After A Decade Of Digital Disruption, What Can Leaders Expect In The 2020s?

Aneesha Shenoy

Early in this new decade, it’s no surprise that digital transformation in parallel with innovation and disruption remains a red-hot issue keeping CEOs around the globe awake at night.

After a decade of digital disruption, the need to build on the intelligent enterprise is more pressing than ever. CEOs need to take advantage of all data sources, connecting back-office systems and real-time Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect insights from just about everything to improve both the accuracy and timeliness of decisions.

Accurate decision-making

As the pace of change continues to gather steam, it’s putting more pressure on leaders to embrace new technologies such as blockchain, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) and adapt their organizations accordingly. In the new era of smart, connected devices, machine learning or AI has the potential to set the business agenda.

In the coming years, we’re likely to see organizations use AI to automate tasks that require tremendous amounts of human brainpower to help us make better decisions in microseconds. Think about how AI-powered robots working alongside your people will perform tasks more efficiently and how predictive analytics sensors will keep your plant and equipment running in perfect order, optimizing utilization and minimizing downtime. Consider the impact of using virtual nursing assistants and data analytics to create a more-personalized patient experience and make healthcare more accessible. Consider the impact of autonomous cars taking us from place to place.

Without a doubt, new industries will be created off the back of AI, but at the same time, this technology is likely to destroy venerable organizations that even today are posting strong corporate results.

Intelligent and predictive business operations

Organizations that lack a technology infrastructure built on a digital core will find it hard to move with the times and will be slow to adapt to this new world. They will almost certainly be left behind. I’m not trying to be alarmist, but history tells us how fast things change. And if the first fast years of this millennium are any benchmark, you can expect the pace of change to accelerate still as these new technologies transform everything before them.

While many businesses will attempt to adapt to the new status quo, only some will succeed. A significant number of the organizations featured in today’s Fortune Global 500 list will be left behind. Just compare the list published 10 years ago, and it’s plain to see the many businesses that failed to digitalize and move with the times. Here’s a quick view into the changing fortunes of the top 15 companies by revenue.

2019 2010
1.       Walmart

2.       Sinopec Group

3.       Royal Dutch Shell

4.       China National Petroleum

5.       State Grid

6.       Saudi Aramco

7.       BP

8.       Exxon Mobile

9.       Volkswagen

10.   Toyota Motor

11.   Apple

12.   Berkshire Hathaway


14.   UnitedHealth Group

15.   Samsung Electronics

1.         Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

2.         Royal Dutch Shell plc

3.         Exxon Mobil Corporation

4.         BP p.l.c.

5.         Toyota Motor Corporation

6.         Japan Post Holdings Co., Ltd.

7.         China Petrochemical Corp.

8.         State Grid Corporation of China

9.         AXA

10.     China National Petroleum Corp

11.     Chevron Corporation

12.     ING Group

13.     General Electric Company

14.     Total S.A.

15.     Bank of America Corporation

Source: Fortune Global 500

Transformation is a continuous cycle

In this coming decade, organizations will need to continually evolve their transformation programs and build on the foundation of a digital core to create the intelligent enterprise. To support future growth with intelligent and predictive business operations, establishing a digital core will be critical to success.

For businesses to succeed, leaders need to understand that the technologies and processes that worked 20 years ago are no longer enough to meet customers’ changing expectations today. It’s important to embrace major technology trends today to lay the foundations of successful digital enterprises of the future.

As a CEO, to lead the team to success in the next era, you’ll need to ensure your people buy into your vision and move with you. In the years ahead, CEOs of every transforming business must:

  • Have an open mindset for doing things differently
  • Create an outcome-focused experience for customers – having an unwavering commitment to customer success
  • Adapt processes quickly and simply to prepare the organization for change by operating with a startup mindset
  • Respond quickly to market opportunities and threats, leveraging the power of real-time connected data accessed through digital platforms

Already, some major enterprises are staying ahead by adopting a new mindset, adapting processes, becoming more agile, and thinking through the customer experience – ensuring a unified and outcome-focused experience for customers.

As part of this blog series, I will explore these key themes in more detail and look at how companies are using technology to reimagine their business models for the digital era.

For more insight, see the “The Secret Behind the Intelligent Enterprise” series.

Aneesha Shenoy

About Aneesha Shenoy

Aneesha Shenoy is Chief Operating Officer of Global Customer Operations (GCO) Platform & Technologies (P&T) for Asia Pacific and Japan at SAP. Her portfolio covers data management, analytics, and SAP Cloud Platform, along with innovation technologies such as the IoT, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Aneesha's vision is to enable better business outcomes for customers utilizing modern digital innovations powered by a connected digital platform. She and her team partner with customers to create a joint strategy and road map towards realizing this vision. Aneesha holds a master’s degree in computer science and over the years has completed executive management programs at Stanford University and the National University of Singapore.