Learning from the Best in Digital Transformation – Smart Summit in Singapore

I was invited to the Smart Summit 2019 in Singapore’s Marina Bay Conventional Centre where the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, gave a keynote and government officials and industry leaders discussed about opportunities and challenges arising from digital transformation.

Screenshot 2019-07-04 10.04.34
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore at the Smart Nation Summit. Copyright: PMO

To summarise some key points from the summit:

  • The competitive advantage for companies and industries in the digital age is not to foresee the next wave of technology advancements, but to be able to create trust and understanding of how digitalisation can be beneficial to society and consumers
  • Government and industries must work together more closely to foster trust in digital technology so information can flow and innovation flourish
  • In order for a change-averse society to adopt well in the digital age, more education, training and transparency is needed to emphasis on the opportunities and manage potential threats

Exponential digital growth requires every industry to re-look at their business model and adapt accordingly (at their own speed)

Transformation and digital growth comes with different opportunities and challenges for traditional businesses (such as Porsche) and new mobility business models (such as GoJek). As such, both are adapting differently to change:

Porsche, for example, has treasured its unique USPs for years and adapting to change could potentially mean compromising on it  – just imagine the sound of an electric Porsche vs. the sound of a traditional one! As such, they have to take a slower approach in adapting to change by evaluating the impacts of new technologies on every single process and product feature.
In summary: they spot a change in demand, evaluate, and incrementally adapt to it. They may change their USP over time.

Challenger companies such as GoJek see digitalisation not as a means to re-invent every traditional business to its core, but as an opportunity to adapt to the changing consumer demands and are much more agile to adapt their approach. E.g. they recognise that people nowadays like to eat at home so they launched a delivery service within only weeks.
In summary: they spot a change in demand and adapt their business model accordingly right away. Adapting quickly is their USP.

Does that mean that one industry is going to die and the other is going to succeed? The panel concluded that the winner will be whoever understands the technologies well enough to adapt to the changing consumer behaviour in the most efficient and sustainable way. 

Transforming the digital ecosystem through stakeholder partnerships

To transform an ecosystem, multiple stakeholders in the ecosystem have to partner up and tap on the synergies so that organisations can extract more value for their businesses in a digital age. Eventually, digital transformation is a tool, a means to improve, and to make a difference for people and society as a whole. All stakeholders need to recognise this in order to transform the ecosystem sustainably.

Even though the roles and interests of public and private stakeholder are very different, both need to be on the same page and share the same vision and understanding in regards to digital transformation.

So what does Digital Transformation mean to me as a business owner or C-level executive?

  1. Disrupt and think of new business models, not just new technology, to transform the ecosystem
  2. Remember that digital transformation is a journey: learn from failures, build resilience and set aspirations higher
  3. Make sure that your key stakeholders (employees, consumer, client, partner or society as a whole) have enough knowledge about the technology and change for them to adapt quicker to it

Building trust in the digital era is key to succeed in the long term

There is no doubt that there are certain tensions between technology companies and governments today and increased government regulations may not be the answer. Instead, both parties need to agree on a common set of objectives and interests to ensure that trust in a digital age does not erode; such commonalties call for co-ownership of the complex challenges on hand.

The challenge with regulations is that the governments can barely keep up with the speed technology is changing and is also lacking fundamental knowledge and experience with those technologies in order to introduce meaningful laws. Investing in education about new technologies and efforts to increase trust levels in digitalisation as a means to improve lives instead of viewing it as a threat could be an alternative approach to drive sustainable transformation.

So how can a business owner or C-level person benefit from Digital Transformation

Screenshot 2019-07-03 14.44.09All stakeholders need to be more open and transparent about the key components of digital transformation (technology, processes, analytics/data and talent) to develop successful strategies (or empires they want to build) that have a business impact. There also needs to be a change of humans perception from threat to opportunity and more educational elements to let people understand how they can benefit from their digitisation efforts.

We are currently developing a curriculum for digital transformation workshops and I will share more once we are ready to launch so you can also benefit from the digital transformation journey 🙂

Katharina Kugler has contributed to this article. Thanks, Kat!

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