Chang, the change agent

Finweek English Edition - - LIFE - BY MANDY DE WAAL AND JON PIEN­AAR

Now, more than ever be­fore, tech­nol­ogy is chal­leng­ing the way suc­cess­ful busi­nesses op­er­ate, be­cause it is prov­ing to be a dis­rup­tion that can level an en­tire mar­ket. Trend an­a­lyst Dion Chang un­der­stands that for busi­ness lead­ers steer­ing large cor­po­ra­tions, this can be scary. Chang speaks to about the

busi­ness of change.

Dion Chang is in Cape Town to speak to an aca­demic in­sti­tu­tion and the CEO of a ma­jor fi­nan­cial busi­ness – both want ad­vice on how to spot dis­rup­tive trends, and to man­age change.

“I think in­ter­est in me sparks when busi­nesses see the dan­ger signs on the hori­zon,” says Chang who’s sit­ting in a trendy in­ner city ho­tel ahead of an open pre­sen­ta­tion he’s giv­ing on ‘the war zone’.

The bat­tle royale that brands and busi­nesses are fac­ing now is the war for rel­e­vance. Think of how Uber up­ended the taxi busi­ness and trans­port sec­tor by us­ing tech­nol­ogy to con­nect peo­ple with cars, to peo­ple who needed rides. “For the most, busi­nesses aren’t proac­tive when it comes to dis­rup­tion; they tend to be re­ac­tive, so in our busi­ness what we’re see­ing is a lot of catchup.”

In Chang-speak, ‘catchup’ is what hap­pens when brands get caught in the head­lights of on­com­ing change and re­alise they need to do some­thing smart pretty soon, or face ob­so­les­cence.

Chang ex­plains how the in­sur­ance in­dus­try made its bread and but­ter from in­sur­ance bro­kers and how the dig­i­tal era has dis­in­ter­me­di­ated this, mak­ing in­sur­ance a di­rect prod­uct where com­par­i­son brows­ing online is a key con­sumer ac­tiv­ity. “In the dig­i­tal era, it’s ab­so­lute sui­cide to have a third party rep­re­sent your brand and sell your prod­uct. But that is how the en­tire in­dus­try’s been set up,” he says.

“In a dig­i­tal era you want to con­trol your own om­nichan­nel, you want to sell your own prod­uct. If there’s so­cial media spew­ing out con­tent, t hen you want to be able to man­age this to­tally,” adds Chang. His knowl­edge speaks to trends, tech­nol­ogy, fu­ture­cast­ing and how t he f ut ure will chal­lenge and change busi­nesses. “If there is an in­ter­me­di­ary dis­rupt­ing your re­la­tion­ship with your clients this is a prob­lem. And if your en­tire in­dus­try is built on a dis­rupted re­la­tion­ship with your client, how are you go­ing to change that?” Chang asks.

“It’s gob­s­mack­ing to see how far ahead, or how far be­hind, cer­tain i ndus­tries or s ec­tors rea l l y a re. Some­times I get a real shock. But that’s maybe be­cause I live in the fu­ture per­pet­u­ally,” says the trend an­a­lyst.

The sec­tor most un­der siege, cur­rently, says Chang, is the media and re­tail space. “I’m watch­ing these sec­tors re­ally care­fully, be­cause so­cial com­merce is go­ing to be a big fac­tor go­ing for­ward for both in­dus­tries. In short, so­cial media has mor­phed from a com­mu­ni­ca­tions

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