Companies embrace change from within to capitalize on tech advancements

By: Euan Black - Posted on: May 4, 2017 | Business

With industry adopting new technology at a dizzying rate, the idea that humans are being rendered obsolete has taken root. But as high-tech becomes the norm, experts say a company’s workplace culture and human resources will make it stand out

Jessica Li, APAC director of customer experience at Johnson & Johnson (far right) talks during a panel discussion entitled 'Why millennials are killing loyalty and demanding brand engagement' at the recent CXO Leaders Summit held at the Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore, 27 April 2017. Photo: Media Corp International
Jessica Li, APAC director of customer experience at Johnson & Johnson (far right) talks during a panel discussion entitled ‘Why millennials are killing loyalty and demanding brand engagement’ at the recent CXO Leaders Summit held at the Suntec Convention Centre in Singapore, 27 April 2017. Photo: Media Corp International

Singapore is not known for its creative flair, nor for having a particularly progressive culture. Yet at the recent CXO Leaders Summit, a conference focusing on how companies can better use their data to improve their customer experience, the two themes were ever-present.

“Putting technologies in place without having a new mind-set is like investing in a white elephant. You’re just wasting your time,” Rod Strother, vice president of digital transformation at telecommunications provider StarHub, said during the event’s first panel discussion.

“Companies must marry technology with human curiosity,” said Mac Bryla, senior consultant at the data analytics firm Tableau, in his keynote address. “Innovation is like teenage sex; lots of people are talking about it, a few people are doing it, and not many are doing it right.”

Technology is just a tool, they argued. The people behind it are what decides whether a company succeeds.

It is an idea that has gained currency of late, with the World Economic Forum publishing a report last year explaining how increasing automation means that complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity will be the three most sought after workplace skills in 2020.

Strother told Southeast Asia Globe that changing people’s mind-sets meant adjusting a company’s overall culture, a process that begins with defining the company’s purpose. Not only does a clearly defined company raison d’être mean that employees will be able to carry out their work with greater conviction, he said, it will also improve sales.

“What we’re trying to do as a telco is what our competitors are trying to do in terms of our products and services. So, what’s important is that customers believe in what a company stands for. You’ve got to stand for something and that goes back to culture as well,” he said.

Strother’s sentiments were echoed by Niamh Byrne, Citi Bank’s head of customer experience in the Asia Pacific and Europe, the Middle East and Africa, who explained to Southeast Asia Globe that the bank had updated its internal work culture in line with the evolving demands of the modern consumer, encouraging “collaboration through cross functional teams”.

“Technology is just the enabler. We really need to walk in the shoes of the customer and understand customer behaviour,” she said. “Whether it’s through deep dives into customer behaviour, focus groups or consumer panels online, we need to understand what people want.”