The situation has not returned to normal but businesses and individuals have to get themselves ready and plan ahead early. The Covid-19 pandemic is completely changing the economic and business landscape in a way never seen before. Corporations and individuals alike need to adapt in order to move on efficiently. And they must keep honing their skills to always get themselves ready for a similar crisis that many happen in the future.
After the coronavirus situation improves, economies and businesses will have to undergo three phases of the post-Covid landscape — recovery, re-invention and re-engagement, according to Apirut Vanchaam, chief digital officer of SCG Cement–Building Materials Co Ltd (SCG-CBM).
In the first phase, after mass vaccinations and reopening of the country, businesses and individuals will recover from all the abnormalities witnessed during Covid-19 outbreaks, he said.
- Pomelo ready for next chapter as leading digital fashion platform
- A view from 29-year-old Flash Express CEO Komsan Lee
They will shift their attention from personal safety, income and economic stability to what they viewed as important before the pandemic. Many people want to spend money and travel again after the recovery.
Explaining with the motivational theory known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, people are more concerned with their basic needs during Covid-19, including safety, survival, food and dwelling.
When things get back to normal, people tend to shift their attention towards the needs at the top of the pyramid — progress, success, personal potential, and acceptance, which together form the economy’s driving force.
In the second phase, businesses will have to undergo re-invention to cope with possible changes in customer demands and behaviours resulting from their experience over the past two years.
Many customers have adopted new normal lifestyles and become familiar with new options available during the pandemic. This has led to the need for businesses to re-invent so that products and services can stay relevant.
“In this phase, you need to re-invent understanding of customers, the way you do business and adopt new technologies favoured by customers during the Covid crisis. Among them are online behaviour and interest in personal health and welfare,” Apirut said.
The third phase involves re-engagement with customers after dealing with post-Covid changes and creating new opportunities.
New methods and channels should be adopted in re-engaging with customers. For instance, focus should be put on the online channel and safety for customers, instead of luxury as was the case in the past.
Also, customers should be offered flexible choices. For example, a house is no longer just your home — it can be an office and your child’s classroom.
“People do not view a house as just a place for living anymore. A house now has to be able to cope with diverse demands. This must be your selling point,” the executive said.
SCG previously was a business-to-business (B2B) brand that rarely sold to customers directly. Apirut views that Covid has provided it a good opportunity to re-engage with customers.
“Customers tend to be open at this time as they also have to start anew. This is an important business opportunity for every brand to explore possibilities during the crisis,” he said.
WEDO mission to get through 3 phases
SCG’s digital office, also known as WEDO, has three main duties as center of excellence (COE), implementor, and visionary.
As the COE, WEDO acts as an expert in design, business and technology — which are known collectively as the “innovation trinity”. They are required for a successful corporate transformation based on innovations.
Transformation refers to adaptation aimed at meeting the changing times and customer demands. And innovations can help to create new value for organizations.
“Successful innovations are something people want and benefit them. They must be practical and can be made and maintained by organizations,” Apirut said.
As implementor, WEDO — which stands for “we are digital office” — takes the role of designing innovations internally, instead of outsourcing as was the case in the past.
“We have to make it happen and make [products] at affordable prices, at a proper time,” he said.
As visionary, it has to ensure that SCG maintains its status as a tech leader. Corporate transformation is endless as social contexts keep changing.
If the goal is to make the corporation survive another century, the transformation must be continual. The visionary team plays an important role in maintaining the technological leadership.
“WEDO wears three hats — as expert, implementor and also visionary to help prevent SCG from being left behind in terms of innovations,” the chief digital officer says.
Adopting 3 types of innovation
WEDO adopts three types of innovation in the push for transformation of SCG-CBM — core innovation, adjacent innovation and new/transformative innovation.
Core innovation helps to increase the business’s efficiency, reduce its cost and stay competitive.
Adjacent innovation is required to further improve the original business. For example, SCG Home serves as a new sale channel for SCG’s products and services.
To survive digital disruption, companies need transformative innovation by having a completely new business. SCG is exploring businesses with potential for the future, including alternative energy and healthcare.
Under its vision of “passion for better living”, SCG is transforming itself from being a manufacturer of good materials to a creator of good experiences for customers, or an “experience company”.
“These are three principles that WEDO is using to push for transformation of CBM,” Apirut said.
- The Science Park mission of fostering Thai innovations
- DEPA acts as tech go-between in fight against Covid-19
Duty of driving economic ecosystem
An ecosystem is needed to stay sustainable, and SCG-CBM’s strength is to have an established decades-old ecosystem with a nationwide network of dealerships. CBM also has the obligation of transforming its allies in the ecosystem.
WEDO helps CBM to transform along with all its allies. Regarding the SCG Home project, dealers were assisted in improving their technological potential.
