Undeniably, the COVID-19 pandemic brought tremendous movement within the business landscape, with immense disruption threatening progress. To cope with the serious impediments, extensive paradigm shifts across industries are evident, and as businesses race to stay relevant or face redundancy, many chose to upskill and integrate an increasingly hybrid approach in their value chains. Consequently, we now observe and experience the accelerated, widespread adoption of digital technologies and tools – a trend that looks to be the norm in our post-pandemic future.

Change is the only constant, a key takeaway from the pandemic. Despite the plaguing anticipatory anxiety during this turbulent time, we have seen industries resiliently fighting and competing to stay relevant against the odds stacked against them. To gain a competitive advantage in their respective industries, businesses have resourcefully sought out new technological innovations and partnerships, widening the capability gap between themselves and their peers and competitors.

In a world that heavily consumes and produces information, how else can, and should, businesses actively seek differentiated ways to stand out, and entice the distracted masses while still ensuring their message is heard by consumers?

Digital transformation in businesses was hastened across the volatile industry ecosystems, with many businesses embarking on their own change journey. Of the successes, a commonality surfaced – businesses with strong digital leadership, espousing a cogent and authentic brand message, enable them to stay relevant and engage better with customers; ultimately emerging resilient above the disruption.

Digital masters across industries are intentionally and meaningfully leveraging next-generation technologies to reimagine their business while embracing an open stance to demonstrate the “Art of Possible”, and it is a trend that Capgemini has been uncovering together with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in our joint thought leadership series: the CXO Perspectives.

So, what does a digital master look like and necessarily entail?

Digital masters are keen to adapt, keeping an open mind to learning and adopting new technologies and digital tools

A report we published in 2018 – Understanding Digital Mastery today: Why companies are struggling with their Digital Transformation – interestingly revealed that organizations rated themselves lower in terms of level of digital mastery in 2018 as compared to only 35 percent of the organizations surveyed, say they have the leadership capabilities required in 2018 for their digital transformation, compared to 45 percent in 2012.

Given the rapid advancement of technology and constant introduction of digital tools year on year, it is no wonder that this discrepancy in their confidence can be attributed to an underestimation of the market’s expectations and an inability to keep pace with furiously evolving technology through upskilling. Inevitably, the pandemic has also contributed to several disruptions in value chains – further diminishing confidence in digital leadership.

It is easy to get discouraged in our digital leadership capabilities when faced with the realization of our inability to achieve certain business outcomes. However, it is in managing to look ahead positively – and maintaining a willingness to learn, adapt, and adopt – despite these disruptions in value chains, that will be an instrumental marker to determine business success and true digital masters.

Beyond achieving successful outcomes, digital masters are primarily marked by their agile stance and mindsets, willing change, and embracing the unknown as it manifests itself.

Digital masters are forward-looking – constantly looking ahead to innovate and seek continual improvement across value chains for futureproofing

With a bird’s eye view of their industry’s landscape, digital masters overlook value chains to seek the potential for growth, innovation, and investments. From overseeing on the top to investing on the ground, digital masters actively analyze the industries they are situated in – through both macro and microlenses alike – to seek continual improvement across value chains for futureproofing.

Digital masters embrace organizational transformation that goes beyond a solely digital approach, recognizing the need for a wider holistic shift where culture, collaboration, and talent upskilling go in tandem with digital adoption

As earlier looked at, businesses’ confidence in their digital and leadership capabilities can be equal parts strengthened or diminished by its workforce’s (in)ability to upskill in time to keep pace with the furiously evolving technology and digital tools.

As digital masters begin investing in innovation led by emerging technologies, it is just as crucial that they take measures to also strengthen their talent force, culture, and operations. In laying equal emphasis on upskilling – and by bringing people, technology, and processes to the fore against the backdrop of an enabling culture – digital masters can widen the capability gap between themselves and their peers and competitors.

Seeking inspiration up In the air

In Episode 1 of the CXO Perspectives series jointly led by Capgemini and AWS, we identified one such business that has invested into its people and culture as much as it has into its digital innovation is Singapore Airlines (SIA). SIA has consistently been committed to innovating and bettering its use of technological tools to elevate the quality of service rendered to its customers.

This has led to many “firsts” that the airline can now be credited with. For instance, in 1995, SIA was the first to offer in-flight entertainment across all cabin classes, and in 2001, the first to provide audio and video-on-demand services across all cabin classes.

Digital transformation at SIA is guided by their four pillars of culture, digital capabilities, technology, and collaboration – suggesting how people-centric values of culture and collaboration are just as necessary as hard digital skills in businesses’ digital journeys.

SIA designed interventions with the aim of bringing about a mindset change concerning people, culture, and the way the organization works – creating new and alternative revenue streams even before the pandemic, which later proved to be effective touchpoints for SIA to engage with its customers amidst an industry disrupted by the crisis.

For one, SIA had previously launched Pelago, a travel experiences platform – with people at the heart of its design – that connects travelers with a wide range of destination activities. During the pandemic, SIA adapted Pelago to the circumstances by modifying its business model to provide local destination experiences for Singapore residents.

Through SIA’s simultaneous adoption of digital technologies, married with a company culture that equally prioritizes collaboration and talent upskilling in promoting organizational change, SIA is redefining its role as an all-round true digital master and innovator.

In uncharted spaces

Businesses that aspire to become high-performing organizations need to build their growth engines proactively – so that they can remain relevant to their customers, unlock value from new revenue streams, and constantly stay ahead of the curve and in the face of unpredictable curveballs. With leadership participation and new-age technologies, businesses can chart their route towards becoming digital masters – from merely doing digital (following digital practices and simply implementing tools as-is) to being digital in the truest sense of the term.

Digital transformation may have once merely been a means to survive. But now, more than ever, it has become a must – and not just an option – for businesses to stay ahead in this new future.

Sumit Nurpuri is Chief Operating Officer of Capgemini Southeast Asia, Hong Kong & Taiwan.

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