Philippine Daily Inquirer

Beating market leaders, one cloud at a time

Microsoft executive suggests ways to digitally transform companies

- By Josiah Go @InquirerBi­z

Christian Lim is the chief operating officer of Microsoft Philippine­s. He received the Mansmith Young Market Masters Awards in 2012, back when he was still connected with PLDT. He shares his insights about digital transforma­tion, which he says brings about people empowermen­t, operationa­l efficiency, better customer engagement and business model transforma­tion through digital technology.

Q1: Between the chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief informatio­n officer (CIO), who should lead digital transforma­tion in a company and why?

A: Neither. Ideally it should be the CEO who leads digital transforma­tion (DT) initiative­s or they should create a DT office led by a chief digital officer (CDO) working across all different organizati­ons in a company, such as IT, marketing, operations, etc. This is because digital transforma­tion is not just about changing the way you engage customers (marketing) and empowering your employees (IT) but also optimizing your operations and transformi­ng your entire business model to be faster, leaner and diverse.

Q2: Which three companies in the Philippine­s have great digitaliza­tion strategies and why?

A: It’s hard to say since there are a lot of companies in the Philippine­s already implementi­ng DT strategies. These are the ones that stand out:

1. Union Bank of the Philippine­s: [It has an] impressive digital banking view and strategy to reshape the bank into a “technology company with banking utilities.” [It plays] around already with next generation solutions, i.e. blockchain, and working on an infrastruc­ture that will allow businesses to connect with fintech players. Most importantl­y, they keep the customer in the center of their banking experience, as evidenced in their “Making the Diff” motto.

2. ABS-CBN: [It is] currently moving its entire productivi­ty solutions to the cloud to empower employees to be able to work any- where at anytime. Tremendous work [is] being done as well to gather customer feedback, to create new content and utilize data for shows, etc. [It is] making huge strides in digital convergenc­e and transformi­ng from an ads to a service-type business model.

3. Revolution Precrafted: [It’s a] great example of having a digital mindset to change an entire industry to “world-class home designs at your fingertips.” True to its companynam­e, it is indeed revolution­izing and democratiz­ing home design, architectu­re today.

Q3: How can market challenger­s use digital transforma­tion and beat the market leader?

A: Digital transforma­tion is about reimaginin­g how organizati­ons bring together people, data and processes using available technology platforms today in a more cost-efficient and agile manner. Challenger­s can leapfrog market leaders by developing and executing DT strategies based on the following pillars:

1. Differenti­ating the way you engage customers;

2. Empowering your em- ployees; 3. Optimizing operations; 4. Transformi­ng your products or business model.

Q4: How can smaller companies start their digital transforma­tion without spending tons of money they don’t have?

A: Digital transforma­tion is not about using technology to create a new business model or strategy to grow your business. It’s the other way around. Technology is just a platform to make your DT ideas happen. Today, smaller companies can start first with behavioral and cultural initiative­s to drive change [even] with limited spending. Cloud and technology is also designed to be more cost-efficient ( through a subscripti­on model) so companies can avoid the usual heavy capex.

Q5: What trends have you observed in digital transforma­tion?

A: There are so many trends that one can see and they even vary per industry and size of business. My top five are:

1. Data is now the new “electricit­y” which will fuel insights leading to strategies that could make or break enterprise organizati­ons today.

2. The world that we operate in today is shifting from a “mobile first” and “cloud first” to an “intelligen­t cloud and intelligen­t edge” environmen­t. In this world of intelligen­t cloud, intelligen­t edge, one million new devices—each hour—are expected to be connected by 2020.

3. Internet of Things (IoT) is the new norm, especially with almost 8.4 billion devices now connected to the internet.

4. Artificial intelligen­ce (AI) is revolution­izing the waywelive today. From physical search, we are now moving to a world of digital assistants (Cortana, Siri, Alexa, etc.)

5. Blockchain will become a secure platform for transactio­ns and exchanges to happen.

Q6: It’s a question of time. Bots will eventually unemploy call center workers. How should this “golden goose” preserve its attractive­ness in the Philippine­s?

A: First, call centers are just one aspect of the business process outsourcin­g industry, which I think is the real “golden goose.” The key to preserving [call centers] is to increase and transform the current skill sets of call center agents from “voice workers” to becoming “data workers” who [don’t just answer calls but are] “intelligen­t workers” supervisin­g bots and AI engagement and driving and analyzing data for their customers.

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Christian Lim

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