While the world was already in the thick of transitioning towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), it is fair to say that the pandemic accelerated the process for organizations everywhere. 2020 was the year that redefined the meaning of productivity, where we shifted from doing things right, to doing the right things—for employees, partners and customers.
This was the year that fundamentally changed the way humans live, work and thrive, across many sectors like education, e-commerce and healthcare.
Digital transformation was a long time coming, and a number of factors have slowly but surely led us to where we are today. A June 2020 study titled Global Trend Report: The New normal for IT and business revealed four main factors that are shaping the 4IR: Changing customer expectations, cloud adoption, smarter workplaces and the reliance on data to make business decisions.
A Data-Driven Future
A large part of this transition is driven by the increasingly accepted wisdom that businesses can only thrive when decisions are made on the basis of objective insights drawn from measurable data. In fact, 91 percent of respondents in the June survey believe that a business’ ability to quickly acquire, analyze, and act on data will be a key factor in determining if they will be a technology leader in the future.
Business leaders across Asia Pacific (APAC) are considerably concerned about keeping pace with advances in technology. Conversations are becoming increasingly geared towards artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and edge computing and what drives digital transformations. However, as these technologies generate more and more data, businesses need a robust, secure, and agile network to stay ahead of this surge.
The volume of available data across APAC has also grown exponentially in recent years. This is fueled by new consumption demands and patterns, new data tools and the growth of digital native businesses.
This is no more evident than in Singapore, where the Government’s roadmap of digital transformation is now well underway: As of mid-2020, Singapore has the second highest rate of Internet penetration within the Southeast Asian region, with 88.4 percent. Out of the total population of people in Singapore, approximately 4.8 million were Internet users.
Children here get their first Internet-connected device at the age of eight, lower than the global average of 10, making them among the youngest in the world to go online. As such, gaming sites, online shopping, content sharing and social media platforms profit significantly from the digital native market.
Businesses in Singapore are also taking note of the need to keep up. The survey revealed that 86 percent of IT Decision Makers (ITDMs) in Singapore are concerned with keeping pace with technological advances brought on by the 4IR, compared to only 59 percent of the ITDMs in Denmark and 61 percent in Japan.
Closer to half, or 46 percent, of ITDMs in Singapore said that 5G will have a significant impact on the future of business, compared to just 39 percent in the United States, 34 percent in Australia & New Zealand and 29 percent in Japan.
Machine learning and fiber infrastructure were also cited by ITDMs in Singapore as important factors impacting the future of business.
The Need for Speed
In the 4IR, speed matters. Businesses that are nimble enough to act on data faster than their peers are well-positioned to become market leaders. They are able to spot new trends, identify potential process improvements, speed innovation and drive bottom line growth.
The challenge is that businesses operating in the 4IR will need to be completely ready for next-generation applications and data transmission. They will need to be able to process more data and move more IT workloads closer to digital interactions.
They will need to deliver on customer demands in real-time, make immediate adjustments based on market changes, and act instantaneously on decisions to stay competitive.
A Digital-First Mindset
In other words, businesses will need to be ready to harness the full potential of emerging technologies to operate effectively in the realities of the digital world.
They will need systems that are built on robust technologies, designed for data-intensive workloads. Additionally, they will need global network and cloud infrastructure, security capabilities and collaboration services into advanced application architecture.
As it stands, we don’t know how far into 2021 we’ll continue to work from home or avoid air travel, but it is clear that becoming more agile, responsive, and adaptive than ever is going to be the way forward for all of us.
As such, the biggest skillset employees need going into 2021 has less to do with ability than with attitude—those that adopt digital-first mindset are well-placed to succeed in the 4IR, as they will have to reposition their businesses from the ground up to fully leverage technology platforms that are built and designed for the digital world.