It’s Time to Out-Innovate the Innovation Leaders

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The last few months have been full of bad news for some of the organisations currently recognised as the most innovative firms on the planet. Netflix has been losing subscribers, Amazon’s revenue growth is slowing dramatically, and Tesla now has serious competition in the EV market, with its dominance beginning to wane. In Australia – my home country – some of the “fintech” banks have closed their virtual doors over the past six months, leaving the market to the traditional players.

And many of the traditional businesses are turning themselves around. Foxtel, the “legacy” cable TV provider in Australia, has grown its subscriber base by 19% off the back of its streaming services – where subscriber numbers are growing at over 60% YoY. ComfortDelgro – a transport provider based out of Singapore – is seeing its revenue start to increase again after being hit hard by digital competitors and the pandemic. CBA’s “Ceba” virtual assistant is winning plaudits in Australia and globally.

It’s Not Too Late to Catch-up!

In many respects, the fact that the digital disruptors got SO far ahead is an indication of just how slow the rest of the market was to respond, and a credit to the significant investments these innovators made to get ahead. But now that the rest of the market is catching up shows that there is no secret sauce when it comes to innovation. What Uber, Tesla, Amazon and every other digital innovator has done is replicable. Your business just needs to make the necessary changes to give you the ability to catch up to the digital innovators in your industry – do it well and you will even keep up with them or get ahead. And innovation is the leading business priority for most organisations today!

Innovation and Transformation Lead Business Priorities in 2022

What all of the digital disruptors did fifteen years ago, and many other businesses have done since then, is develop the ability to create and improve digital customer experiences at pace. Nearly every customer experience is digital – at least in part. So creating great digital experiences will go a long way to creating great customer experiences. Sounds easy right?

However, what this actually means is they changed their culture, structure, KPIs, technology, skills and the nature of their business. Many organisations have beaten the path to becoming digital businesses – in fact, it is a well-worn path. When you set off on the journey you are no longer taking risks or heading out alone. There is a very clear playbook as to how to become a digital business today.

What Does a Digital Business Look Like?

If you are part of your organisation’s tech team and wondering how digital your business is, ask these questions:

  • Do you mainly deploy new technology services with the Waterfall project methodology?
  • Do all of the development work with the IT team (and not in business or customer teams)?
  • Does it take months or years to deploy new services?
  • Are your KPIs the same as they were 5-10 years ago?

If the answer to some or all of these questions is YES, then it is likely that you are working for a business that will not catch up with or get ahead of your competitors. You might have a few initiatives that see you make some ground on them – but innovation today is not about leaps and bounds – it is about continual improvement. If you catch up today but don’t have the ability to continually improve, you will have fallen behind again tomorrow…

The good news is it is never too late to start this journey. It typically starts from the top of your business – the CIO cannot make the entire business agile. The head of the digital cannot change the culture of the entire organisation. But the IT and digital teams can get the ball rolling by changing their structure and work processes. Start by moving some developers into the Customer Experience team (if you have one!). Stop funding projects and start funding squads, tribes and teams. Structure the team around the customer journey – or at least make it easier for customers to get value from the digital assets and services you offer. Hopefully, someone will notice the fact that the tech team is helping a business unit or team to operate with agility and they’ll start asking why they cannot have that same ability?

And by then the ball is rolling down the hill and you are on your way to being a digital business – and on your way to giving customers the products, services and experiences they demand today and tomorrow.

The Future of Industries
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5 Insights on the State of the Sustainable Organisation – An ASEAN View

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Organisations are being driven to develop and demonstrate an ESG consciousness and a sustainability commitment in their actions and investments – by their customers, investors and by governments’ sustainability mandates. Early adopter organisations often realise several benefits – from achieving better financial outcomes to creating competitive differentiation. However, more organisations need to get serious about their sustainability journeys – and as regulations firm up, organisations will be forced to report on their sustainability initiatives.  

The Ecosystm Kyndryl ASEAN Digital Transformation Study 2022 was launched earlier this year to understand the pulse of C-level leaders and the business and technology transformation goals of organisations in the ASEAN region. This included a closer look on where organisations stand when it comes to setting sustainability goals and strategies, and their key challenges.
 
Here are 5 insights on the state of the Sustainable Organisation in ASEAN.

