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How a Digital-First CEO Leads Transformation

Some leaders reject the notion that "wait and see" is the best response to disruptive change. Savvy senior executives are already driving digital business transformation throughout their organization in an effort to gain a bold strategic advantage.

According to the latest market study by International Data Corp (IDC), Digital-First CEOs plan to drive at least half of their income from digital business products, services, and experiences by 2027 -- that's ahead of the market average of 39 percent.

Driven by their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, these business leaders have changed how they think about the relationship between business and technology, and how they approach the next digital transformation era -- from scaling digital technology to guiding a viable digital business.

Digital Business Market Development

IDC defines digital business as value creation based on technology, which entails: 1) Automated customer-facing processes and internal operations; 2) Provisioning and delivery of data-driven products, services, and experiences;  3) Multi-party orchestration of ecosystem collaboration, co-creation, and co-innovation; and 4) Attraction, augmentation, and continuous development of a digital workforce.

"A new breed of Digital-First CEOs has emerged. We expect to see CEOs strategically use technology to compete and stay relevant to their customers, ecosystems, and employees, with the goal of increasing their digital share of revenue," said Linus Lai, chief analyst, IDC Asia-Pacific.

IDC has predicted that in 2022 at least half of the Asia-Pacific economy will be based on, or influenced by, progressive digital business transformation initiatives.

As Digital-First CEOs in Asia-Pacific including Japan (APJ) aspire to increase their share of revenue, they are prioritizing digital business models such as industry ecosystems (73 percent), as-a-service consumption (62 percent), and direct-to-consumer (59 percent) to respond to shifts toward digital in customer spending and continue participation in the digital economy.

IDC believes that Digital-First CEOs are focusing on essential capabilities such as empathetic customer experience (CX), digital trust, and a hybrid-first workforce as key building blocks of a digital business. 

This includes technology investments in software applications, IT security tools, business process automation (BPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and employee experience (EX) enabled by modern digital workspace solutions.

For Digital-First CEOs, the technology architecture is the business architecture. These investments are aimed to better enable direct customer relationships, contextual on-demand services, joint value creation through digital ecosystems, and ultimately, a leading share of digital business revenue growth.

Outlook for Digital Business Growth in Asia-Pacific

As APJ organizations aim to take pole positions in the evolving digital economy -- one where digital IS the business -- they must embrace Digital-First approaches. Coming out of the global COVID-19 pandemic, digital business has become a permanent, yet dynamic fixture of our world.

According to the IDC assessment, Digital-First represents the next evolution in digital transformation, and a Digital-First approach applies to any organization that is developing digital-based capabilities to become a digital business forerunner.

That said, I believe more of the market leaders will use the current global economic challenges to make quantum-leap advances ahead of their traditional and more conservative competitors. To me, Digital-First means attaining a bold first-to-market start that's unique.

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