What’s driving intelligent digital automation in Asia Pacific, and what’s trending in automation for the digital economy?

The recent spurt in migration to digital technologies – while rightly attributed to the race to digitally transform processes to address the business effects of COVID-19 pandemic measures – is also a result of a significant change in customer behaviors and their preferred interactions.

This would very likely mean that the uptick in the use of digital services within organizations are here to stay. According to an article by McKinsey Digital, recent data has shown that we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption.

Now, more than ever, companies who want to be on par with or become better than their competition will need to incorporate technology as an enabler – and improve the experience of the people who use it – to forge digital innovations and achieve the end goal of thriving in a digital-first world. 

DigiconAsia finds out more from Koh Ching Hong, Chief Executive Officer, FUJIFILM Business Innovation, Singapore. FUJIFILM Business Innovation is the new brand identity of the company you’d probably known as Fuji Xerox until recently.

Koh Ching Hong, Chief Executive Officer, FUJIFILM Business Innovation, Singapore

In your opinion, what is driving digital automation in the Asia Pacific region?

Koh: Automation in workflow and business processes have been around for many years. Now, however, we are witnessing the acceleration of Intelligent Automation throughout the whole business process – from end-to-end supply chain to end consumers. Companies are using different stacks of technologies for each area of Intelligent Automation – using suites of API for connectivity and data exchanges in secured frameworks.

There are two main drivers of intelligent digital automation in the Asia Pacific region: firstly, we are now in the midst of the Industrial Revolution 4.0, where we are witnessing a growing importance in digital automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and connected technologies.

Technology and digitalization have effectively transformed the way we conduct business and communicate with each other. In today’s global economy, the shift is towards a digital first world that is fueled by instant access to information. Therefore, staying competitive in the industry with digitalization and automation has never been more crucial.

Secondly, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation for everyone, including large corporations as well as SMEs. For those who previously adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude, they are now compelled to embrace a ‘must-have’ digital transformation.

Why has automation become the backbone for digital acceleration in organizations today?

Koh: Automation is finding its way in all aspects of business processes today, both internally and externally. We are seeing more businesses adopt automation to free up time and human capital for other aspects of their businesses that enable innovation to happen, such as in the field of research and development, operational efficiencies, and the customer experience.

In managing our customers’ challenges in their digital transformation journey, we are also seeing an uptake of digitalization – to extract, analyze, and store data with accuracy, speed, and security. And that is where automation is brought into play: through a multi-suite of technologies and tools to extract data from documents, this allows organizations to analyze their data faster to map out actionable insights for informed decision-making, that yields higher results and ROI.

What are some key areas where automation would provide businesses with opportunities to thrive in the fast-evolving digital economy?

Koh: I would say the opportunities are widespread, automation has the potential to create value across all industries and all aspects of businesses where processes and data are involved. This could mean that several key areas that involve manual, repetitive tasks, such as an organization’s service desk, IT, finance, human resources, sales, should be automated.

Automation has also found its way into cybersecurity and information governance to perform fundamental, manual functions that could free up precious time and costs.

Some key areas include Document Capture and Processing, which is the digitizing of paper documents and extracting intelligence from unstructured or semi-structured documents, for easy retrieval; Content Management, which refers to managing paper and digital content from creation to retention, and finally to transformation; workflow tools and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which automates predictable and repeatable processes; and virtual CIO as a service, which is especially relevant for small and mid-sized businesses (SMB) who may need help with their IT strategies, and this is where FUJIFILM Business Innovation provides our expertise to help them to focus on their technologies, documents and data management, while business owners can focus on their core business growth and serving their customers.

Speed-to-market is critical for businesses to remain competitive, and organizations must increase the pace at which they operate. For businesses to thrive in the fast-evolving digital economy, digital transformation is imperative.

The first step to any effective digital transformation strategy is eliminating inefficiencies of manual, paper-based work streams. Therefore, automation is key to simplifying workflow processes. As more organizations are adjusting to the new realities of the industrial revolution 4.0, we can expect increasingly powerful automation to remain at the forefront through 2021 and beyond.

What upcoming trends in 2022 do you foresee that are related to automation and digital transformation?

Koh: Our business world is highly complex today, and we are being pressured by faster turnaround times, increasing costs, interoperability of multiple technologies and systems, sustainability, and talent crunch. We can expect more demand for As-a-Service business models, which provides customers the flexibility of enjoying the outcome of the solution or service using an Operating Expense (OPEX) model with minimal commitment and investment, thus lowering costs.

With that said, it is crucial to establish that the digital transformation journey should be a collaborative, cross-functional process – the most important asset that ties technology and process together are people.

While there has been a growing interest on productive and cost-efficient technologies, we expect to see greater emphasis on improving the employee experience in organizations as they realize that people are the key drivers of digital transformation. Having the right people in your organization is essential in navigating the digital transformation journey successfully.