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Web 3.0 is Inevitable

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The fundamentals of Web 3.0 are deeply rooted in technology that is ever-changing and continuously evolving. Web 3.0, powered by blockchains and crypto, is the Internet’s biggest technological upgrade since it became mainstream in the 1980s. 

What is Web 3.0 and Why Does it Matter? 

Web 1.0 (1990-early 2000s) – READ. The early Internet was characterised by an open-source protocol like HTTP, where the value accrued to the users and builders. In this era, technology companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon made their mark by layering on services such as search, directory listings and media publishing over an open-source infrastructure, essentially creating an online version of the offline world. The core contributors to digital media were mainly journalists, writers and reporters who reproduced pieces of their print content in a digital format. There was very little censorship during this period and the information was available mainly as databases.  

Web 2.0 (early 2000-today) – READ & WRITE. This phase witnessed a wave of tech advancement, upgrades to servers, faster Internet speeds, development of complex APIs, algorithms and code to create peer-to-peer opportunities, user-generated content and social networking. Services such as Facebook and Twitter began monetisation of the increased user base through digital advertising. The years 2007-2012 saw a mobile revolution with Apple providing users with their first iPhone in 2007 and opened doors to third-party apps and builders. Facebook’s mobile pivot in 2012 amplified user social connectivity tremendously. 

The tech architecture for Web 2.0 is built on a client-server protocol, where users are the clients, contributing content and the companies control the servers. The core functionality of the early Internet which was open for anyone to use and build on, has now transformed where the authority rests in the hands of the few. The rise of the creator economy is dependent on the frameworks developed by centralised companies. Software and hardware upgrades and renunciation of data and privacy rights by users to platforms have further accelerated centralisation of power. The Web 2.0 ecosystem now has a monopolistic culture where the companies decide who can participate, in what capacity, and how much value to share with stakeholders. Consumers do not have any ownership of their data or control over how it gets used; while creators give up rights to their content and do not have the ability to export their fanbase out from the platforms they have used, to interact with their communities. There is no incentive alignment between corporations and networks, and the users have no say in the platforms’ economics and governance. Web 2.0 is an Internet era built on ‘rented land’ where users don’t own anything. 

Web 3.0 (2020 onwards) – READ, WRITE and OWN. Web 3.0 is a new computing platform, a paradigm shift towards a more democratised Internet, which is owned by the users and builders who create and transfer value in a trustless and decentralised way, facilitated through tokens. It is re-engineering the Internet’s open protocol and leveraging its architecture to benefit people rather than corporations. 

The Core Components of Web 3.0 

In order to understand the importance of Web 3.0 as technological innovation, it is essential to learn about its core components – tokens and blockchains. 

Tokens are pieces of code that are used to transact over a blockchain and provide a record of digital ownership. They can be fungible and non-fungible. Fungible tokens are interchangeable (fiat currency, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin). Non-Fungible tokens are unique, i.e no two tokens are alike (such as pieces of art).

The genesis of the blockchain architecture was developed by a pseudonymous individual named Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, who developed a peer-to-peer electronic cash system called Bitcoin (the blockchain), that uses its native token (BTC) to transact over its network.  Blockchain is a decentralised distributed ledger system, where transactions are executed and recorded in a series of immutable blocks on an interconnected network of nodes (computers). 

Blockchains can be imagined as supercomputers that process thousands of transactions in exchange for incentives or tokens that accrue to miners and validators as rewards. Tokens are a new digital asset class that is increasingly seen as a store of value (Bitcoin), means of exchange (Ethereum, Solana and alternative cryptocurrencies), social currency (Rally.io) and several other use cases that offer utility and monetisation abilities to creators, entertainers and artists.  

Future Value Drivers

Since 2020, we have seen the growth of cryptocurrencies and blockchain adoption by institutions and retail investors due to the decoupling of crypto into various value drivers like Decentralised Finance (DeFi), Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs). 

DeFi. DeFi refers to a financial system that runs on blockchain technology, and uses smart contracts that replace the need for traditional financial (TradFi) businesses to act as intermediaries. Core functions such as lending, borrowing. and transacting takes place seamlessly without the need for banks to execute the transactions. DeFi runs on code, a set of rules that are predefined on smart contracts. Users of the decentralised protocol own the network and participate in the rewards through token distribution. Tokens are distributed as incentives to users who are contributors to the network. There are strong differences between DeFi and TradiFi on trust, transparency, identity and access.

