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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, China
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Deloitte's Frank Li takes a look at the tech forces behind business transformation

Deloitte China’s tech sector leader shares how businesses can succeed and survive amidst economic uncertainty.

Frank Li, partner and technology sector leader at Deloitte China, is part of the elite judging panel at this year’s China Technology Excellence Awards.

As a member of the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Frank has over 20 years of experience in providing professional audit and advisory services.

With specialised expertise in the Technology, Media & Telecommunications (“TMT”) and education industry, Frank has assisted companies with their public funding efforts and successful listings into the US stock market.

As a deadly virus swoops through the rest of the region, Frank believes that success and survival would require having to go beyond tradition and identifying strategic partners, neutralising disruptive threats, and developing new ways to serve customer needs. This also involves finding the most practical solutions to assist companies with disruptive technologies and business models.

Franks sees opportunity for tech companies that focus on autonomous vehicles and robotics to double down with the adoption of 5G. He expects to see more portable and fixed networks with capabilities that embed analytics and AI to transform customer experience.

Know more about Frank Li here.

Can you give us a bit of a background on your work experience, particularly with tech companies? What’s your outlook on China’s tech sector?

I have been a partner of Deloitte China since 2008, with managing roles as the China Technology Sector Leader and the Northern China TMT Industry Audit Group Leader.

I have over 20 years of experience in providing professional audit and advisory services to companies, including MNCs, private companies and state-owned enterprises, in the United States and the Chinese Mainland. I assist technology companies in their initial public offering with successful listings in the US stock markets, and serve several tech sector-listed clients and some large private companies.

Looking forward, technology is playing a major role in revolutionising industries, and the revolution in technologies and their applications transform societies in almost every aspect. Digitisation is the radical, disruptive change of the consequence. In China, the upstream and midstream tech companies, such as telecom and semiconductor, are still being dominated by large giants. In the next 10 years, 5G/5G+ would gradually mature with the emergent development of 6G. Based on that, Internet of Things/Internet of Everything and cloud are expected to be extensively spread and utilised by the general public, contributing to further business transformation and more rapid growth of new rising technology companies, as a result, the emerging newcomers will rise and challenge tech giant's leadership position with brand new technologies and business models.

Data from business information provider ITjuzi revealed that 336 startups in the country were forced to cease operations over the course of last year. What kind of strategy do startups and tech companies have to implement to prosper in 2020?

In an era of innovation and digital transformation, both startups and established tech companies face risks if they don't innovate effectively to meet their customers' needs.

Over the past five years, hot topics like analytics, cloud and technologies empowering digital experiences have steadily disrupted IT operations, business models and markets, and these now-familiar forces may no longer qualify as trends in the future. We’re moving from what was technically possible to what’s technically meaningful to what’s useful and the best cost-effective strategy beneficial to customers. If startups are not agile, fast and effective enough, nor hold onto their customers' changing needs, they would bear more risks and challenges to continue amongst competitions.

Can you share with us your key business philosophies?

To be proactive, agile, and have integrity, the ability to spot hidden opportunities and commitment to inclusive growth and development.

Besides finding key talent, what do you think will be the challenges that businesses will face this year? What role does technology excellence play in addressing these challenges?

How to deal with the negative impact resulting from the novel coronavirus outbreak will be a key challenge this year. Nearly every company's operation has been affected. To the companies that liquidly is falling and capital is scarce, survival will be the top priority in 2020 as it battles the economic downturn.

Many successful companies are looking beyond traditional boundaries to identify strategic partners, neutralise disruptive threats, and develop new ways to serve customer needs. Upon facing such challenges, businesses should get a better understanding of the changing needs of their customers, focus on core products and customers, and cut unnecessary business ventures. Technology comes to assistance where companies can find the most practical solutions with disruptive technologies and business models.

How can companies leverage on technology to maximise growth?

Many of today’s organisations are looking beyond traditional industry parameters to take an unconstrained view of how they serve their customers. Organisations can leverage their customer knowledge, domain expertise, and existing competitive advantages to identify opportunities where they could serve the marketplace in new ways. They can build sensing capabilities to better identify trends in real time and invest in understanding customer behaviour across products, services, and industries.

Meeting customer needs and market needs effectively and efficiently proves to be a key to identify growth opportunities; companies then leverage a deep understanding of customer and market and disruptive technologies to find the best-fit and most practical solutions and business models to maximising growth.

With 5G rolled out last year, which industries are aggressively doubling down on technology? And what are the emerging trends and technologies in China?

Indeed, 5G connectivity promises to lead consumers, industries, and governments to new frontiers of productivity and innovation. 5G's new standards for enterprise will open the floodgates to a host of previously infeasible applications, allowing for industrial-scale IoT networks in factories, warehouses, ports, and more.

Due to the special nature of the tech sector where we see companies across the entire spectrum of technology, 5G has the potential to drive digital transformation and growth across every industry. However, tech companies connecting to the Internet and 5G network in the industry would have more chances doubling down with regard to 5G. Such tech companies would include, for example, autonomous vehicles and robotics. We expect to see more and more portable and fixed networks with local high-capacity, real-time processing capabilities that embed analytics and AI to transform the customer experience.

Even though there might be a slowdown in customer adoption of 5G due to uncertainties in the economy in the short run, 5G adoption is inevitable. As more companies realise the importance of connecting to the cloud, 5G, etc. and keeping track of assets digitally, digitisation and transformation will still be the trends in the near future.

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