The head of Oracle Digital Prime Cloud Applications urges companies to embark on their digital journeys today – or risk becoming obsolete.
By Billy Teo
Going digital is no longer optional for businesses hoping to thrive in today’s digital economy. While it’s not too late to start the journey, time is running out for businesses looking to make that digital leap.
To successfully do this, companies have to not only adopt new technology, but also change their way of operating, said Ronen Naishtein, head of Oracle Digital Prime Cloud Applications. He has experience in helping businesses that seek to innovate faster, increase productivity and reduce costs.
IMpact spoke with Mr Naishtein about what companies must do to succeed in today’s digital landscape – and how they can truly achieve digital transformation.
What are some misconceptions about digital transformation that SMEs might have?
I think some SMEs underestimate the value that going digital can bring to their business. But, perhaps, the biggest misconception is that digital adoption is very expensive and something only a large enterprise can afford. The truth is, the benefits of digital transformation are tangible and well proven.
Moreover, going digital can arm SMEs with serious competitive advantage in their supply chain, or their customer acquisition and retention strategy to make them the next big enterprise. We have all seen Grab and Zalora grow rapidly with their digital approach.
There will only be digital businesses in a digital economy. The Singapore Government has been at pains to stress this point and is giving significant support to companies to make the transformation for a digital economy.
If enterprises are only embarking on digital transformation in 2018, how late are they to the game?
Many businesses are in the early stages of transformation and it is still possible to catch up. According to IDC, 45% of companies are still in the early stage, but they have begun the process so you really need to get going.
The economy is rapidly transforming and you need to keep pace or risk falling behind. In 2016, 85% of companies felt they had a two-year time frame to make significant inroads. Today you will be a late entrant but not yet left behind.
We all know well-entrenched giants who either did not transform or were too slow. Nokia and Toys”R”Us are two such examples. Delaying the inevitable is not a strategy and is fraught with the risk of disruption, or worse, going out of business.
What are some real world examples of digital transformation that SMEs ought to pay heed to?
I think established companies need to emulate startups that have embraced digital technology and successfully taken on their industry’s giants. Earlier, I mentioned Zalora. You can look at Deliveroo too. All began as small businesses and it was their wholehearted digital approach that allowed them to expand so quickly. True, they had no legacy to contend with, and that meant they could be 100% focused on the future.
A company that tries to contend with digital while running their business in the same old way will achieve nothing beyond digitalisation. Digitalisation is not digital transformation.
What can be done to convince SMEs that digital transformation is a form of Darwinism?
When we talk about digital Darwinism we are talking about companies becoming no longer fit for purpose. We are talking about companies not keeping pace with the changes in society and the market. This is not to cast judgement on those companies who struggle to keep pace; the pace of change is incredible.
It is simply a fact. I don’t see it as my role to convince SMEs. I am happy to advise a company how to digitally transform their business. That’s a business conversation first and foremost, and not just about tech.
What are some tips to kick-start an SME’s digital transformation journey?
Firstly, you need to identify capability gaps by evaluating if you are providing your customers a seamless journey across different channels. This is followed by defining your priorities. Digital transformation is as much about mindset and change management as it is about investing in the latest technology. To mobilise the organisation, transformation should be quick with tangible results visible in less than 12 months to build momentum and morale. Areas such as customer experience or internal processes like planning, finance or HR are a good place to start to get quick wins.
It is then critical to build up realistic measurements to assess success periodically. This could be website traffic, app download, online sales, or bounce rates. Be careful not to attribute specific KPIs to specific channels but rather take a holistic view. Throughout this process, ensure that senior leadership across all business functions is aligned. Above all, avoid analysis-paralysis and inculcate a culture that doesn’t shy away from taking risks and doesn’t beat down bold initiatives.
What role does cloud technology play in all this?
When you invest in cloud solutions, you are future-proofing your investment because innovation is built-in while updates are automatic and seamless.
I cannot emphasise enough the benefits of investing in a platform that provides solutions for the entire organisation across various lines of business, be it front office functions such as marketing and sales or back office ones such as finance, supply chain, procurement, inventory and human resources.
A uniform platform will stitch the disparate systems and boost an organisation’s digital IQ.