On 2 April 2018, Venky Shankararaman, Professor of Information Systems and Associate Dean of the School of Information Systems at SMU, made an appearance on Money FM 89.3 to share how companies need to stay competitive in an increasingly digital business landscape. Here are some of his insights. You can also listen to the podcast here.
It is hard to ignore the pull of digitisation in our lives, particularly its impact on the way we work. Businesses are also starting to realise the importance of updating their operations and processes to keep up with the times. But how do companies adapt to digital technology in a timely manner rather than merely jumping onto the bandwagon?
‘Digital technology’ is a broad term that encompasses many things. According to Professor Shankararaman, this includes any technology that generates, processes or stores data. What most businesses look at during digitisation is how they can use technology to innovate their business processes by making themselves more efficient.
Professor Shankararaman explains digitisation through the concept of fulfillment in simpler terms; traditionally, we would go to grocery stores and pick out items before proceeding to pay for our goods. However, in the wake of digitisation, automated checkout points are now commonplace and companies are increasingly looking at how to make this process a seamless one for the consumer.
One such example would be the case study of Amazon Go, where their flagship grocery store in Seattle allows patrons to walk into the store, pick out their goods and leave – with their purchases automatically billed to their Amazon Prime accounts. Many companies today are looking to streamline their processes in a similar frictionless manner.
According to Professor Shankararaman, digitisation allows companies to stay relevant in this increasingly competitive landscape. However, companies who do not adapt their business processes in this digital age will likely suffer for their complacency. He draws the example of the Internet-based business boom of the late 1990s, where nearly 80% of the Fortune 500 companies from 20 years ago failed to make the list, causing them to be replaced by more Internet-savvy companies. It may appear that history is repeating itself, with giant companies such as Kodak and DVD Blockbuster chains going bust as they struggle to keep up with their digitised peers.
Naturally, digitally transforming a company presents its challenges. Professor Shankararaman lists some of these obstacles, and elaborates on how to overcome them:
Failure to adapt to the changing business landscape is but one of many challenges that companies may face in modern times. However, Professor Shankararaman also warns against jumping on the digital wave just for the sake of doing so. He proposes that companies introduce “incremental prototyping and testing” and keep tabs on how the evolving technology fits in with their business operations.
He also suggests recruiting younger talent to nurture new ideas, and also, to adopt an ‘open innovation’ mindset instead of the ‘solo’ mentality guiding traditional corporate processes. Finally, he recommends benchmarking against competition – not just locally, but regionally and globally as well.
Mitigating these changes with minimal disruption to your business operations is possible, says Professor Shankararaman. He highlights that it all stems from helping your employees understand these changes. Sending your employees for the right training will benefit both the company and employees in the long run. Furthermore, there are online courses that allow eager students to adapt to this digital environment in their own time.
Digital technology can be a useful tool for SMEs and MNCs to improve their business processes. However, careful consideration and planning are imperative to successfully migrating your company to the digital scene. The digital transformation should be easier and much more effective with Professor Shankararaman’s tips, keeping in mind the importance of being timely and looking out for your employees in the process.
For more business-related solutions and insights, follow Canon Singapore on LinkedIn!