How to thrive in an age of digital disruption

Singapore, September 20, 2018

In the business world and the natural world alike, survival and success are all about adapting to change. As new technologies emerge to disrupt existing business models, enterprises need to digitally evolve according to consumer habits, technology innovations and external environmental factors.  

Organisations know this and have made digital transformation a top priority. In fact, a 2018 survey by IDG’s State of Digital Business Transformation, found that 89 percent of the organisations surveyed have plans to adopt a digital-first business strategy. However, the same analysis also showed that only 45 percent of the organisations surveyed have yet to fully adopt this approach. Many felt that they lacked the skills to execute digital transformation strategies—such as embracing a digital culture or identifying technologies best-suited for them.

Clearly, digital transformation is easier said than done. According to Forbes, 84 percent of enterprises that attempt to undergo digital transformation fail. What can companies do to increase their chance of success?  

“Over the last few years, NCS has been privileged to help our government and enterprise customers in their digital transformation journeys,” said Mr Ferry Chung, senior vice-president of NCS Group. “We’ve noticed that success boils down to five key components, which we call ‘digital DNA’.”

Building your company’s digital DNA

Just as the DNA of living organisms determines their characteristics and ability to adapt to environmental stresses, digital DNA refers to the combination of the different organisational, human and technological factors that make up the digital component of an organisation, Chung explained. Like the technology itself, an organisation’s digital DNA also needs to evolve to cater to consumer habits.

NCS Digital DNA

The first key component of digital DNA is customer experience, he continued, adding that understanding customer expectations or consumer habits are crucial as the new generation is very digitally active. “Everything is done through their mobile phones, 24/7. That’s another technological disruption that every enterprise—small, medium or large—needs to face,” Chung said.

As consumer habits evolve, organisations need to experiment and adopt new technologies quickly. Here, the next key component, being cloud-native, is instrumental, allowing organisations to scale-up rapidly and flexibly. “The move to be cloud-native will be cost-effective, and will provide agility when the applications are being developed,” he said.

The third component of digital DNA is application modernisation, Chung noted, referring to the replacement, re-tooling or re-platforming of legacy applications. This in turn goes hand-in-hand with the fourth and final technical component of digital DNA: building platforms that can support entire ecosystems instead of individual products.

“While connectivity within an organisation is very important, building an ecosystem outside your organisation even more crucial. A flexible and robust API-centric approach enables develop successful platforms,” Chung said.

A change of heart, not just hardware

Technical considerations aside, the most important aspect of digital transformation is the adoption of digital culture, the fifth component of digital DNA. Digital transformation requires breaking down deeply entrenched silos and maintaining momentum over the entire process, which can take three to five years.

“One of the biggest challenges of digital transformation is the difficulty of bringing the whole organisation on board as part of the transformation,” Chung said, “Leaders will need to actively work on reducing the resistance to change.”

More positively, there are three aspects of adopting a digital culture that firms should encourage: data-driven decision-making, human-centric design thinking and an agile mindset. Data-driven decision-making eliminates any guesswork within an organisation, while human-centric design thinking will encourage organisations to approach problems with the end-user in mind. Combined with an agile delivery, these approaches require a new mindset and even a change in organisational structure, Chung said.

Chung also warned that organisations might experience failure in their digital transformation journey. He advised that it is extremely important for organisations to go through experiential stages and learn to make failure part of their learning culture.

“Obviously, nobody will get it right the first time, so you have to go through iterations of learning,” Chung reminded.

Be equipped with the right tools

As the market leader in Singapore, NCS is well-placed to help your organisation navigate the next wave of technological disruption. In the course of its own digital transformation journey, NCS has trained over 3,000 employees, equipping them with design thinking, agile leadership and user experience/user interface (UX/UI) skills.

Along the way, NCS successfully automated more than 15 processes with five robots implemented across different corporate functions over a six-month period. Technology such as facial recognition access, smart facilities, physical security and incident management were integrated into NCS’ physical premises, and an app was developed for employees.

“Our journey began three years ago and is still ongoing, demonstrating that digital transformation is a sprint marathon, requiring speed, focusand execution,” Chung said.

But Chung attributes much of NCS’s success to the five pillars of its digital DNA strategy—particularly on the adoption of digital culture. “Just as DNA determines the strength and weaknesses of a living organism, a digital DNA helps to determine the success of an enterprise’s digital transformation,” he concluded.