Asian CIOs Series

The Rise of Technology in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

In this first interview of the series, Ganapathy Subramaniyan, CIO of Everise, takes the spotlight to discuss the importance of CX and how technology is being used to meet fast-changing customer expectations.

The technology industry is not a static enterprise, especially not in Asia. Consider how this region accounted for 52% of global growth in tech-company revenues, 51% of spending on R&D, and 87% of patents filed over the last decade.

Today’s businesses are tapping new technologies to drive greater business outcomes. A common example is how cloud-based data hubs are used to build predictive models and generate prescriptive insights. Intelligent automation is now mainstream, with use cases ranging from robotic process automation to full-blown machine learning-based automation.

At the same time, customer behavior is evolving. As the digital maturity of the consumer base improves, the channel of choice by which they interact with brands has also expanded. Customers now expect and demand seamless interaction across multiple digital channels including mobile, webchats, social media, and even video.

The rise of technology has worked up the appetite of Asia’s consumers. The region is expected to make up 56% of global consumer demand by 2030, a significant growth from 41% in 2018.

Meeting Evolving Customer Expectations

Meeting expectations first requires an understanding of the key customer behaviors that are shaping the role of IT in businesses.

Ganapathy Subramaniyan, CIO of Everise, weighed in on the importance of customer experience. “Today’s customers not only expect a hyper-personalized customer experience in their interactions with a brand they have connected with previously, they also have shown a preference for self-service, enabled by automation and AI. Furthermore, customers expect faster response and turnaround times from brands,” he said.

The importance of customer experience is further emphasized by a PwC survey on the future of CX2, where 32% of all consumers is prepared to leave a brand they love after a single bad experience; nearly half would leave after two to three such experiences.

Meeting these expectations requires businesses and organizations to leverage the growing datasets that are generated in their interactions with customers. Data analytics allows optimization of customer experiences and reduction in overall operating costs.

The insights generated also facilitate better, timelier decisions to source, develop, integrate, and deploy customer experience solutions. Soon, automation of conversational elements using AI will likely bridge the communication gap between people and machines, providing accurate yet personalized customer service to a wide customer base.

Beyond data analytics, instead of using it for manufacturing, digital twins can be used to create a replica of a customer persona to get a better understanding the customer. It allows organizations to take in a massive variety of variables to improve applications and automation for an improved customer journey, while minimizing the risk of adverse effects on real customers.

The Rise of Technology in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities

Succeeding in a Post-Pandemic Economy

The global pandemic brought digital transformation into clear focus for many organizations and put transformation strategies to the test.

Many of the changes that have arisen during this pandemic, such as allowing employees to work from home, core infrastructural changes that enabled an agile environment, and even remote work employment models that allow employment across borders and time zones, have become new norms. And with new norms come new business models.

Yet as it goes, technology is not a static enterprise. Changes that have taken place should not be seen as the final evolution. Companies must be prepared to continue diversifying and embedding long-term transformational thinking to mitigate any risks in the customer experience and further enhance it.

According to Subramaniyan, one of the priorities of CIOs post-pandemic is to continue these long-term digital transformation initiatives.

“Many organizations are turning to business process management partners as key drivers and have started seeking partners with innovative digital capabilities,” he added. “These will ultimately achieve their objectives of transforming and enhancing their customers’ digital experience.”

Evolving Role of IT and the CIO

IT teams no longer look after a single mainframe and proprietary infrastructure, but instead must deploy and maintain a dynamic, distributed environment that often cuts across different technologies and service providers. IT is responsible for developing and looking after far more digital processes, applications, and platforms than ever before, as well as the surge of data being generated that has to be collated and analyzed.

Gemma Manning, Founder of Gemstar—a strategic growth partner for start-ups, scale-up businesses, and innovators in Asia—thinks that the role of CIO has to evolve.

“Today’s CIO needs to be strategic, agile, and forward-looking. With the current unprecedented rate of digitalization and disruption, the CIO needs to take the lead in steering the ship through today’s uncharted waters,” she explained.

This is because business leaders now look to IT to provide critical capabilities that enable shifts to new business models, rapid development of products and services, and to scale new technologies and tools at short notice. To meet these challenges, IT should build up scalable and adaptable infrastructure, leverage new technologies such as intelligent automation, and explore gig platforms to keep resource requirements nimble. IT must be organized around business services, and CIOs must take on the role of partner rather than an enabler.

“Oftentimes, a different approach is needed for this: one that is more open-minded and more willing to move with the times, to change legacy systems and have security top-of-mind to keep pace with the landscape,” added Manning. “CIOs, especially those of mid- to large-sized businesses, need to embrace collaborative partnerships and learn from more disruptive and nimble players, who are often able to move more quickly to respond to changing client needs.”

CIOs have already seen their jobs grow exponentially in the last few decades, and further growth is inevitable as many aspects of business, platforms and customer experience become digitized, and more people gain access to technology. It becomes the role of the CIO to learn and illustrate, tell stories, and educate their business’ leadership, and to monitor, prioritize, and act on the rapid influx of digital needs.

Technology is rapidly evolving, especially so in Asia with its increasingly digital consumer base. Businesses and organizations must leverage rapid technological adoption, making use of data and automation, to ensure that they continue to meet or exceed customer expectations. To meet this challenge, CIOs must be prepared to be the proponents of digital transformation in their organizations, acting as partners and growing IT as an integral part of business.

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