Focus on digital transformation and sustainability

Experts from China, Singapore, USA, and New Zealand came together recently to discuss and debate the transformative power of digital technology at an online research symposium hosted by the Centre for Digital Enterprise (CODE).

CODE is a new interdisciplinary research unit at the University of Auckland researching topics including digital platforms, digital sourcing, and artificial intelligence, to name just a few.

Kicking the symposium off was Steve James from Countdown NZ who spoke about the explosive growth in their online market during the Covid-19 lockdown. The company has seen a mass acceleration in the digital space with over 200,000 shoppers registering for online shopping in one night.

His advice, “Before you start on a digital transformation – which is a term thrown around lightly by organisations – and invest in digital technology, you really need to understand your business strategy, and customer value proposition.”

“Digital technology is merely a tool to support what you want to achieve as a business, and so it’s vital you know what that is. Do you really know what your customers want?”

Steve says digital transformation was always going to happen, but the pandemic has accelerated its implementation.

US speaker Josh Buckley defined digital transformation as ‘the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes, or replacing older technology with newer technology, in order to amplify and enable human potential.’

Hailing from the construction industry, Josh emphasised the focus must be on effectiveness and efficiency. “Ask yourself why and how am I doing this?“

He emphasized that introducing new technology for its own sake is meaningless. “Instead introduce a new idea or a new effective workflow, and then find the technology that will enable that.”

Branding and marketing expert Derek Sun from Oppo, defined digital transformation as ‘applying technology to create significant competitive advantages.’

“If there are no significant competitive advantages created then I don’t think it can be called transformative. It’s incremental progression rather than transformation.”

“Leveraging digital platforms can create new business models like Uber or Airbnb. Ultimately its about the value that technology brings to companies. This requires continuous learning. Be curious about everything.”

The second session focused on digital sustainability led by the President of TCS Asia-Pacific, Girish Ramachandran and KPMG NZ CIO, Cowan Pettigrew. In this session, speakers expressed concern about the lack of commitment to sustainability objectives and outlined their vision for harnessing the power of digital to improve sustainability.