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Harnessing the power of digital disruption

Companies that will emerge victorious in the competitive stakes are those that are designed for disruption and have a nimble architecture to implement innovation.

Digital technology, which is disrupting Old Economy industries, is transforming markets and will lend value to firms that master it.
As the emergence of millennials and use of new technologies come into play, customer experience is increasingly important. Organisations should incorporate customer-centric factors into developing their digital strategy. Enterprises need to be dedicated to enhancing the customer experience as the foundation of any digital transformation.

SUBTLY exerting a new way of doing business and responding quicker to market changes than before, it is something that is putting pressure on enterprises in Singapore and around the world.

Digital technology today is rapidly transforming markets and will lend value to the companies that master it. Today, digital technology is seen to be flooding every sector and disrupting Old Economy industries.

In the case of Singapore, an economy driven by consumers who are increasingly empowered and spoilt for choice, enterprises must find ways to stand out from their competitors and create tighter bonds with their customers. Factors such as fluctuating market dynamics, growing competition and increased customer expectations also come into play and make it tougher for local enterprises to stand out from the crowd.

This year, many of our Enterprise 50 (E50) companies leverage on technological innovation to drive digital transformation across their businesses. The champions in the competitive stakes will be those enterprises that are designed for disruption, have a nimble architecture to implement innovation and deploy technologies that mobilise the work process.


Digital transformation, if not well thought through, can prove to be misdirected or difficult to follow through. Designing the strategy will involve defining what "digital disruption" means to the organisation at all levels, accounting for the range of threats and opportunities, and devising a system to tackle implementation challenges.

  • Weaving innovation into products and services

For sustained visibility, local enterprises will need to continue creating innovative products and services. Enterprises should merge and apply technologies that will allow them to undercut rivals, get closer to customers and disrupt conventional ways of doing business.

Past E50 winner Victor Enterprise has invested steadily in productivity improvements with support from Spring Singapore. Some of these enhancements include a transport management system with GPS technology and a virtualisation project to realise the potential of cloud computing for better business continuity management.

Sales personnel also benefit through smart technology such as iPads to realise greater manpower efficiency and optimised workflow.

  • Having an international mindset

Local enterprises will need to be adaptable to suit international markets and adopt a global mindset. For effective decision-making and business plans, they will need to equip themselves with solid data and research covering technology, culture and strategy. This will allow them to penetrate new markets and think of new ways of doing business that could be foreign to how they did things done previously.

  • Having a scalable and moveable process

Enterprises need to focus on transformation and ensure their business is compliant and savvy with the latest trends in the industry even if it may require significant restructuring.

This will largely rely on an agile development process that is able to quicken the pace as well as partnering IT and business strategically to test and develop vibrant ideas.

  • Developing adequate skills and new talent to stay relevant

The skills required to manage digital transformation may not always be cultivated within the organisation. Being able to meet the challenges brought about by digital disruption may involve understanding innovative technologies that similarly call for new skillsets.

Some leading companies turn to other industries to attract digital talent as skills may often trump experience. For instance, those most skilled at digital product management or user-experience design may not work in one's given industry.

A holistic attitude towards talent retention should be taken by the business owners and not left to the human resources department. They will need to continue investing time and effort in skills-building, hiring and corporate culture.

  • Dealing with data diligently

Enterprises will need to make rapid decisions in today's fast-moving digital environment. Those which maintain their competitive edge in the digital stakes are those that use data to drive decisions and insights.

They will need to work towards continuous improvement through consistent experimentation and a seamless process for responding to bits of information quickly.

For example, a global fast-moving consumer brand created a single analytics portal, the Decision Cockpit, which lets teams identify issues such as declining market share and also allows them to make predictions over historical data.

In order for local enterprises to move forward, they need to challenge everything they have done, including the products and services offered and the markets they target or penetrate.

This includes re-evaluation of all aspects of their business - from customer-facing to back-office systems and processes - for digitally driven innovation. Digital leaders of enterprises will also need to find ways of creating partnerships to deliver value-added experiences and services.

  • Embracing the new customer experience

As the emergence of millennials and use of new technologies come into play, customer experience is increasingly important. Organisations should incorporate customer-centric factors into developing their digital strategy. Enterprises need to be dedicated to enhancing the customer experience as the foundation of any digital transformation.

Errors or negative user experience need to be nipped in the bud. There should also be systems in place to enable companies to capture and learn from every customer interaction.

Enterprise leaders should also encourage risk-taking and a culture of innovation for employees to feel confident to articulate their ideas and be willing to experiment with them.

Being customer-centric builds customer retention and advocacy and this goes hand in hand with business process optimisation that helps firms to stay viable and relevant. These when complemented will allow enterprises to better meet their customers' needs and build long-term relationships.


Local enterprises must continuously change their existing practices, systems and attitudes to maintain management vigour and a competitive edge in a rapidly changing business environment. They will need to go from satisfying to exciting customers and reinvent themselves to deal with uncertainty and complexity.

In today's digitized world, our E50 companies understand that they must capture new opportunities to drive growth and innovation. Through collaboration and innovation and by harnessing the potential of technology, they have ignited change and seen their solutions perfected and assets perform better.

The industries in which these enterprises operate will also transform to meet stakeholder requirements, acquire the appropriate skillsets and adopt new business models for sustained and enduring growth.

Local enterprises that do not transform into differentiated digital companies with innovative attributes may be in danger of becoming the disrupted and dreaded.

The writer is head of enterprise at KPMG in Singapore. The views expressed are his own.