Businesses in Sri Lanka and indeed across the region are both optimistic and cautious about the future. Exciting regional growth including China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative is unlocking new opportunities for Asia Pacific companies, and yet there are challenges as well. Skills shortages continue to affect businesses in the region, with 63% of APAC employers experiencing difficulty attracting critical-skill employees, and turnover rates exceeding 10% in all but three APAC markets.
In this context, demand for applied innovation is on the rise. Businesses want emerging technologies that make it easier to innovate right now, rather than 10 years down the line. As companies work out how to balance the desire for innovation with ongoing challenges, more and more are looking to technology systems and solutions which are self-driving, to offer more consistent performance and reliability with less human labour. They see that the successful organization of tomorrow will run with far less manual intervention – self-managing, self-securing and self-repairing, with automation and machine learning that deliver industry-leading performance, and always-on availability with no human intervention. This is the autonomous organization, and it is defining the future of business in APAC.
Autonomous innovation is dependent on technology investments that enable pre-emptive action and agile reaction. Being satisfied with the way things are is not a winning strategy. In this context, three key trends are emerging in Asia: the adoption of autonomous technology; development of blockchain in a new generation of customer loyalty systems; and effective use of machine learning.
Autonomous is everything
Organizations of every size, in every market, see both opportunity and peril in the data explosion. There are now practically limitless pools of information accessible from inside and outside the business, and yet managing these huge, often unstructured data sets can be expensive and time-consuming.
Autonomous technology could be the key to harvesting value from data for while avoiding costly management overheads. Although autonomous tech is best known for its role in self-driving cars, it is also helping to build the future of the self-driving enterprise by automating how companies manage data. Already, 58 percent of Asia Pacific CEOs are currently automating certain functions within their organisations and 33 percent are training their entire workforce in ways to use data.
In this context, autonomous database technology will be key to APAC businesses in 2018 – from enabling retailers to improve order fulfilment while also expanding their supply chains, to supporting manufacturers as they take on higher value projects from new regional partners, to managing the flow of sensitive data in financial services.
Loyalty as the new currency
Consumers in Asia Pacific love a good loyalty program; with each person belonging to an average of 7.6 loyalty programs and 92% of APAC consumers surveyed by Nielsen saying they are more likely to shop at a retailer that offers a loyalty program – the highest percentage anywhere in the world.
That could explain why businesses are so excited about the burgeoning role of blockchain technology in building new loyalty systems which give consumers a faster, easier, safer way to earn points and make purchases via globally integrated, secure networks.
For example, Hana Financial Group in Korea is currently in the process of building an integrated platform that lets customers use loyalty points as currency to make purchases or access deals and discounts from a range of global merchants, retailers, and travel companies. Singapore Airlines is also working on a blockchain-based airline loyalty wallet which could give passengers a simpler way to redeem their outstanding miles, of which there are currently around $700 million waiting to be used. These are both prime examples of applied innovation, in which emerging technologies are delivering results right now.
The machine learning era
With the business landscape and consumer demands shifting at breakneck speed and with little warning, companies are under more pressure than ever before to make the right decision at the right time. It could be a purchasing move that brings consumers a hot new product before the competitors can, or a sudden modification to the supply chain in response to an unforeseen weather event. In the past, such decisions were left to people alone – but now, technology can partner with humans to ensure the best choice is made.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is able to run and maintain many routine functions within businesses – analysing patterns and responding to them. When it is able to adapt to changing circumstances and modify its behaviour, the ability to add value and drive down costs can really take off. But to do this, AI and machine learning need to set up and managed correctly; and having the right platform on which to run machine and deep learning is what will set the best businesses apart.
These three core trends form the basis of the autonomous enterprise, and they will continue to influence how businesses decrease costs, reduce risk and provide improved service to end consumers. As Asia Pacific continues to cement its role as a major engine of global growth, there will be exciting new opportunities for businesses which make the right critical investment decisions now to take advantage of these and other emerging trends.