Digitalisation should be implemented on an enterprise-wide basis in general, mentions PwC Global TMT Industry Leader

Wilson Chow stated that various innovative and emerging technologies are obtainable in the marketplace and it is necessary to develop a realistic plan and roadmap.

With more than 30 years of working in public accounting in Mainland China and Hong Kong, there is no doubt that Wilson Chow has vast experience to judge for this year's Hong Kong Business Technology Excellence Awards. 

Chow's vast experience may have led him to become the head of PwC's global technology, media and telecommunications (TMT). He is also the TMT industry leader for the firm’s Mainland China and Hong Kong practices.

In addition, Wilson has extensive experience in providing assurance and advisory services to companies in the TMT industry, ranging from start-ups to global tech giants, for capital market transactions, assurance engagements, systems and controls advisory, and deals.  

Moreover, Wilson has been leading and supporting the PwC global network across all lines of service, such as assurance, taxation, and advisory, which aims to provide one-stop professional solutions and services to companies in the TMT industry, as well as to clients looking to reinvent themselves through digital transformations.

In an interview with Hong Kong Business, Wilson discusses the current technological landscape and how companies can leverage solutions to make their operations more sustainable.

How has the technology landscape evolved in the post-pandemic world? Are there any trends to watch out for?

Digitalisation has always been a trend along the technology deployment journey, as processes and transactions go digital.  The pandemic, which leads to restrictions on people's mobility and communication being made on a virtual basis, has accelerated and speeded up the trend.  

The successful establishment of the 5G mobile telecommunication network has established a solid foundation and acted as a catalyst for the deployment and commercialisation of many emerging technologies such as AI, VR/AR, Robotics, IoT, and many others. These also give rise to new use cases and create new business models for corporations. In the post-pandemic era, we expect there will be a strong driving force behind the development of enterprise solutions such as digitisation technologies and other advancements in online/mobile technologies that enhance the efficiency of business processes/communication, as well as improve the consumer experience in e-commerce and other online/mobile entertainment businesses.

The rise of Web 3.0 technology, which supports the Metaverse initiatives, is also believed to push B2B and B2C types of communication and commercial transactions to the next level.  The immersive consumer experience to be offered by the Metaverse can best fit into the online behaviour of Generation Z internet users, which are growing to be mainstream consumers, creating new business models and channels for corporations to market and monetise their products and services.

What do you think are some areas within a company that are most in need of digital transformation and innovation?

Digital transformation and innovation should be implemented on an enterprise-wide basis in general.  Nevertheless, due to the limitation of resources and different priority settings, the C-Suite of each corporation/enterprise is required to analyse the specific situation and condition of their companies and put focus on one or several areas for transformation.  

The key consideration of such a priority-setting process is to identify the pressing issues that affect the company’s survival and existence and the corresponding root causes leading to such issues. The company may then design/deploy the relevant and appropriate digitalisation plans to utilise digital technology to reduce/transfer/mitigate the risks.

For example, if the burning issue of a company is the decline in sales of its products/services via physical stores and outlets, the company may consider establishing a digital channel (e.g. online/mobile sales and marketing platform) to market its products and services; deploying a digital customer relationship management (CRM) tool to properly monitor the sales pipelines and opportunities and timely measure the successful conversion rate; and/or deploying digital marketing techniques such as online/mobile advertising, customer data analytics, and targeted marketing techniques; as well as implementing digital means of customer service such as the use of 24/7 chatbots, etc. in order to identify new customer sources, create new revenue streams and maximise the average spend of consumers and their ARPU.

What are the biggest challenges in implementing digital transformation in any business? How should companies approach these challenges?

The biggest challenges that corporations and their C-Suite may face in the transformation journey are:

Develop a realistic plan and roadmap: As mentioned in the earlier session, digital transformation is an enterprise-wide initiative.  The C-Suite of each company has to devise a realistic transformation plan, taking into consideration the process/transactions which need to be digitised: how to carry out the digitisation, whether by its own resources and people or hiring external consultants; what are the expected timelines and milestones; and how to measure success and set relevant KPIs. In order to approach this challenge, the C-Suite may need to set up a transformation steering committee involving personnel from different departments and divisions that would be affected by the transformation plan and the respective execution details. They also need to consider the relevant personnel and resources to be deployed and whether external help has to be sought to assist them in developing and executing the plan.

