Digitalization, smart business and workforce empowerment are areas that need a complete rethink and not just tweaks, says this expert.

With business and investor sentiments at an all-time low, and traditional models of businesses now disrupted, what will set organizations apart when it comes to adapting and realigning approaches and priorities?

As consumer expectations and the business environment rapidly evolve, businesses need to navigate a complex web of constantly-shifting challenges and unpredictable disruptions. Three key trends look set to uproot Asian enterprises this year and in the next. Understanding and exploiting them will be essential to establishing a platform for lasting success, for both businesses and the region.

1. Digitalization and disruption revisited
A great deal has been written on digitalization and disruption – but it had been primarily focused on the technology and the enterprise. This narrow focus will likely change in 2020. Technological innovation is not a trend; it is a constant that businesses over the centuries have had to adjust to. What is changing now is the realization of the breath, depth, scale and speed of the impact of digital transformation and disruption.

A recent Mckinsey report revealed that digitalization has made a five-year leap forward in a mere eight weeks. Businesses are now painfully aware that their technology infrastructure—the platform that their entire operation, business model and future survival is based on—is no longer fit for purpose. That is, it is no longer enough to just tinker and add ‘patches’ to get by.

To address this challenge, a lean, agile and flexible infrastructure is crucial. Many people have been looking at the cloud as a way of solving challenges with their traditional infrastructure. But cloud on its own is not the answer. To survive, businesses are met with the impetus to integrate and utilize the latest technologies across the entire enterprise in real time. This is expected even with the need to change resources, focus, verticals, or industry at a moment’s notice: to keep up with, and stay ahead of, the competitors and market.

Technology is no longer just about the business. It is about the wider environment, which includes customer behaviors, market changes, economic direction, as well as technology innovation.

For enterprises, having the next-generation building blocks in place and available to help navigate this new paradigm will be critical. In fact, our recent research has already indicated a boom in adoption and investment in next-generation IT infrastructure as Asian enterprises ramp up their ability to better compete intra-region and internationally.

2. Digital: smarter, more flexible business 
Smart business is not new. For some time now, enterprises have been harnessing AI, data and analytics and other technologies to improve efficiencies and reduce cost. However, many of these initiatives have simply been project-based, not enterprise-wide. This will all change.

Until recently, trying to get clear visibility and intelligence from every aspect of the business has proved elusive. The increased adoption of hybrid cloud and enterprise cloud Operating Systems (OS) is removing this last silo of organizational dysfunction and paving the way for real time, comprehensive, and actionable intelligence.

This year marks the arrival of the Digital Enterprise. A digitalized business that does not just mitigate disruption but thrives in a world of adversities. A business that is constantly adjusting and evolving to market demands, and advancing in operational sophistication and technological advancement.

These new smarter, flexible businesses will adopt next-generation infrastructure to help realign operations, personnel, and even business models. They will begin to see, analyze and utilize all of their data, wherever it sits or whatever it runs on. Interoperability and visibility will become standard across the entire enterprise. They will emerge leaner and more resilient to future headwinds.

This is the increased flexibility and freedom that the digital enterprise will provide.

3. The empowered workforce
Just as enterprises and markets transform, the workforce and workplace will, too. Employment, economic and social trends are creating new ways of working as digitalization has driven rapid workplace transformation.

In recent months, many workers have started to return to the office only to revert to full-time remote working, or have been made to split their time between the office and their home on an ongoing basis—a flexible model that is likely to continue well into the future. Deloitte recently projected that up to 47.8 million people across ASEAN could permanently shift to working remotely over a multi-year horizon.

Accommodating this new paradigm will provide businesses with much more productive, efficient and focused employees, at the cost of traditional ‘control’.  Meanwhile, employees are now more empowered to operate at optimum efficiency and are enabled to quickly work from home (or anywhere) if the situation demands it.

The enterprise infrastructure is therefore being asked to be flexible in respect of the tools, technology and software it can accommodate, and the relevant security, integration, policies and access it can provide and to roll it out in days or weeks, not months or years.  The battle for talent has come home to enterprises in a big way.

However, this flexibility can have consequences for staff, too. For them, what is really changing is the speed and scale of their working environment.

Employee 2.0?

Soon, employees will become as flexible as the enterprise, not assigned to one department, function, location, or even team. As businesses become leaner and more agile for a post-pandemic reality, employees will be more generalist than specialist, working across multiple teams, functions and even businesses. They will also be mobile—using the ‘personal’ toolkit provided by the digital enterprise to maintain contact, alignment, productivity and effectiveness.

Like the enterprise, they will also be self-learning, staying ahead as the pace of innovation and transformation accelerates. Digital Enterprise workers will need to be proactive, staying up to date (and ahead of) the latest technologies and innovations, for the business and themselves. Ultimately, how enterprises harness these changes will be critical for improving employee satisfaction, productivity, and growth.

Any technology that can connect the dots and integrate Asia’s diversity is set to help redefine the region’s enterprises and maintain progress in the digital future.