PETALING JAYA: More sectors are turning to digital technology and are utilising data to leverage growth opportunities and enable greater efficiency as they try to overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Tech solution providers have certainly received more enquiries from companies of all sizes on how they can start their digitalisation journey.
Fusionex Group programme director Raymond Lee said data analytics can help companies find a solution to increase revenue or improve internal efficiency, high employee churn or machinery breakdown problems.
“From an analytics point of view, we can gather the data, churn it and give you the patterns and insights so that you know what you need to do to increase your revenue and so on.
“So first, identify the problem. From there, management will need to form a dedicated team to make it a successful transformation, ” he said.
Lee was among the line-up of speakers at the recently concluded #digitalxdata 2020 Live Virtual Conference.
The event, aimed at unlocking answers in solving business challenges and uncovering growth opportunities by redesigning a data-driven digital future, showcased market outlook and forecast of technology, digital and analytics for the coming years in eight areas: smart city, retail, people, financial, drone, reach, green and manufacturing.
The conference also featured panel discussions on a variety of topics such as Designing Society 5.0, Gearing Towards Business 2021, Re-Engineering Security in the Next Normal and Empowering Future-Ready Youth.
While industry leaders highlighted the need for digitalisation, they also noted that there are still many challenges and issues surrounding the leap to digital.
KPMG Malaysia Managing Partner Datuk Johan Idris said it was normal to have teething issues in the adoption of any new technology including problems with skills gap and behavioral issues.
“When you talk about digitalisation, what’s most important is behaviour transformation, your mindset. This must be accompanied by skill sets. And companies need to provide that. But it’s a journey, ” he said.
However, Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce CEO and member of the board Daniel Bernbeck pointed out that not everything would fit into the process of digitalisation.
“Digital is more efficient and all, but it cannot address the need for personal interactions or dealing with mental health issues in the workforce, and also it puts a certain pressure on everyone.
“So we have to know what can be substituted with digital tools and what cannot. We can’t just put all our stakes in digital, ” he said.
Taking the first step
Taking the first steps of digitalisation, particularly for manufacturing, is not easy and as Mega Fortris (Malaysia) group chief operating officer Karin White puts it, no one really knows where to start.
“But you shouldn’t get lost in it. Look at your objectives, what are our strategic drivers, what is it that you want to achieve and what is it you need to get there.
“Take a look at what’s happening in the industry. There are a lot of people who are willing to share their successes and failures, and you can learn from their wins and losses, ” she said.
Adam Yee, president and CEO of Siemens Malaysia, concurred.
“Every industry has different requirements. But it all starts with the leadership, then you’ll need to engage your people and change your processes. The processes have to leverage on the change in your transformation, ” said Yee.
The change to digital approach is perhaps more prevalent in the retail sector as businesses had to quickly pivot to find new ways to reach consumers. More companies moved online and leveraged e-marketplaces to ensure that they still had market visibility while customers stayed home.
E-commerce started sprouting and even larger retailers like The Food Purveyor Sdn Bhd, which operates the Village Grocer and B.I.G. chains, had to adjust its operations.
CEO Geoff King noted that it had to accelerate plans to go online and learned new ways to market its products.
“Gone are the traditional ways where we can have impactful displays that encourage intimate exchanges with consumers to try our products. With the pandemic and safety priorities, we needed to change our ecosystem in terms of the way we engaged our consumers.
“Hence, the acceleration of adoption of digital tools to allow us to still have that messaging and engagement with consumers, ” added Lee Lim Meng, marketing director of Abbott Nutrition Malaysia.
One of the things that have become obvious to businesses in recent times is the need to have a closer look at data.
“Today, with digital technologies, you can track almost anything. And when you can track something, you can act on it. But data is interpreted based on how you see it, so don’t trust it completely also.
“You must have a bigger view of it and go into your business. Put context into the data. It’s the only thing I can do to target the right customer, at the right time with the right message and the right product, ” said Genting Malaysia Bhd marketing vice-president Nicco Tan.
Aditya Summanwar, Triton Digital director of market development South Asia & South East Asia, also emphasised that unless the data is actionable, they remain just numbers.
Experian Information Services Malaysia CEO Dawn Lai said the company has spent the last few years building a data ecosystem by working with various government agencies, data partners, corporations, payment gateways, utilities providers and non-bank lenders.
Lai said such an ecosystem could help banks, for example, have a better view of their customers and help individuals or small businesses to gain access to credit.
Meanwhile, Employees Provident Fund chief digital technology officer Afhzal Abdul Rahman said that data plays a central part in its process of formulating the right strategies, policies and intervention strategies to assist its 14.8 million members.
