5 key areas APAC’s companies need to address to create their future success

As best-selling author and management consultant Peter Drucker once said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

For CXOs looking to create the futures of their tech-driven organizations in 2022 and beyond, what are some of the key business priorities they need to consider? Chris Chelliah, Senior Vice President, Customer Strategy, Insight & Business Development, Oracle JAPAC shares his thoughts—drawn from scores of conversations with leaders across the Asia Pacific region—as a starting point.

1. Boards will demand true transformation from their cloud investments.

Organizations worldwide will spend an eye-popping US$1.78 trillion on cloud and other “digital transformation” initiatives in 2022, according to Statista.

The question is, are companies and governments investing to truly transform, or are they just applying digital lipstick to business as usual, leading to what Forrester calls “digital sameness”?

The shift to cloud computing, including autonomous technologies, is critical. In the private sector, already one or more cloud-centric digital “outsiders” are disrupting just about every industry, whether it’s retail, media, entertainment, travel, education, logistics, financial services, healthcare, consumer electronics, or transportation.

Take, Singtel, one of Asia’s leading communications groups, which is partnering with digital unicorn Grab to offer banking services to retail and corporate customers in Singapore. Expect to see more such unconventional digital partnerships across sectors.

Certainly, the big rewards come to those organizations that see cloud as a liberator and facilitator. Indeed, Gartner calls the cloud a “force multiplier”—the scalable, resilient technology foundation for long-term innovation and growth.

Increasingly, we are hearing from customers about how cloud is freeing up technical people from spending most of their time on system security, maintenance, etc., letting them focus more on developing unique, profitable digital products and services. Additionally, it is clear that cloud is a facilitator of data driven business, bringing new (artificial intelligence) AI and machine learning (ML) enabled tools to the fingertips of those who understand and can bring change to the business.

As we enter 2022, expect to hear boards asking their executive teams for more evidence that their cloud investments are positioning their companies for long-term competitive advantage.

2. ML and AI will become a core competency for leading digital enterprises. With most enterprises continuing to drown in data, ML and AI algorithms represent the life raft, helping enterprises analyze and continually learn from that data, improving decision-making and informing a range of next actions.

That said, most enterprises are still experimenting with ML/AI.

Part of the problem is finding the requisite skills.

While most companies and government institutions don’t have the resources to marshal an army of data science PhDs, a more practical alternative is to build smaller, more focused “MLOps” teams—much like DevOps teams in application development. Such teams consist of, yes, data scientists, but also developers and other IT operations people whose ongoing mission is to deploy, maintain, and constantly improve ML/AL models in production.

Additionally, enterprises are recognizing the value of taking advantage of cloud infrastructure and applications with ML and AI algorithms built-in.

No wonder Forrester predicts that one in five organizations will double down on what it calls “AI inside”—AI and ML embedded in their systems and operational practices. By 2025, Gartner predicts, the 10% of enterprises that have established ML/AI engineering best practices will generate at least three times more value from those practices than the 90% of enterprises that don’t. Seize the early-mover advantage.

3. Customers and others will evaluate your company through a sustainability lens.

When buying goods and services, sizing up potential employers, even investing in stocks, people of all ages increasingly are evaluating companies’ sustainability track records and commitments. Enterprises are starting to do the same with their suppliers and partners, holding them—and themselves—accountable for reducing their carbon emissions, shifting to renewable energy sources, diverting waste from landfills, and adopting other environmental best practices.

In 2022, it will be incumbent on every enterprise to lay out and execute a comprehensive sustainability strategy, a tall order that will require more focused leadership, especially in APAC. While Forrester reports that among Fortune Global 200 companies, 92% in North America and 81% in EMEA have appointed a sustainability lead at the VP, director, or other executive level, only 26% in APAC have.

“For most firms in APAC, sustainability efforts are driven by compliance and investor pressure, not strategic planning and risk management,” Forester says. “This shortsighted approach checks the box but will not materially affect climate change.” It also won’t fool environmentally attuned customers and partners.

“Real action” requires enterprises to change some of the fundamentals of their business.

4. Employers who don’t adjust their career-development and recruiting practices to the post-pandemic world will fall behind those that do.

Hiring and retaining skilled, talented people continues to be the No. 1 priority of just about every CXO, according to survey after survey. Yet the Great Resignation spurred by the global pandemic suggests that in 2022 employers will have their work cut out for them: Either get more proactive about charting a career path for your most valuable people and listening to their concerns about work-life balance, workplace flexibility, and other issues, or watch as they head for the door.

Indeed, the 2021 AI@Work report by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence found the vast majority of respondents said the pandemic has caused them to feel “stuck” and is pushing them to rethink their futures. In Asia Pacific, 84% are looking to make career changes over the next year; 86% aren’t satisfied with their employer’s career support, and 91% said their employer should do more to listen to their needs. In addition, 93% of respondents said the pandemic has made work-life balance, mental health, and job flexibility bigger priorities for them.

“Workers have much different priorities now compared to before the pandemic,” the AI@Work report says. “People are reconsidering the type of employer they want to work for, what they’re looking for in their careers, and the importance they place on their health and well-being. Companies must take this mindset shift into account as they rethink what the post-pandemic workplace will look like for their people.”

5. Supply chain disruption will become the “never normal”.

The pandemic continues to force supply chain planners to reassess their priorities and how they apply the latest supply chain management (SCM) technologies, as “never normal” becomes the new normal, writes Oracle supply chain experts Eric Domski and Ryan Sumrak.

For instance, whereas “just-in-time” inventory was the pre-pandemic best practice for most enterprises, “safety stock”—or what is known as “just-in-case” inventory management—is considered the new normal.

While even the most sophisticated supply chain technologies won’t fully anticipate the extent of market shocks such as a global pandemic, they can help companies figure out the right balance of safety stock.

As people’s buying behaviors shift—particularly from physical to online channels—companies will need to identify and react to those shifts and plan for the “ripple effects” across their plants, data centers, and extended supply chains, the Oracle experts say. “Now’s the time to fully utilize your supply chain planning solutions to simulate likely scenarios and generate forecasts that better predict ever-changing global demand patterns,” they write.

By considering these key priorities in the context of business impact, opportunities and challenges, Pakistani businesses will be better able to to boost their economic impact and help reignite the new Asian Age.

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