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SAP Malaysia MD Duncan Williamson talks up the ‘experience economy’

In a world where consumer experience can make or break a business, companies need to continuously reinvent themselves to stay relevant

From South Africa, Britain and Ireland to Malaysia, SAP Malaysia managing director Duncan Williamson’s illustrious career spans continents and nearly two decades.

He arrived in Singapore in October 2011, where he had served as SAP’s vice-president and head of education overseeing Asia-Pacific and Japan for close to four years, before heading back to Europe, this time in Switzerland, to serve as an SAP managing partner.

In January 2018, he took up the head honcho role at SAP Malaysia, and is currently based in Kuala Lumpur.

When Computer Weekly caught up with Williamson recently and asked him what his observations were during his 16-year career, he had lots of insights to share, particularly on disruptions to industries, the progressive rise of what he calls the “experience economy” and why technology’s role as an enabler is more critical than ever before.

“An experience economy is fast emerging due to the constant flux of disruptions happening in the Southeast Asia, and throughout the world,” he said, citing Singapore-based ride-hailing platform Grab as an example.

“Look at Grab, which has totally redefined everyday transportation in our region,” said Williamson. “Disruption is progressively eliminating inefficiencies and placed the power in the hands of consumers who now have choices, and their preference is usually based on their experiences.”

He foresees that the combination of technology and the connected world means successful businesses would need to constantly reinvent themselves and business models to always be “ahead of the curve”.

“In the past, growth would often be reflected in a diagonal line downwards from the left to upwards on the right. These days, it’s more like an ‘S curve’ for growing companies. Disruptors themselves can also be disrupted – and companies need to continuously reinvent themselves to stay relevant.”

Enter the experience economy

Sensing the progressive rise of the experience economy, SAP completed its acquisition of Qualtrics in January, a company that develops so-called “experience management” software.

“These days, consumer expectations have changed in terms of timeline, with greater emphasis on speed – this is where technology comes in,” said Williamson. “Something that could be delivered in a week’s time before is no longer acceptable. People just want it faster.”

The next evolution of enterprise applications has already begun with a real-time connection between the system of action and the system of record. Businesses in today’s age of disruption need both trajectories to develop personalised and deep relationships with consumers
Duncan Williamson, SAP

“What’s more, consumers are also more selective and would rather customise things to their taste and liking.”

“If things are not quite up to mark between what’s delivered and consumer expectations, the void in between is called the ‘experience gap’. Previously, it was all about running a business efficiently. These days, it is about guaranteeing great experiences for everyday consumers – because there are now numerous choices that disruptions have brought to the world.”

Williamson believes Qualtrics would add a whole new dimension to SAP’s customer experience value proposition. “The combination of Qualtrics’ experience data with operational data from SAP will enable businesses to manage supply chains, networks, employees and core processes better,” he said.

“The next evolution of enterprise applications has already begun with a real-time connection between the system of action and the system of record. Businesses in today’s age of disruption need both trajectories to develop personalised and deep relationships with consumers.

“All in all, customer experience is the key differentiator for sustainable growth.”

The intelligent enterprise

Williamson also emphasised the need for businesses to continue employing technology as a strategic business enabler.

“Technology, in essence, is an enabler for growth. Why I say enabler is because – and it’s pretty obvious – businesses must have crystal clear visions of their business models and growth paths. After that, technology comes in to accelerate growth when applied appropriately.”

He then explained SAP’s strategy for businesses to make the journey into becoming “intelligent enterprises” to stay ahead of disruptions, and to chart their own growth paths.

“As you know, SAP’s vision is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Being a best-run business, in turn, means emerging as an intelligent enterprise so that our customers achieve their desired outcomes while delighting their customers along the way.”

An intelligent enterprise, said Williamson, comes from a position of strength whereby it is able to reimagine the business to generate new markets and revenue streams.

“It is about maximising the value of an enterprise’s data assets, and turning the data into precious insights to empower employees to operate with increased visibility, focus and agility. That way, businesses are also better able to respond to individual customer needs, engage talent in new ways and create disruptive business models to chart their growth path,” he said.

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