From Slowdown to Fast-track

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned that Singapore may face economic slowdown in the coming years, or even worse, a downturn. And there are a few things, worse than the haze, looming over the skies of Singapore. According to The Business Times, Mr. Lee points to globalisation and advances in technology as two of the challenges the island state is facing, where old jobs are disappearing and it’s taking time to replace them with new. Troubling, indeed.

But wherever there is adversity, there is hope. Wherever there are challenges, there are opportunities. And the biggest opportunity for any company in 2015 is Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation is a strategic process where businesses look at how they can utilise technology to increase the value they deliver to their customers (and/or decrease operating cost). It is a process that goes beyond communications and tactics, and truly focuses on how technologies can improve the business – and thus increase their profits.

By redefining their business for the digital age, a brand or a company can shake up the industry they are in, offer their customers more value and create more cost efficient solutions. In short, it is taking one of the challenges Prime Minister Lee talks about, and turning it into the biggest opportunity for the brand. Today, any company really only has two options; disrupt, or face disruption from a (new) competitor. This is not only true to a small group of companies that are under direct threat from new competitors. Nor is it a process for tech companies alone. This is something that is relevant to every single company in the world, whether they are a consumer brand or a B2B company.

By being the “hunter”, rather than the “hunted”, a business can take this window of opportunity to invest in a future that is customer centric – using technology to improve the service level, the quality of delivery, the cost/value ratio and the length and value of each customer relationship. This opportunity lays right in front of each one of us, and all it requires is a commitment to take a leading position when it comes to the application of technology.

Unfortunately, this opportunity has an expiration date. Many, many businesses in Asia are already seeing that they have to do something, but they tend to procrastinate. “We will do it next year”, is a common excuse, in a business climate where conservative principles have been prominent. Of course “next year” soon becomes “next year” again, and so on  until someone else comes in and disrupts the industry. So, in the face of a possible downturn, it is in this moment that a business has to take a stand and decide to become a disruptor. Creating a new business model that puts the customer first, will not only provide a stronger connection with the customers, it will “future-proof” the business. And as new technologies are developed, a transformed business will be more prepared for the next disruption. If a company makes a strategic decision to lead in Digital Transformation, that company will attract more progressive employees, get a stronger foothold on the market, and be the company competitors look to.

So, if your company wants to take one step to ensure success in the face of economic slowdown, it is not to be ruled by fear and go into hibernation – it is to embrace the opportunities technology can provide. But that decision has to come fast. Start building a strategic plan for Digital Transformation today, and reap the benefits tomorrow. It doesn’t have to cost millions and take a year to complete, if the process is targeted enough, cost-efficient enough and has the right internal support, success can come faster (and a lot cheaper) than you thought.

Erik_Default_2
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Managing Director of Acoustic.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticAgency
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 [Main photo by Román Emin, under CC]

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