Chief digital officer critical for all firms

Corporate November 25, 2017 01:00


IN JANUARY 2001, Apple launched the iTunes music service, which became the world’s first major disruptive force of an established industry.

That phenomenon heralded the current digital transformation journey, according to Andrew Dalziel, a senior director for industry and solutions strategy at US-based Infor, a leading business software firm.

This long-running journey carries on at a relentless pace with increased momentum, he said, pointing to Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Food, a major US food retail chain.

The purchase of Whole Food by, the world’s largest online retailer for virtually anything, means both online and offline channels will soon be blended seamlessly to better satisfy consumer needs and even exceed their expectations.

Amazon has already cut the prices of Whole Food’s items by 40 per cent on average, while preparing to connect its Echo personal assistant gadget with millions of members. This would allow them to order groceries and other items from their living room with a voice command.

That’s one notable example of how the digital technology will likely transform the global retail business, something that will soon make its debut in many countries around the world. 

Thailand is no exception in this crucial journey. Its retail sector is about to join the bandwagon of so-called “new retail”, marked by Central retail group’s latest joint venture with China’s No 2 online retailer,, and by The Mall group’s partnership with Siam Commercial Bank to open the country’s first smart self-service check-out kiosks for supermarket items.

China’s No 1 online retailer Alibaba is also very much in the fray, working on multiple e-commerce, e-payment and other digital business plans for Thailand and neighbouring Asean markets, including those in partnership with Chareon Pokphand Group.

Last but not least, itself is testing its online retail business model in Singapore, as Asean, a 10-country grouping of 600 million consumers, as well as China are obviously on the world’s largest online retailer’s business map.

According to Dalziel, the digital transformation is wide-ranging, citing precision farming as another example in which soil and moisture sensors are now available for efficient management of the farmland while drones can be used for tracking various farm activities and machinery.

In the field of food production, animal feed makers and animal healthcare providers can be connected to provide better service to chicken, fish, shrimp and other farmers using sensors, mobile labs and other devices to customise feed ingredients.

In Thailand, factory and warehouse automation has also become another area of high growth in the digital transformation journey as big companies aim to boost their productivity and competitiveness, with Boonrawd Brewery and CPF among the leading organisations.

Factory flow tracking using RFID scanners for raw materials and finished products is gaining popularity coupled with an automatic reordering system for auto parts and other industries in which production is self-adjusted according to actual sales.

For logistics, equipment and car rental businesses, fleet management and maintenance services are now online for real-time services.

To help Thai companies take on the digital transformation challenge, Infor suggests that enterprises now appoint a chief digital officer to implement their mission – which is essentially a combination of IT and business strategy.

Second, they need to encourage feedback from all stakeholders, including those in production, operations, customer relationship and other areas of the businesses.

Third, they need to set aside a reasonable budget to carry out the mission – the sooner the better.