Set up relevant KPIs and measurement standards: The ultimate goal of digital transformation is to enable a company to become more competitive and/or to overcome difficulties encountered in its existing operations. At the same time, significant resources and manpower have to be deployed in the process, which is both a burden and an opportunity. cost to the company. Accordingly, management has to consider what the relevant quantitative and qualitative KPIs are that need to be set up to measure success, and what will be the consequences of missing or failing the targets. The C-Suite is required to formulate realistic and achievable measurement standards, and they also need to seek buy-in and consensus from the people and business units to be involved and affected by the implementation, with proper and clear communication.

Change management and upskilling of people: People are always an important and crucial element in any transformation project.  Employees or management teams have to achieve a congruent goal and objective to work together to achieve the desired results of transformation and give their commitment to it.  However, people may be reluctant to change, or they may fear that their job security would be affected by the transformation.  Accordingly, they may adopt a negative attitude towards the proposed changes, making the whole progress difficult and they may even create roadblocks and reduce the rate of success. In addition, digital transformation may change the existing work processes and workflows or even eliminate certain existing roles and responsibilities. Companies are required to consider whether the existing employees and management could handle the new tasks, and appropriate training and upskilling arrangements would be required. In addition, a new workforce possessing the required digital skills may need to be employed, or a certain existing workforce may need to be deployed to perform other tasks of the companies.  C-Suite is required to have a thorough people change management plan in place before carrying out the transformation project.

How should organisations use technology and their digital transformation journeys to help their businesses become more sustainable? 

Various innovative and emerging technologies are available in the marketplace to help the digital transformation journeys of corporations.  For example, cloud computing technology would enable companies to shift and migrate their business and operating information to the cloud platform so that the data can be stored and processed in a more efficient manner.  In addition, various data analytic techniques can be employed in order to generate more useful business information in order to enable companies to make better business decisions. 

Enterprise solutions such as ERP and CRM systems could help companies to capture and process operational, sales and financial data in a more efficient and effective manner.  Dashboards, summaries, and interpretative charts and diagrams can be generated in real-time, and access can be allowed via mobile gadgets such as smartphones and tablets, which facilitate the C-Suite to get the most updated management information from anywhere at any time. Management can then timely respond and react to the external environment and take appropriate actions promptly.  

Web 3.0 technology built on the blockchain system can be deployed to create an immersive consumer experience in the metaverse.  Companies can launch new digital products/services on the metaverse or offer digital twins of their physical products and services in digital forms.  The encryption function of the blockchain may also allow smart contracts to be executed to increase efficiency and eliminate intermediaries.  

What advice will you give to companies that are still adapting to the industry’s rapid digital shift? How can they ensure that they are not left behind?

The C-Suite themselves must take lead in embracing innovation and emerging technologies in order to set the tone at the top.  Digital champions can be appointed in each essential business unit or division to pass on the latest digital insights and make sharing with other employees.  These champions may also join the relevant industry associations and societies to download and obtain the latest digital innovation and trends affecting the industry and share the information with other people in the company.  From time to time, management may also hire external technical experts and consultants to give training and upskilling sessions to employees to learn about the latest digitalisation initiatives.

As a judge in the HKB Technology Excellence Awards, what innovations or key factors are you looking for in this year’s entries?

Hong Kong is an international financial centre and it also plays an essential role in the economic development of the Greater Bay Area of China.  As a result, digitalisation and technology are believed to be important growth engines to uplift Hong Kong’s economic growth to the next level.  As a judge of the Awards, I focus on whether the technology being deployed in the products and services has embraced the latest disruptive technology.  I also put weight on whether the application is scalable and could assist corporations and businesses to achieve optimal outcomes and results.  Finally, I treasure the feedback and customer experience furnished on the product and service, given commercialisation is important.

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