL

Pointing out that a lot of companies in the UK and Ireland as well as some European countries had got the concept of digital transformation wrong, Smith emphasised that it was a great opportunity for Sri Lanka to seize and get right. 

“If Sri Lanka is to compete in the digital world, especially with India, the country needs to train and empower its organisations and their teams to be digital savvy,” he added.

With a population of only 22 million, where seven million are connected to the internet, five million are on social media and the majority of the country goes online via smartphones, he noted that the foundation was interested to deliver on a B2B and B2C basis. 

“All we ask Sri Lanka is to be nimble and agile,” he added.

Further, he said that more than efficiencies and automation, it was using digitalisation to add value, to help customers in new ways, to find customers in new ways and keep them through new ways.

Neurotic resistance to change and a lack of urgency over change were outlined as the two main reasons for only a few companies undergoing digital transformation although it is very important in today’s context.

“What brought us success in the past is unlikely to be enough to bring us success in the future,” Smith added.

It was pointed out that digital transformation builds competitive advantage to create stronger brands, better customer relationships, long-term thinking, boosts profits and forces the review of business models.

Acknowledging that the digital disruption wave was sweeping across industries, he said there were three ages of digital adoption which includes connecting with customers online, focusing on the customer journey and creating a seamless experience across channels and shortening the path from product conception to production distribution.

He cited Starbucks’ adoption of digital technology, Unilever’s strategic shift from a product-centric corporate portal to customer-centric sites and BMW’s digital disruption as some of the examples to explain the ‘digital age’ concept.

Smith underscored five relatively easy steps towards digital transformation that includes asking great questions, considering adopting new models resulting from innovation, observing who is transforming, considering digital transformation as an opportunity and recognising digitalisation as only a transformation agent not the transformation itself.

“Companies such as Google, Amazon, Uber and Netflix that are thriving in this digital age, are not thriving because they are digital. They are thriving because they have adopted new organisational models that opened up as a result of digital,” he explained.

Elaborating on the competitive advantage, Smith asserted that those who learn to ask data questions, use data to add value to a customer’s experience despite hyper competition as well as constantly innovating to improve customer experience and efficiencies will undoubtedly benefit.  

“Once upon a time, competitive advantage came from a perceived superior product or service. But this lasted for a year or two before the competition caught up with you and copied you. And if you also had a really polished customer service advantage you could protect your business for a little longer from some of the inevitable start-up challenges.” 

He emphasised that every market was getting hyper competitive because of constant improvement, which is called Kaizen in Japan.

“Today digital transformation means faster disruption as competitors offer better service, faster service, immediate service, easy-to-find services and easy-to-use solutions across all platforms plus customers want personalisation and tailored, added value if possible.”  

Highlighting the fact that business is changing forever, he said digital transformation integrates online with offline through new and clever ways to identify, anticipate and satisfy customer needs, while at certain times before they even know their own needs. This creates a surge of new products and services from unexpected competitors.

He stressed that the challenge for executives in every company, in every corner of the globe was how to derive value from this onslaught of technology.

“Add digital strengths and weaknesses when scanning for any new competitive advantage. The digital transformations are stirring up a storm — prepare your business now!”

11 essentials for 

digital transformation 

Noting that strategy is the big picture in digital transformation, he said it requires a change in mindset in terms of fresh perspective and constant reinvention and re-imagination of products and offerings as well as services.   

Furthermore, he outlined 11 components that need to be considered for a digital transformation strategy which includes customer experience, data, automation, artificial intelligence, tech stack, internet of things, stages/sequences, virtual reality/augmented reality, engagement, partners and product portfolio.

He spoke extensively on each of the 11 components, acknowledging that it was not necessary to include all in the final strategy, but may have to consider each factor.

Reflecting on the tactics, he asserted they are literally the details of strategy. “Whilst strategy is the big picture, tactics are the details of what exactly happens. In a typical marketing plan, the tactics would be the marketing mix. Remember the culture, organisation structure, skills, tools and capabilities as well as financial resources will evolve and change as you move through each stage. You obviously need to select your own specific tactics and milestones.”

It was pointed out that action was all about ensuring excellence in the execution of the digital transformation plan and having a control link back with objectives. 

“Why do 70% of IT projects fail? Execution or action can be a source of competitive advantage. Execution is the missing key between aspirations and results. Do not let action be the weakest link in your plan,” he added.

Smith insisted to include the 3Ms — men and women, money/budgets and minutes - in the digital transformation plan. 

In conclusion he stated that creative, analytic, customer-centric and open minds that embraced change were required. “Now is the time to start your digital transformation!”

Big digital trends

KPMG Management Consultant Michael Rogers, thought leader and consultant in digital transformation specialising in providing tech strategy advice for financial service clients, spoke extensively on digital transformation objectives and a situation analysis on big digital trends.

Noting that the first wave of digital disruption was already underway, he said the average lifespan of S&P 500 companies has fallen from 61 years to 17 years, while the number of publicly-traded companies in the US has fallen 50% during the past 20 years.

“Look externally at your environment. What are the major trends? Is the pace of change accelerating? Why are sectors converging? How is customer behaviour changing? Look internally, reflect on your organisation. How are technologies combining to reconfigure your value proposition? Do we have the right talent and skills to take advantage of new opportunities? How do we incubate and encourage innovative behaviour within an organisation? How do we make fast decisions?”

Furthermore, he asserted that there was a growing case of ‘winner takes most’ just one or two players in each market earned 80% of the economic profit.

Highlighting the major trends, Rogers said digitalisation was changing the rules of the game and was replacing land, capital, labour with data, talent and IP. 

“The scale can reach unprecedented levels. Winners are creating virtuous cycles, as they grow they become more valuable to consumers. The long tail of technology means niches are no longer small. Focus on delivering value and differentiating yourself, not trying to please everyone. This is still a big opportunity.”

Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, artificial intelligence, market automation and augmented/virtual reality were outlined as five big digital trends.

“Remember that investing in technology must have a purpose or objective. Without clear digital objectives you will be swallowed up by many digital distractions and digital opportunities,” Rogers stressed.  

Sabre Travel Network Asia Pacific Marketing Vice President Jerome Thil spoke broadly on product marketing, global distribution, new technology initiatives and trends.     

The 17th Annual Conference also comprised two panel discussions.

CIM Sri Lanka, with an over 20-year history, prides itself on being the first international branch of CIM UK and comprises the largest number of students and members of CIM outside the UK.

As a professional institute CIM places great emphasis on bringing together programs that are topical and relevant, targeting its members and business community. The objective of this forum was to create a platform for participants to share and exchange key insights which would support making strategic corporate decisions for the future. 

Pix by Lasantha Kumara


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