For decades we’ve been talking about the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ and how to close that sometimes-gaping divide. But as the global economy starts to reemerge from virus lockdown, I’d like to call attention to another group of stakeholders that are being left behind—in this case, not individuals, but businesses that have been slow to adopt truly digital strategies.
You know the type; maybe you even work for such an organization. These companies pay lip service to the importance of “digital transformation,” but for one reason or another—lack of financial resources, vision, expertise, boardroom commitment—they’re slow to follow through or hesitant to go all-in. They’re jumping on the digital bus, but they don’t quite know where it’s going.They deploy a cloud application here, a cloud testing environment there. They subscribe to an ecommerce platform with some bells and whistles, but they don’t integrate it with their inventory management and fulfillment systems. Their call center systems don’t feed their cloud-based CRM systems, so a problem with a customer doesn’t inform subsequent marketing and sales engagements with that same customer. They lift and shift a key on-premises application onto a cloud infrastructure, but they don’t take full advantage of features such as serverless computing, containerization, or autoscaling.
Their so-called digital transformation still consists of one-off contracts and isolated projects. And in the end, the whole ends up amounting to less than the sum of its parts.
Don’t be exposed
Especially now, as the global economy starts to reopen after more than a year of restrictions, companies that don’t have their digital houses in order are going to be exposed.
Particularly vulnerable are the digital also-rans in sectors where pent-up demand is ready to explode—airlines, hotels, restaurants, media, entertainment, fitness centers, education, and the like. For them, an integrated, scalable digital foundation is ever-more critical.
Every company, regardless of industry and geographic region, must move its digital strategy forward with a sense of urgency. For role models, look to the financial services industry, where the major players actually ramped up their digital investments during the pandemic, to both fend off and partner with the digitally native fintechs that have been snapping at their heels for the better part of a decade.Today, if you're a financial institution and you're not acting on countless terabytes, even petabytes of data to improve your operations and extend your relationships with customers, you’re already behind.
The most sophisticated financial companies, big and small, are applying artificial intelligence to the vast amounts of data they’re collecting to gauge customers’ sentiments and emotions; accelerate trades and transactions; measure credit, underwriting, and other forms of risk with pinpoint precision; provide customers with highly personalized insights; engage customers in real-time conversations; and head off fraud before it does any significant damage.
In my position as the Singapore-based president of Oracle’s Japan and Asia Pacific business, I speak regularly with the leaders of a range of digital business innovators across the region. I recently spent an hour with the CEO of Bharti Airtel Group, a New Delhi-based telecom service and infrastructure provider, whose digital innovations include a cloud-based suite of APIs customers use to embed real-time communications into their business applications. Bharti Airtel is also leading a consortium of companies developing Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
But for every Bharti Airtel there are several companies that are still just riding along. It’s time to not just get on the bus, but to start driving it.
Writer is President at Oracle Japan
and Asia Pacific