Wilson Chow on digital transformation and strategies during the pandemic

PwC’s head for global technology, media and telecommunications joins the roster of judges at this year’s China Technology Excellence Awards 2021

Wilson heads PwC’s global technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) industry practice. He is also the TMT industry leader for the firm’s Mainland China and Hong Kong practice. 

He has been leading and supporting the PwC global network across all lines of service— Assurance, Taxation, and Advisory—providing one-stop professional solutions and services to companies in the TMT industry. Moreover, he helps clients that are looking to reinvent themselves through digital transformations.

As one of the judges at the China Technology Excellence Awards, Wilson sat down with us to share some of his insights about the latest advancements in digitisation, digital consumerism, the rise of enterprise solutions, and his expectations about this year's entries.

Can you share with us your previous work experience or backstory that contributed to your current expertise in the technology industry?

I have witnessed the growth of Tencent during its expansive journey of tapping into different sectors of the TMT industry, including video games, video streaming, social media, various O2O services, and online and mobile payments. Recently, they also expanded into cloud computing and banking/insurance businesses. I have obtained first-hand experience in how the technology industry has rapidly changed in China and the disruptive impact technology has had on other sectors and industries.

Moreover, I have been leading our professional teams to offer one-stop services and recommendations to various TMT companies based in China, regardless of if they are a startup, Unicorn, or a listed company. In 2015, I was appointed as the TMT industry leader of PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong and was responsible for leading the industry practice. In 2017, I was allowed to expand upon my role as the firm’s Global TMT industry leader.

I currently chair and lead a global industry program by connecting our subject matter experts from different territories, allowing us to groom and promote different initiatives for TMT companies around the globe. We assist our clients in providing trust-related assurance services and other advisory and consulting services.

In my role leading teams across the firm’s TMT industry networks and facilitating businesses’ transformation goals, I work closely with tech companies to help tap into new industries and reimagine new possibilities. 

Crisis presents opportunities for businesses, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you think are these opportunities, and how will they shape technology and/or digitisation in the future?

The COVID-19 crisis has certainly accelerated the rate of digitisation of how we work, shop and play, and has created an insatiable demand for online goods or platforms. The pandemic has shed light on the importance of using technology and digital adoption in everyone’s daily lives. Due to city-wide lockdowns and social distancing, people do not have regular access to, for example, their normal workplace or physical stores. 

As a result, people’s consumption habits shifted overnight, which meant people had no choice but to turn to digital alternatives such as remote working and online shopping to meet everyday needs.

The successful establishment of the 5G mobile telecommunication network has also paved a solid foundation and a catalyst for many emerging technologies (such as AI, VR/AR, Robotics, IoT, etc.). This will give rise to new use cases and create new business models from monetising consumer data patterns; therefore, more and more consumer data will be generated from these activities. There is a need to properly capture, process and maintain such data.

We expect that there will be a strong driving force behind the development of enterprise solution types of digitisation technologies and other advancements in online/mobile technologies (e.g. use of AI and AR/VR) to enhance the consumer experience in e-commerce and other online/mobile entertainment businesses.

To keep up with consumer demand for digital services and businesses’ data management needs where high speed and processing power are required to allow collaboration tools or interoperability of IT systems. This will boost demand and advancement in types of technologies, like cloud computing/quantum computing, where processes and transactions are going digital

Transitioning to a digitised company is challenging, especially during this time. What would your advice be to companies that are just starting their digital transformation journey?

The company must formulate its digitisation strategy by considering several factors:

a. Capex deployment – whether it builds its infrastructure (like a data center or purchase of IT equipment) or it outsources part of or the whole function to a cloud computing provider Cost factors include CAPEX spend to enable employees to work remotely from a workplace

b. Work processes redesign and restructuring – companies must consider the sequence of digitisation in existing processes and transactions, and the sequence of making changes or whether new processes or transactions may emerge from digitisation

c. Workforce – there should be a plan on how to redeploy the existing workforce, upskill their digital skills and capabilities, as well as to consider appointing new members of the workforce into the company to fit into the new structure of digitised business model. 

What are your expectations about this year's entries in the China Technology Excellence Awards?

I am eager to see if the entries this year will put focus on digitisation and how to best leverage 5G technologies combining with other emerging technologies to enhance product features or the user experience. I would also like to see if there are use cases that align with the developments outlined by the New Infrastructure strategy promulgated by the central government.  

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