NFTs. NFTs are a record of ownership of digital assets on a blockchain. Technological advancements to the Bitcoin Blockchain genesis architecture and the introduction of smart contracts to blockchains such as Ethereum enabled a new use case of tradeable programmable tokens to emerge in the crypto landscape.

NFTs have been transformational to digital asset ownership and saw exponential growth in user adoption in 2020. A key milestone event in the history of NFTs is the USD 69 million sale of ‘Everydays: the first 5000 days’, by digital artist Beeple at an art auction organised by Christie’s in March 2020. Transaction volumes have now surpassed nearly USD 13 billion.  

NFT represents anything digital that’s unique (non-fungible), has value, can be traded and its ownership secured on a blockchain. NFTs most commonly represent digital art, but they can be digital wearables, in-game virtual objects, a contract deed attached to a property, a domain name, or even a piece of writing such as this insight! For the first time, it is possible to exchange value between two trustless individuals anywhere in the world without them needing to disclose their identities or establish any contact and have asset ownership transferred and recorded on a blockchain. 

DAO. A DAO is a community that is created and managed by its members who band together to achieve a common objective. Web 3.0 has enabled a dynamic shift in behavioural economics which is drawing people to it. The shift can be described as triabism at times but has been fascinating. The ongoing pandemic made more people spend time online and in the Metaverse, connect with others and also create. That happy place is called a DAO, where humans meet to share, connect, and drive value in a digital world known as the Metaverse. 

Here are some ways that a DAO differs from a corporate. Companies are governed by a hierarchical system whereas DAOs are run like cooperatives in a flat structure. Company management takes decisions whereas DAO members vote on proposals to take collective decisions. Companies hire talent that meets certain criteria whereas anyone can join a DAO if they hold the DAO tokens/NFT or get invited to join the community. Companies compensate their employees with salaries whereas DAOs reward contributors with tokens.

The Future of a Decentralised Economy

Web 3.0 is transforming the economics of the creative, media and entertainment industry by changing the dynamics of how value gets created and distributed. It is an Internet that works for stakeholders who own it and create value for themselves. The shift from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 is taking place more rapidly than the previous evolution of the Internet. The power dynamics and value generation are fundamentally changing how we view the Internet. 

Web 3.0 is inevitable! 

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Building a Climate Resilient Future with Sustainable Finance

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The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26, that was held in Glasgow in 2021, highlighted the need to mobilise public and private sector finance to support global net-zero emissions targets and to protect communities and habitats.

Sustainable Finance and Green Bonds present opportunities for lenders, investors, and borrowers. It allows borrowers to obtain funding at decreased and competitive costs. And as investor demands continue to rise, Government institutions have expressed keen interest in issuing green bonds to support ecologically beneficial initiatives. 

Here are some recent global announcements.

  • France announces the issuance of USD 4 billion green bond sale.
  • Germany raises USD 4 billion in green bonds to finance green expenditures and investments.
  • Singapore sets a roadmap for its first sovereign green bond with the Singapore Green Bond Framework.
  • Austria launches its first green bond.
  • The UK launches an inquiry into the role of the financial sector in the country’s net zero transition.
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Aligning Innovation and Regulation in a DeFi World

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It’s been a while since I lived in Zurich. It was about this time of year when I first visited the city that I instantly fell in love with. Beautiful blue skies and if you’re lucky enough, you can see the snow-capped mountains from Lake Zurich. It’s hard not to be instantly drawn to this small city of approximately 1.4 million people, which punches well above its weight class. One out of every eleven jobs in Switzerland is in Zurich. The financial sector generates around a quarter of the city’s economic output and provides approximately 59,000 full time equivalent jobs – accounting for 16% of all employment in the city.

Between 21-23 June, Zurich will also be home to the Point Zero Forum – an exclusive invite-only, in-person gathering of select global leaders, founders and investors with the purpose of developing new ideas on emerging concepts such as decentralised finance (DeFi), Web 3.0, embedded finance and sustainable finance; driving investment activity; and bringing together public and private sector leaders to brainstorm on regulatory requirements.

