How the CFO and the C-Suite Should Respond to the Digital Revolution

The astonishing speed with which the digital revolution is transforming businesses and even entire industries is making it a challenge for different-sized companies to clearly understand digitalization and fully grasp its implications.

Successful navigation of this new digital landscape largely entails a not-one-size-fits-all strategy. But as a recent panel discussion at the NTT Global Forum 2016 in Singapore revealed, there are certain aspects of the organization that need to be emphasized more than others when starting a digital transformation journey, particularly where big data is concerned.

“Big data needs to be multilingual. It’s not only about finance or customer service—these are just a few of the languages of the organization . . . Find different stakeholders within the organization who stand to benefit”

A C-suite initiative

Integrating data analytics into the organization, and deriving the full value out of it, must be a C-Suite initiative that is cascaded throughout each department.

Chan Kok Long, Executive Director and Co-founder of iPay88 Sdn Bhd, a payment gateway provider, says his company’s digital transformation journey was led by top management and the heads of departments that have direct interface with the customers.

“For a company of our size, good digital innovation is having a keen understanding of the fundamental needs of our customers,” he said. “At the end of the day, they’re the ones giving us revenue. So when we started off on our big data journey, we prioritized the particular bits that have a direct relationship with customer satisfaction.” 

Increasing customer satisfaction may be a good business case for big data, but Len Padilla, VP for Product Strategy at NTT Europe, asserted that relying solely on one aspect of the organization “runs the risk of missing a trick.”

“When you talk of big data and analytics, what we’re really talking about is answering questions and a lot of the time it’s about looking for the questions we don’t even know exist.”

Padilla added that it would be dangerous to treat IT like the standard business case practice, where you go through the costs and benefits and prove that, at the end of the day, the project will make money.

“Big data needs to be multilingual,” he stressed. “It’s not only about finance or customer service—these are just a few of the languages of the organization. The important thing if you’re looking to push a big data initiative, or even any kind of project, is to find different stakeholders within the organization who stand to benefit from the project.”

“And that can be everything all the way from the customers to the employees, and even the board. Find out what kinds of things are important for them, and make sure your business case speaks to all those different languages.”

Culture, complexity at large

Successful digital transformation demands a culture activated by top leadership that encourages innovation and risk taking, and empowers all the stakeholders of the company. This is easier said than done.

Involving various facets of the organization to push for big data can be quite tricky, as these are often new initiatives some members of the C-suite may not fully grasp just yet.

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