Demystifying Digital Transformation

By Julia Clyne

More than 100 marketing and communication executives turned up at Google’s Hong Kong offices on the 25th of June to hear from an impressive panel of marketing experts. The event titled, ‘Demystifying Digital Transformation’ was hosted and moderated by The Marketing Society Hong Kong hub.  

First up was Cathay Pacific’s Ed Bell, ​General Manager of Brand, Insights, Loyalty and Marketing Communications, who shared that when thinking about digital transformation it is easy to get sucked into the technical narrative and lose sight of your company’s true goal.  He urged that it is far better to focus on the customer experience and use that as the lens through which all change - significant or otherwise - can be viewed.

We also heard from Sean Seah, ​Head of Innovation and Partnerships (AMH) HSBC, who relayed his experience of digital project management at HSBC which is based on an “agile methodology” whereby specific projects are selected to do well and quickly rather than trying to roll everything out at once.  

Finally, ​Google Hong Kong’s Managing Director, Sales & Operations,  Leonie Valentine, raised the idea that digital transformation is a team sport and that we therefore need to say goodbye to the days of siloed data. Instead, we need to craft an internal communication strategy around how data can make our company better and evolve it into an organisation-wide effort.

There were many questions from the audience ranging from, how to persuade senior leadership to embrace digital, guidance on how to use data wisely, and how to structure your digital teams. Here are my favourite insights from the panel:

  • Keep up with trends: Stay curious and keep up with trends. However, don’t make them your only playbook. We are in an era of incrementalism – not all ‘old stuff’ is bad; much can be transformed with digital to make them more effective right now.
  • Know your purpose: It’s critical to spend time sweating the problem and the proposition before leaping into action. Data can help prioritize which problems to deal with and show the upside if the problems are solved (and, likewise, the downside if ignored). 
  • Use your data carefully: We need to understand why our customers give us permission to use their data. We have to avoid becoming ‘creepy’ by seeming too predictive. Also, we are creating more data now that at any other time during human history.  We were told that data is a lot like oil, but only a small part will be the premium product.
  • Digital is a team sport: Organisations should avoid having a dedicated digital organisation. The skill sets should be spread across the organisation. 
  • Customers come first: Focus on knowing your customers and your business. Digital transformation is really only useful if it makes the customer experience better. Always balance high tech with high touch.

A huge thanks to Darren Chuckry, Ed Bell, Sean Seah and Leonie Valentine for holding such an open and experienced panel which certainly gave us an insight into how some of the biggest companies in Asia are navigating their way along the sometimes foggy but always exciting road towards digital transformation. 

By Julia Clyne, Head of Media Sales, Asia-Pacific at Dow Jones


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