Also, WEDO became engaged in innovation-related ecosystems both in the private and public sectors. Talks are under way with the National Innovation Agency (NIA) and the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), as well as universities like Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, KMUT Thonburi, KMUT Ladkrabang, and KMUT North Bangkok.
Discussions with the private sector have focused on healthcare, active aging and energy for possible joint research over open innovations.
In collaborating with the public sector, WEDO promotes the principle of innovation trinity and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).
Universities have the strength over technical matters. There are courses about AI, IoT and robotics, but lecturers still lack the experience of business development and customer behaviour. WEDO helps fill the void in this regard to help students better understand the business potential of innovations. This way, university research works could be turned into marketable products.
The goal is to help Thailand build more innovations and ecosystems domestically and no longer rely on imported technologies.
“Thailand must be a base for innovations. University graduates must be able to design innovations to be made in Thailand. This is a huge skill gap,” Apirut said.
His team looks for this gap and helps the country build personnel in this area when working with NIA, NECTEC and universities. WEDO offers Young Talent on-the-job training for university students of the innovation-related courses.
According to the executive, WEDO aims to push the deep digital economy in Thailand — a new economy that involves not only software and platforms, but also hardware innovations like IoT that go beyond pure digital.
“We want to see Thai-run businesses that own factories doing deep digital economy,” he said.
Also, WEDO has The Maker Exchange project, serving as a rendezvous for the public and private sectors as well as universities to exchange ideas over innovations under the deep digital economy concept. There, university students with ideas over IoT and AI could get funding and potential customers. Their projects could finally expand into new startups that make hardware innovations or smart devices, in addition to software.
“Deep digital economy involves not only IT people or digital technicians, but also industrial designers and fashion designers. Everyone can benefit from it and a truly creative economy will happen,” Apirut said.
In the past, he added, online giants like Google and Facebook provided opportunities to people in the digital sector only. However, deep digital economy will create opportunities for everyone, as it covers a wider range of segments, including product design, fashion and architecture.
The priorities for WEDO
The first mission is to raise awareness about the need to own innovations and ecosystems of innovations, Apirut said. That is to instill a new mindset that Thais must own innovations, be innovators and able to design own technologies. And to be able to really make money, they have to own innovation ecosystems.
“It’s easy to join an existing system that already has customers. That way, you can go fast but you can’t go far. It’s like you are breathing with a borrowed nose. The new mindset is that we have the potential to build and own our ecosystem,” he said.
The second mission is to look ahead with a visionary perspective and be able to adapt quickly. This is not an age when big fish eat minnows. Rather, quick fish are eating slow ones. If you were big fish, now you need to be quick as well. Resiliency and speed are really important.
It all starts with individuals — every corporate personnel, particularly top executives, must first have the “growth mindset”, Apirut said. That is, the mindset that views every problem as a challenge and new opportunity.
Challenges from the Covid-19 crisis have led to new opportunities, as consumers are changing their behaviour and viewpoint.
Next, organizations must be resilient and expect the unexpected. They cannot expect to stay unaffected by outside influence and they have to think ahead and do new things in five years, for example.
Their long-term plan may be revised to suit the future changes. The organization’s structure and business should be designed in a way that can be altered easily if needed.
Apirut said that when facing a crisis and having to re-start from square one, resilient organizations with the growth mindset tend to upskill and reskill their personnel during the storm. They spend the recovery period gathering strength and improving themselves so that they can come back stronger after the storm.
“To become an ‘experience company’, the organization must have new skills. So, it is important to do upskilling and reskilling to get ready for new economy,” he said.
Corporate skills required for the future
Being innovative is one of the skills that organizations require for the future. An innovative organization designed to quickly adapt to such challenges as Covid-19 has a better chance of survival than an operative organization.
Organizations must have the ability to come up with innovations when facing with new challenges.
The right mindset is the key to a successful transformation for any organization or even a country, Apirut says.
Operative mindset belongs to the industrial age, which valued operation excellency and round-the-clock work. However, in the current age of innovations, innovative mindset is required to make new products and services — creating added value through innovation, creativity and technology.
There has been more demand for personnel with generalist skills than specialist skills. For example, engineers should also have business and design skills.
Also, innovative organizations prefer personnel with an entrepreneur’s mindset — focusing on the work’s result instead of just doing work — rather than an employee’s mindset.
However, Apirut admits that it is easier to train employees than to change their mindset. Based on his experience, companies succeed in transforming quickly often have employees with the right mindsets.
The executive said businesses do not need to be a completely innovative organization in order to achieve successful transformation. Personnel with the old mindset may be allowed to work in the old business while those ready to change may be moved to the innovative section, he suggests.
“You do not need to change the mindset of everyone in the organization to achieve successful transformation,” he concluded.