The availability of talent to manage the digital transition has also been a hot topic of discussion during this period.
However, MDEC vice-president for digital talent development Sumitra Nair said having the right mindset was more important than digital literacy.
And in cultivating future talents, Maybank Foundation CEO Shahril Azuar Jimin said there is a need to infuse digital competency in many other things to build towards a digitally competent human capital pool.
With the spotlight on technology, a number of possibilities have also come within the considerations of companies and policymakers.
One of them is drone technology.
According to Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) manager for drone tech and 4IR ecosystem WM Farhan WM Fuaad, commercial drone sales in Malaysia is one of the highest in Asia -- just after China and South Korea.
“Drone is just a tool. But the applications for drones are practically endless. This is an industry where Malaysia has a level playing field or may be even more advanced than some of the countries in the world.
“And I think we need to leverage that position to push technology-based applications across industries and build on those technologies by local players, ” he said.
Mimos Bhd chief technology officer Thillai Raj said the government is also trying to support the development of the industry by using services from the private sector while the industry pushes for a blueprint from growth.
The growing use of digital technologies and data have also increased interest in smart cities.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been said to draw a line between the digital haves and have-nots but Palo Alto Networks Malaysia country SE head for cybersecurity engineering David Rajoo said the smart city agenda is an opportunity to look at how the digital divide can be narrowed.
However, Smart City Council Australia New Zealand executive director Adam Beck noted that there is a risk that the smart city agenda may become a polarising agenda if it is not tied to outcomes and priorities.
“But it is heartening that we are finding examples whereby technology and data is used to help build prosperity for our most vulnerable. If we are not creating value, change or impact for our most vulnerable, I don’t think it is going to be an agenda that is going to last, ” he said.
With the higher use of data, one of the things that industry leaders can agree on is the greater need for cybersecurity.
Axiata Group Bhd group chief risk and compliance officer Abid Adam noted that there has been an increase in cyber attacks in the last few months as more people worked from home.
Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission chairman Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek, said: “Everyone should be more aware of cybersecurity. The reality is you will never be able to fulfill the demand for more security experts. If everyone takes responsibility, we will see a lesser amount of threats out there.”
Standard Chartered Bank executive director of cyber security services Murari Kalyanaramani added that there is a need for organisations to cultivate a security culture whereby employees are incentivised to have good security behaviour rather than penalised for bad security behaviour.
While the pandemic has accelerated adoption of technology, companies and talents may not necessarily have been ready for the change.
The United Nations Development Programme director of global shared services unit Noni Mafabune shared that one of the biggest challenges that the organisation faced at the start of the movement control order was the social and emotional disconnect experienced by its employees.
Tesco Malaysia head of people Alvin Low also noted that there was a change in the dynamics of its workforce during this period and there was a need to continuously engage, communicate and motivate its staff.
Notably, the pandemic has seen a greater call for companies to also put people and planet on par with profits for a more sustainable future. According to MDEC chairman Datuk Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff, Malaysia is poised for Society 5.0 -- a concept whereby technology development supports the wellbeing of society -- given its fairly good infrastructure and encouraging government policies.“We need digital inclusiveness. Income inequality is becoming a problem. That’s why we need the use of technology to benefit the many. If not, income inequality will be wider, ” he said.
Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Japan to Malaysia His Excellency Oka Hiroshi noted that for Society 5.0 to get off the ground, there must be good connectivity infrastructure and data flow as well as community education and enablers for businesses to provide the required services.
On the environmental end, Malaysian Green CEO Shamsul Bahar Mohd Nor said that digital technology can play an important role in tackling sustainability issues. For example, the use of autonomous vehicles and renewable energy in logistics can help reduce greenhouse gasses.
Meanwhile, Volvo Car Malaysia managing director Nalin Jain said companies are starting to realise their responsibility in the area of sustainability and are starting to provide this as an option to their customers.
#digitalXdata 2020 Live Virtual Conference was organised by Star Media Group with Fusionex as Exabyte Partner, OFO Tech, Palo Alto Networks Malaysia and Triton Digital as Gigabyte Partners, and Experian Information Services Malaysia, Rimini Street, Tata Consultancy Services as Megabyte Partners.
IBM Malaysia and ServiceNow led the Virtual Roundtable Sessions while Boston Consulting Group, Ernst & Young Advisory Services, Frost & Sullivan, Ipsos, Kantar, McKinsey and PwC were Knowledge Partners. SendQuick was the Mobile Messaging Partner and eLearningMinds was the E-Learning Partner. The conference was held live on Cisco Webex. You may watch the playback of the session on bit.ly/dxdplaylist
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