The Future of DeFi

Zug is a little canton outside of Zurich and is famously known as “Crypto Valley”. When I lived in Zurich, Zug was the home of many of the country’s leading hedge funds as Zug’s low tax, business friendly environment and fantastic quality of life attracted many of the world’s leading fund managers and companies. Today the same can be said about crypto companies setting up shop in Zug. And crypto ecosystems are expanding exponentially.

However, with the increase in the global adoption of cryptocurrency, what role will the regulators play in aligning regulation without stifling innovation? How can Crypto Valley and Singapore play a role in defining the role regulation will play in a DeFi world?

DeFi is moving fast and we are seeing an explosion of new ideas and positive outcomes. So, what can we expect from all of this? Well, that is what I will discuss with a group of regulators and industry players in a round table discussion on How an Adaptive and Centralised Regulatory Approach can Shape a Protected Future of Finance at the Point Zero Forum. We will explore the role of regulators in a fast-moving industry that has recently seen some horror stories and how industry participants are willing to work with regulators to meet in the middle to build an exciting and sometimes unpredictable future. How do we regulate something in the future? I am personally looking forward to the knowledge sharing.

For the industry to strive and innovate, we need both regulators and industry players to work together and agree to a working framework that helps deliver innovation and growth by creating new technology and jobs. But we also need to keep an eye out on the increasing number of scams in the industry. It is true to say that we have seen our fair share of them in recent months. The total collapse of TerraUSD and Luna and the collapse of the wider crypto market that saw an estimated loss of USD 500 billion has really spooked global markets.

So is cryptocurrency here for good and will it be widely adopted globally? How will regulators see the recent collapse of Luna and view regulations moving forward? We have reached an interesting point with cryptocurrencies and digital assets in general. Is it time to reflect on the current market or should we push forward and try to find a workable middle ground?

Let’s find out. Watch this space for my follow-up post after the Point Zero Forum event!

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Broadcom’s Acquisition of VMware

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Last month, Broadcom announced their intentions to acquire VMWare in a deal worth USD 61 billion – one of the biggest acquisitions in the tech world. 

Broadcom has been actively looking to diversify away from their core business of chip manufacturing into enterprise software. Their previous acquisitions – CA Technologies for USD 18.9 billion in 2018, followed by Symantec for USD 10.7 billion the next year – have already indicated that. The VMware acquisition is the biggest – and arguably very different from the others.  

Ecosystm Analysts, Alan Hesketh, Darian Bird, Niloy Mukherjee and Tim Sheedy comment on the implications for the companies and the market.

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Experiential Excellence: Thoughts from ServiceNow Knowledge 2022

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In comparison to the golden days of the second half of the 20th century, the last two decades have been hard hit. The fragility of globalisation and that prosperous economic model so beautifully enabled by a 70-year technology revolution, have tested business continuity and disaster recovery plans like never before.

Looking Back

During this time the global community has lurched through tech and property driven financial crisis. It has endured endemic terrorism, and a crippling pandemic. And it has been fragmented by the existential threats of energy and climate, world order dislocation, and challenges to once unshakable fiat money. The wonderfully efficient business models and supply chains enabled by W. Edwards Deming following World War II are fractured and broken. Despite all these challenges, the desire for a hopeful return to a golden age of global prosperity is clearly evident. Just maybe not as we know it.

The period between W. Edwards Deming and Dotcom (let’s say 1950-2000) ushered in ERP and the modern software revolution. Over decades, highly refined processes and perfected workflows shifted from paper and clipboards into mainframe environments – from conveyor belts to computing and from ledgers to LANs.

In the progression to slightly less monolithic server-based business applications, millions of lines of customised code are transferred into configurable data fields, coupled with ready-made workflow connections, and processes based on standards set by leading companies and their representative bodies. The standardisation of business systems lowered the entry point for new enterprises, spawned new industries, and ultimately allowed SaaS to proliferate.

ERP was a true revolution in automating process and quality management systems and building the modern world. Cloud was then a transformation for ERP. It was an innovation on an original idea, but it wasn’t the next revolution. In many ways, by standardising business systems, we went too far. The vendor market over-estimated what configuration over customisation could achieve and ultimately set unachievable expectations in relation to client outcomes. On the client side, end-user organisations seized on vanilla processes and workflows and got lazy about working out solutions to their own problems. In chasing out-of-the-box software they sought to expedite, and even outsource, the hard work. In doing so, the core driver of 20th century post war economic prosperity was forgotten.

