(Clockwise, L-R) Moderator Wilfredo G. Reyes of BusinessWorld with panelists Anthony Oundjian of Boston Consulting Group, Miko B. David of David & Golyat, and Martha M. Sazon of GCash for the session on “Digital Transformation for a Better Normal”

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Writer

Beyond being a buzzword in the business community, digital transformation has really become a turning point for many businesses as they rose from the impacts of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In efforts to curb the spread of the virus, digital tools have been sought to help organizations continue operations while ensuring safety and even add flexibility and convenience among workforces. Their digital journeys, nonetheless, are in progress, with much more opportunities to maximize, pitfalls to avoid, and concerns to prioritize.

The first panel discussion held during the BusinessWorld Economic Forum 2021 Special Edition last May 26 further explored how digital transformation can build a better normal for businesses, with two experts from business strategy and consulting firms and an executive from a leading digital platform sharing their insights.

Anthony Oundjian, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, first noted that while COVID-19 has laid bare some gaps and triggered an accelerated digitalization, digital has already been helping build the country’s economic resilience even before recovery from the pandemic has been discussed.

“A lot of the continuity that we got was [brought] by some digital tools,” Mr. Oundjian said, citing the trends in remote work, electronic commerce, and online learning.

Nonetheless, the need remains to further build an environment that keeps in step with digital transformation, starting with initiatives such as the national identification system. “More investment in infrastructure, both from the public and the private sector, will certainly help us to be more resilient and stronger in the next crisis,” he said.

Mr. Oundjian also pointed out that digitalization is imperative for economic recovery, given that consumers are behaving differently and businesses are not going back to former ways of working and engaging with customers. At the same time, digitalization opens opportunities as it transcends physical borders.

“We see people looking for talents across the world when they used to look for it locally,” he explained. “If you are a talented data scientist in the Philippines, you have fantastic opportunities working at home. If you are a startup, you immediately have a broader reach.”

Mr. Oundjian also stressed that digital transformation does not start with technology, but with designing solutions to address consumers’ pain points. “Digital transformation starts with how we can make things easier, more intuitive for consumers or customers. The thinking needs to start there,” he said.

Citing data gathered by his firm, Miko David, president and co-founder of David & