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Evolving Frontiers of Competitiveness; the New Battleground for CIOs

By Dr. Alok Bharadwaj, SVP, South & South East Asia, Corporate Strategy Group, Canon Singapore

Evolving Frontiers of Competitiveness; the New Battleground for CIOs

Dr. Alok Bharadwaj, SVP, South & South East Asia, Corporate Strategy Group, Canon Singapore

In Davos, in Jan 2016, Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of world economic forum introduced the concept of 4th generation of industrial evolution, when he said that we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another in its scale, scope, and complexity. The transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. Well said! But I can’t say if it is music to the ears of CIOs or a call of the calamity?

Usually, technology is music to CIOs. But it indeed is a double edged sword. It is creative on one side as well as destructive on the other. Depends on which side of ecosystem line are you sitting, the disrupters or the disrupted. Let’s examine the two critical areas where technology, or read it as CIOs, our change agents, will build substantial value for the organization as our next evolving frontiers.

"Future is all about competitiveness and relevance, the architecture of which lies in technology"

Before we delve in those, I have to say that I handle corporate strategy & transformations, which is attracting maximum focus from CEOs & business leaders in the current times. Not that, these were not the menu for the table previously. They indeed have always been. The difference is that previously these were a matter of choice. In current times, these are a subject of compulsion. Previously, these were long term issues. In current backdrop, these have become burning agenda of mid-term. Previously, such a discussion was centered around own industry’s ecosystem. Current discussions cannot start without first examining the technology development and trends across entire business landscape. Technology has re-defined the word competition. We are no longer competing with players in our industry. The industry ecosystems are colliding making us constantly re-configure our competitive advantage.

That is probably why I have begun to attend more CIO than the CEO or CMO events. Quite honestly, even within Canon, out of all transformational projects that I am leading, I am meeting CIOs more often than anyone. Strategy is all about future. Future is all about competitiveness and relevance, the architecture of which lies in technology. The CIO of today is the chief architect.

Let’s go back to the topic of evolving frontiers. Not just to ignite the imagination of CIOs or their will, but to also examine how what might impact and drive investments in IT. First such frontier is the domain of ‘Customer Experience’ or CX in short. Regardless of the business we are in, one trend is emerging clearly. In sales & marketing which is my background. We were always trained on how we are better than competition and how are our products superior on features, advantages, and benefits. During the last decade, discussions were majorly around customer solutions. Today, we are all confronted with this new challenge of enhancing customer experience and making it a key differentiator. The new battleground is not merely customer solutions but customer experiences. Good news is that business leaders know this and most of you, who are reading this are aware and discussing it. Bad news is that not many leaders know where to start, how to create and build an enduring architecture to deliver superior CX. CIOs have enormous opportunity to steer this agenda within their organizations. Never mind whether the discussion starts with CMO. It is not merely a marketing challenge but for the whole organization. Hence, CIOs can really push the envelope up on the ‘value chain’ beyond imagination.

In Canon, we have started this journey. We are not the first ones, but probably a part of few where CIO is the chief architect. CX is not a simple dose of one medicine. It permeates through several touch points. How to build an integrated, seamless, omni-channel, personalized & secure system is key. Connected and socially well networked customers make technology a big enabler in this pursuit. The best part is that we can even monetize this superior customer experience. Thank you CIO.

The second frontier is the domain of ‘employee experience’ or EX in short. Interestingly, if customer centricity is the cart that leaders want to drive, employees are the horse ahead of this cart. Like customers, employees too have a journey and workplace experiences are being impacted by technology big time. No wonder like CRM, HCM technology platforms are hot selling propositions. What is not so common currently is the deployment of technology in learning in our workplaces. We assume that customers’ behavior is different than employee behavior when it comes to technology. Not true! Increasingly, more than 50 percent of our workplace is filled with millennials who are not just fond of technology but are natives.  Hence, this is the second most critical frontier that needs our friendly CIO’s help. All organizations are spending big sums on L&D. However, there are two big challenges. One is the fragmented methodology wherein programs are provided on skills. Secondly, it’s the lack of measurement of learning. This is a good problem to solve.

So Mr. Chief Architect of the next decade helps us in surfing. Waves are coming. They can either wash us away or become pleasant ones as we ride them.  Like Canon tagline, just keep delighting us always.

Founded in 1979, Canon Singapore is a global player providing photographic and digital imaging solutions. Serving as the headquarters for South & Southeast Asia driving sales, marketing, and service strategies, the company leads 22 other regions including subsidiaries in India, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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