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“THE reality in Malaysia is that there is a two-speed digital economy. The big companies are using cutting-edge digital technology and the smaller companies don’t really know what to do with digital,” said Azwan Baharuddin, country managing director of Accenture in Malaysia.

Digital technology allows you to reimagine the way your company will operate, which is important for sustainability, he continued.

Azwan was part of the panel Malaysia Reimagined at the What’s Next 2017 conference on Nov 9.

Also on the panel were Sime Darby Bhd’s Group Procurement head Adi Wira, PKT Logistics Sdn Bhd’s chief executive officer Michael Tio, and Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre’s (MaGIC) CEO Ashran Ghazi, with Khoo Hsu Chuang of BFM Radio as provocateur.

Adi echoed Azwan’s point, saying that embracing digitisation is really about sustainability, and is vital when customers are so connected and smart.

“Embracing digital is especially important in a 100-year old industry [such as plantation] to make sure business continues and continues to generate revenue,” he said.

Leadership and thought processes

The most essential ingredient for digital transformation to take place is digital-positive top-down leadership. PKT Logistics’ is a good example of this because its digital transformation began nine years ago when Tio made the decision to embrace social media use at work instead of banning the use of Facebook as many companies were doing at the time.

PKT being a family-run company, Tio said there was some resistance from his elders at the time but he insisted on embracing the speed of communication and transparency that using Facebook brought to the business.

“If you want to transform the company the CEO must take the lead. You can’t just tell your CTO to make a change and allocate an amount of money. The CEO must make sure the transformation actually happens, including changing mindsets,” he said.

While the panel agreed that such leadership is necessary, Ashran cautioned against digital transformation for its own sake, which does not benefit sustainability or business returns.

“The conversation should not start with ‘let’s do something digital’. It should be ‘Let’s do something that improves our bottom line’. If that happens to be a digital tool, that’s great.

“The thought process should not be limited by digital. It should be about business innovation that drives business growth, and then you figure out the digital elements that will enable that,” he said.

Adi added that being able to justify failure is also vital in the process of digital transformation, especially when a big company works with a startup.

“You must be answerable to your board, and as a public company we cannot play with shareholders’ money. But make sure you’ve done your research and benchmarking, and if you want to work with a certain startup, stake your claim and justify it,” he said,

Transforming Malaysia

With TN50 (Transformasi Nasional 2050),  the government’s next 30-year national transformation plan still on everyone’s minds after the recent Budget 2018 announcement, the panel spoke about future trends in the country.

Adi said that Malaysia should watch the cryptocurrency space, and that blockchain technology will play a bigger part in the economy.

“Companies, especially government-linked companies, must use this technology as well as AI, robotics and machine learning to scale up faster,” he said.

“Everything is going to change for Malaysia, from traffic to the price of solar energy. We are going from an economy of scarcity to one of abundance,” said Azwan.

He said that the country’s innovation needs must be mapped out carefully. “We must begin with the end in mind.”

What’s Next was sponsored by big data and analytics specialist, Fusionex International, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Maxis Bhd and Anaplan. Accenture Malaysia was Knowledge Partner, iTrain as Training Partner, Leaderonomics as Leadership Partner and Ansible Malaysia as Digital Partner. BFM was the Media Partner.

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