Patrick Daxenbichler - Fotolia

Driving change is key barrier in APAC digital transformation

Rallying employees and business partners around digital engagement efforts is just one of the challenges facing companies in the region

The biggest challenge in digital transformation in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is driving change across organisations rather than the technology, say business leaders.

Speaking at the SAP Hybris event in Singapore this month, Michael Gourlay, CEO of general insurance company MSIG Singapore, said one of the biggest challenges was to convince agents that the firm was not cutting out intermediaries by selling directly to consumers through digital platforms.

“It has taken us a long time to work together with them to provide a platform they need to serve their customers,” said Gourlay, adding that such efforts were ongoing but the company was getting there.

Gourlay said that although there were many digital tools and services companies could use to facilitate digital transformation, the challenge lay in identifying what MSIG Singapore should really focus on.

“Every day, you read about new ways of doing things on LinkedIn and Twitter, but what do we do? For us at the moment, it’s still around customer experience, sales and fulfilment, but we’d like to go beyond that,” he said.

It also took some time to convince people in the organisation about the need for digital transformation, said Gourlay, but the workforce had supported the company’s efforts.

According to Gourlay, MSIG’s digital transformation dates back to the 1980s, when it made use of electronic data interchange (EDI), then a common way of exchanging client information and insurance agents’ commission reports.

With the arrival of the internet, MSIG was able to give its agents deeper sales capabilities, he said. “Over the last three to four years, we’ve been able to go further and last year, over half of our new product sales in Singapore were made through our digital platforms.”

Asics, a Japanese maker of sports shoes and clothes with an established network of distributors and wholesalers, faced similar challenges at a time when consumers were empowered to decide who to engage with and how.

“We had to get closer to the people who are using our products and give them the focus they deserve,” said Thomas Wasser, Asics’ global lead for customer relationship management (CRM) and multi-channel marketing. He said the company had addressed that challenge by providing its distributors with standardised distributor policies to ensure a consistent consumer experience.

Understand the business

Gourlay advised organisations that are embarking on digital transformation to first understand what drives their business and not just digitise for the sake of it. “Try to look at the long-term value, such as using artificial intelligence to improve services, and not just do the same thing differently,” he said.

Asics’ Wasser emphasised the need to move together as an organisation and break down any silos that may exist across geographies and departments. “Digital transformation is not just one department’s project – start having open discussions so that you are transparent not only internally, but also to your customers,” he said.

Both Asics and MSIG use SAP Hybris, a customer engagement and commerce cloud suite that has been beefed up by a new revenue cloud service with capabilities for order configuration, pricing, quoting, order orchestration and subscription billing.

The new service also connects to SAP’s S/4 Hana business suite, enabling enterprises to track and manage the health of customer relationships and their overall business.

“We have had a billing solution for many years, but that was focused on the transactional side,” said Marcus Ruebsam, senior vice-president, global head solution management at SAP Hybris. “The revenue management cloud will allow you to look at business models and the way products are sold, whether usage- or subscription-based.”

The fact that the revenue cloud is based on flexible and open microservices also reduces cost and implementation time, said Ruebsam, adding that the service will also run in other environments.

Read more on Managing IT and business issues