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'Enterprises Should Embrace Digital Transformation'

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Bala Mahadevan, CEO, Orange Business Services India, discusses plans for growth and current strategy to scale up operations in India

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In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Bala Mahadevan, CEO, Orange Business Services India, discusses plans for growth and current strategy to scale up operations in India. Edited excerpts:

What are the business factors driving huge digital transformation programs in corporates?
There are many technical as well as non-technical definitions available on the internet and books when we look up the term "Digital transformation". Even though the term has evolved over the years, the whole point of digital transformation still boils down to on term the digital consumer. The digital consumer today wants only one thing: service, and this should be available anytime, anywhere, and anyhow. The digital consumer expects more and more with each passing day.

A digital consumer behaves differently everywhere, be it at work with his colleagues, or the way he interacts with his friends on social networks. Enterprises hence, have to work with service providers or society at large to meet the rising expectations, a huge challenge and a motivator for the enterprises these days.

Different industries are at different phase of digital transformation. For instance the retail, ecommerce, and banking sectors are more moving faster along the path to digital as compared to industries such as manufacturing, government etc.

Today's enterprises not only need to undergo transformation in terms of the technology they use, but also need to rethink their place in the market. One of the best examples we see today is the travel industry, specifically with airlines. As a consumer, I expect to be updated on the status of my flight from the moment I enter the airport, to when I board the flight, all without human interface. The digital travel economy is hence enabling air travel providers to give choice and convenience to their customers as never before. A case in point would be a recent survey stating that only 8 per cent of passengers would use human contact, such as a travel agent or call center, to book their flight.

What are the challenges and opportunities could CIOs face in this journey?
The journey of digital transformation is extremely fast paced. One of the key challenges for CIOs is matching the pace of this transformation as technologies are becoming obsolete on a daily basis. Compounding this is the fact that transformation is not restricted only to technology. The other challenge I see is the amount and pace of data being produced due to this disruption, which not only cause problems for data storage, but also security. Security is critical to any business, and without secure data storage and processing, all the data being generated and collected is useless.

Yet at the same time, these challenges open doors for the CIOs to emerge as a hero by adapting to change. CIOs can rise up to the challenge of harnessing technology including cloud, Big Data and analytics, cybersecurity, social media, etc. to create new business models which not only help the enterprises of today to survive, but to excel in this competitive environment. This also gives them the opportunity to earn and coach new technologies within organizations, and emerge as business leaders to drive change.

How is Orange helping CIOs in their digital transformation journey?
The digitally connected CIO can empower COOs and CFOs by introducing more effective enterprise performance management by harnessing digital solutions to serve the business. This presents an opportunity for Orange Business Services to harness its 'business first, technology second' approach.

As a regional and global leader in the IT services and telecommunications industry, Orange's teams strive to build up strong, in-depth knowledge of our customers' business priorities that will in turn, guide them in problem solving to help customers' to achieve more, often with less. We couple our rich expertise in cloud, network, mobility and other digital technologies with a comprehensive suite of solutions to provide CIOs with the right tools to effect change in their organisations. Having the appropriate solutions in place, in turn, helps enterprises raise productivity, customer satisfaction, and overall performance.

What are the benefits of digital transformation for an enterprise?

There are many ways in which an enterprise can benefit from digital transformation. Let me quote three examples how businesses can take advantage of digital transformation to improve how they work, what they sell, and how they interact with customers.

1. New ways of working: flexible workspaces
Digital transformation can revolutionize the way businesses work. The massive growth in mobile devices means that anyone can work productively anywhere. Employees do not want to be tied down to a traditional office with a desktop PC and a 9-5 working day anymore. They want to start the day working at home replying to emails, work on their presentation on the way to a customer meeting, and drop into a shared workspace to brainstorm with colleagues. Digital transformation helps the employees stay connected as and when required.

Also, unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools bring colleagues, partners and customers together. They allow workers to meet virtually at a moment's notice and work with colleagues like they are sitting next to them. This speeds up business processes by making it easier for people to get things done faster.

2. New revenue streams: Internet of Things
The Internet of Things provides a massive opportunity for businesses to digitize, optimize and automate existing processes, create new revenue streams, and drive innovation. This is possible as devices can exchange data automatically in real time without human intervention. For example, medical devices equipped with IoT technology can enable to healthcare professionals to remotely monitor patients' statuses. The data collected can also benefit medical research into improving or developing new forms of treatment.

3. New customer experience: 360° relationships
The Internet and social media has completely changed the relationship that businesses have with their customers, particularly in retail. Through the Internet, customers are able to shop anywhere, anytime, and retail outlets with poor customer service will suffer. Social media has emerged as a key source of information for product choice, as well as a customer service channel.

Digital transformation affects consumer awareness, giving rise to digital consumers who have in-depth knowledge regarding the services provided to them, changing the nature of the relationship of an organization and its customer.

What makes a good chief digital officer?
Before we talk about chief digital officers, there are few facts we should consider. According to a global study by Deloitte:

1. 100 billion connected devices are expected by 2025, leading towards a trillion sensor ecosystem
2. In the last two years, we've seen 9 times more data created than in the entire history of humanity
3. 1 billion digital natives will join the workforce in the next 7 years

CDOs today face the challenge of digital and tech-savvy users within the organization and not just external users such as consumers. The CDOs who manage to transform the organization internally as well as externally are considered successful. For example, many companies come up with a digital strategy to cater to the end consumer and create best application for customer experience. While doing so, they miss equipping their internal audience i.e. the employees who are catering to those customers, which ultimately impacts the end user experience. Hence, a good CDO needs to understand this and come up with a digital strategy that will not only enhance customer experience, but also empower employees as well.


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