The Digital Challenge: To Boldly Go Beyond Disruption

Jack Dyson

Disruption comes in many forms. There’s a tendency to talk about it in hushed tones, to give it bogeyman status. But you can declaw the big bad buzzword in one move. It’s not big or scary, and it needn’t loom above your business—it’s just another way of describing change and evolution.

In the 80’s it manifested as call centres. Then, as the digital landscape began to take shape, it was the Internet, cloud computing … now it’s AI. At SAP Hybris LIVE, an exciting live-streamed global summit, we’re about to hear what comes next – and what we should be doing about it.

It’s interesting to see how often we’ve taken our cue from sci-fi, forecasting our future with our imagination. Whether the robot assistants of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the tricorder from Star Trek, parts of science fiction have often played an uncanny prelude to science fact.

For Jamie Anderson, CMO of SAP Hybris, the real light bulb moment was when he watched Minority Report. “It wasn’t the chase scene or the arms-waving-around way Tom Cruise used the computer; it was the bit when he’s going past a shop and it pushes a truly contextual piece of marketing at him. Suddenly I caught a glimpse of a real, believable future. But at what point do things like this get creepy? The simple fact is that AI scares us – look at films like Bladerunner, Terminator, or Westworld – and the amount of things we can find out about a person from their Facebook likes is occasionally intimidating. But there’s a positive side to it.”

The positive comes in the form of a motivated, engaged consumer who is always looking for the next big thing, the next clever platform. Get it wrong and there’s a very real risk that you simply turn off your customer and lose their good will along with their business. Do it right and your engagement will give them with a memorable, seamless experience that ensures they come back again – and that they’ll voluntarily go from being a customer to an advocate.

But as consumers adopt new technology and services with increasing speed, how can businesses scale to keep up with consumers? This is a big challenge, according to Anderson. “The great majority of businesses simply aren’t ready to support a mobile-first engagement with customers,” he notes. “Over half of them still can’t be contacted by social media. And this in a world of 1.9bn smartphone users and 1.8bn Facebook users.”

Failing to deliver on something so basic as customer experience is no laughing matter. Businesses simply must transform in a way that keeps the customer at the heart of what they do. This is a hot topic throughout SAP Hybris LIVE. “We’re aiming to redefine CRM to refine what we do,” says Thomas Wasser, global CRM lead at ASICS. “Businesses have to be where their customers are. We used to be very distributor focused, but we realised we need to be closer to the end users, to the people who are actually using our products and making sure that they get the focus they deserve.”

But what does this actually look like? For Wasser, it’s a question of finding a focus. “You need to find the urgency in your business. We are focused around 2020, which as well as being a nice round number is the year of the Tokyo Olympics. And we are working towards it in small steps to get the story out across the organization. It’s not one team driving change. It needs to happen across the company.”

This is echoed by Richard Raj, group digital solutions and innovations manager of Frucor Beverages. “In starting any journey of digital transformation, it’s about engaging the whole company,” he says. “To do that you need to create a movement and demonstrate potential…and see it as a real opportunity to reimagine your business. For us, only a very thin proportion of our vendors are digitally native. So your partners need to understand the new world, but also how to help companies and teams to move there from where they are.”

The challenge to keep up with the customer is perhaps greatest in non-tangible products and services such as insurance. “It used to be on our terms, but now it’s the customer who drives what channels they use – both in claims and in sales,” says Michael Gourlay, CEO of MSIG Singapore. “You have to understand that, like with disposable razors where the four-blade head is replaced by a five-blade version, the technology you’re using will be replaced. So be prepared to be agile.”

In terms of advice for people who are embarking on their own journeys, he keeps it simple, straightforward, and practical: “Don’t try to do everything yourself. Learn to collaborate across channels and partners. And once you’ve decided what you want to do, be bold. It’s a big change of mindset, but it’s essential for success.”

For more insight on managing digital disruption, see Rethink, Reimagine, And Reset: The Mindset—And Skillset—For The Digital Age.

Jack Dyson

About Jack Dyson

Jack Dyson is head of Digital Content Strategy for SAP Hybris.