Potential benefits of digital transformation ‘too big’ to ignore: RSM leader

Regional leader Jason Yau shared that any new technology implemented by companies impacts a lot of aspects of the business. 

RSM Hong Kong Head of Technology and APAC Regional Leader Jason Yau works closely with RSM firms within the region in implementing global strategy, including brand, client service, marketing, business development, training, service offerings, and succession planning.

He also serves on a number of RSM global committees and task forces, including the Global Digital Advisory Committee, Global Innovation Committee, Global Financial Services Committee, and Global Strategy Taskforce – Action Learning Group.

Yau has been with RSM since 2004 and was a member of the RSM US global expat team, where he provides audit and consulting services to financial institutions and asset management companies. In 2016, he joined RSM Hong Kong, where he currently leads the Technology and Management Consulting division in providing IT assurance, security and privacy, and digital transformation services for regional and global clients. 

With over 18 years of auditing and consulting experience, Yau is a US Certified Public Accountant and Certified Information Technology Professional by the State of New York, a member of the American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants and the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and a fellow member of both the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the Chartered Global Management Accountant.

He believes that a digital transformation should not be solely handled by the IT department, as any new technology implemented will undoubtedly impact a lot of aspects of the business. He advised companies to allow non-IT employees to engage in digital transformation initiatives to improve their daily work.

As one of the elite judges for this year’s Hong Kong Business Technology Excellence Awards, Yau provided insights for businesses to improve their cybersecurity measures and properly adapt to their respective digital transformation journeys.

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

In the digital transformation world, we have four pillars that sum up the key foundational elements for a project – people, process, technology, and data. To me, the two biggest challenges are (a) getting people to buy into the future vision and (b) streamlining the process to align with the technology. A digital transformation project should not be solely handled by the IT department, as any new technology implemented will undoubtedly impact a lot of aspects of the business, whether it's accounting, customer service, marketing, etc. 

Companies should allow non-IT employees to engage in the digital transformation project at a much earlier stage to provide an opportunity to improve their current day-to-day work and also have a say in whether the chosen technology fits their needs or not, as opposed to just telling them to go learn the new technology at the end of the transformation process.

What areas within a company are in most need of digital transformation and innovation?

I would say Human Resources and Customer Service are most in need of digital transformation and innovation in the near term. For Human Resources, the ability to attract, develop and retain talents is extremely important during this latest phase of Great Resignation, and the "War on Talents" will very much likely continue in the near future. Being able to provide a much better employee experience through the use of technology from the day the employee ‘onboards’ with the company would be key to building a strong employer brand. As for Sales and Customer Services, all companies are not only going from B2B to B2C model but also O2O to OMO (Online-merge-offline). The ability to understand customer purchasing behaviour and sales history is critical to providing relevant and tailored services and products to customers. 

What technological developments do you expect to see in the near future?

The adoption of “ABCD” will undoubtedly continue to propel the speed of digital transformation. 

Artificial Intelligence is a double-edged sword — if we can appropriately apply it in business, it can help unlock immense opportunities, drive efficiencies, and create new job roles for employees to handle more upscale responsibilities. If AI is not applied appropriately, it can potentially bring very disruptive effects on an organisation, especially with business decisions that can require a lot of human judgments and understanding of relationships.

Blockchain will allow a huge uptick in efficiency. However, adoption must be driven at an industry level to have enough participants to realise its potential. Several industries, such as insurance, financial services, and supply chain, where a few large global players are spearheading the industry's blockchain development, have increased the speed of adoption.

As for cloud computing, it has always been a very "personal" preference, especially when it comes to consideration of data privacy and security. However, the risk of cybersecurity has increased tremendously in recent years, and it is no longer a choice but a survival requirement to move some of the organisation’s infrastructure to the cloud, as cloud vendors provide much better security than one single company can implement. 

Last but not least, data analytics will have an omnipresence in all areas of business as we continue to generate, capture, process, and analyse voluminous amounts of data being produced every day. It can help us come up with better decisions.  

How can businesses improve their IT systems to affect profit, cybersecurity, and sustainability?

Businesses have been dealing with a lot of challenges in the past few years, including but not limited to the US-China Trade War, COVID, the Great Resignation, and the current geopolitical conflicts. IT systems will empower the business in reacting to macro and micro changes timely and swiftly. New technologies allow us to execute complex “what-if” scenario planning to minimise costs and maximise profits; make better-educated decisions through the power of data; trace the sustainability of materials, labour, and energy used in the supply chain; and automate repetitive exercises which allow our staff to engage in higher satisfaction and productivity assignments. Certainly, most, if not all, IT tools will potentially introduce new cybersecurity risks to the business, but the potential benefits of digital transformation are too big to ignore.

Which trends in IT and digital transformation do you predict will last for many years to come?

I believe Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain are the two most prevalent technologies that will impact all industries for many years to come. These two technologies are real and are here to stay, although many questions are yet to be addressed - such as ethical issues of AI and the power consumption of blockchain. We also should not lose sight of the tremendous potential of Quantum computing. Quantum computing revolutionises our traditional knowledge of classical computing, which is based on 0 and 1 in the form of bits and bytes, and takes it to a completely different level where 0 and 1 (on/off) can be computed at the same time in the form of qubits. Based on this fundamental difference, quantum computing power can grow exponentially as opposed to classical computing, which is linear. Many of the modelling and simulation tasks currently handled by classical computing can only go as far as the hardware allows. However, quantum computing will have exponential power in handling complex modelling and simulation due to qubits being able to handle the 0 (on) and 1 (off) simultaneously, which allows a whole new level of possibilities for business and research to solve complex scenarios and problems.

What advice would you give to Hong Kong tech entrepreneurs and startups as they navigate a recovering economy amidst the pandemic?

From my perspective, Hong Kong tech entrepreneurs and startups have been very resilient and weathered the storms over the last few years. My advice would be three main points:

  • How to build and quantify business value through digital transformation. For every dollar of investment put into the digital project, owners need to have an external investor mindset to see how it can derive more business value.
  • Hong Kong has top-tier tech talents, but many of the talents need to be empowered to realise their potential. I will strongly encourage tech owners to allow more flexibility and freedom to encourage these professionals to utilise their creativity and provide the confidence for them to fail and try again. 
  • There is no better time to fortify the shop before opening for business. This is now the best opportunity to embark on any internal transformation project before normalcy returns and the focus will shift to an external focus.

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