Looking Ahead

In business transformations there are no short cuts to results

One of the defining social drivers of the 21st century is a move towards the concept of individualism. We see it everywhere. In the transformation of traditional marriage, family, and identity structures. In the migration away from the concept of houses and homes, in the rise of the gig economy, and even in the regulatory schemes of government, financial and insurance services. The individual sits at the centre of new globalisation economic design and is giving rise to the next business systems revolution. At ServiceNow Knowledge 2022 I was fortunate to hear Dr Catriona Wallace and the Hon Victor Dominello MP discuss it in the context of their recent research. Dr Wallace described the trend as, “know me and care about me”, and discussed the requirements to operate within a world of both hyper-personalisation and ethical restraint.

This time however the business systems revolution to support this change is not being driven by process efficiencies and quality management, though they remain important tools. It is being driven by the pursuit of Experiential Excellence. You’ve heard it many times before and once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee it – Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Digital Experience. These are all ambitions of populist organisational and service transformation agendas with Experiential Excellence at their core.

For business and technology leaders it requires a mental shift. Traditional ERP alone will not get us there. It means a new business systems methodology is required to accompany, and reflect the challenges of the modern world, not one created more than 70 years ago.

An Experiential Excellence platform isn’t just a new ERP. It’s a new type of system capable of operating at speed and with breakthrough power; but it is also capable of breaking the intellectual shackles of pre-configuration to help organisations recapture the essence of what Deming started so long ago and we somehow lost along the way: The ability to think about and solve any kind of complex, innovative and multi-objective, multi-stakeholder problem. And I think that ServiceNow, and the Now Platform, is the first company (and business system) to do it.

The sense of something special was clearly evident among ServiceNow staff and partners, at the event. But I don’t think they have yet nailed the messaging. And the reason is because there is still such a strong gravitational pull towards the old ERP model among end-user clients. This reinforces a need for ServiceNow to still define itself by the last 50 years of system technology rather than the next 50.

That needs to change. So, next time when a client asks, is ServiceNow an ERP or is it an RPA platform or something else, the answer is – it is neither, and both, and all, and sometimes at the same time. This wonderful superposition, the same quantum computing characteristic that allows a particle to be one thing, or either, or both, all at the same time, is the very essence of their opportunity – should they wish to take it.

To be a leader in the new quantum age of computing will mean taking the brave step of unshackling themselves from the 20th century view of ERP and lead the redefinition of business systems for the quantum age. Let the revolution begin.  

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5 Key Insights to Shape Your Cloud Strategy – An ASEAN View

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Digital transformation has been a key company objective over the last two years – and more than a third of enterprises in ASEAN have it as their key business priority in 2022-23. They are aiming to be agile and digital organisations – with access to real-time data insights at their core. 

Businesses have learned that their technology systems need to be scalable, accessible, easy to manage, fast to deploy and cost effective. Cloud infrastructure, platforms and software has become key enablers of business agility and innovation.

But the expansion of cloud applications has also seen an infrastructure and applications sprawl – which makes it essential for organisation to re-evaluate their cloud strategy. 

Here are 5 insights that will help you shape your Cloud Strategy.

  • Technology Change Management. Your cloud strategy must define the infrastructure and data architecture, security and resiliency measures, the technology environment management model, and IT operations.   
  • Building Scalable Enterprises. Focus on seamless access to all organisational data, irrespective of where they are generated (enterprise systems, IoT devices or AI solutions) and where they are stored (public cloud, on-premises, Edge, or co-location facilities).
  • A Hybrid Multicloud Environment. For a successful hybrid multi cloud environment, keep a firm eye on hybrid cloud management, a suitable FinOps framework that balances performance and cost, and integration.
  • A Technology-Neutral Approach. Partnering with a technology-neutral cloud services provider that leverages the entire tech ecosystem, will be critical.
  • “Hybrid Cloud” Can Mean Many Things. Work with a cloud services partner, that has broad and deep capabilities across multiple hyperscalers and is able to address the unique requirements of your organisation.

Read on for more insights

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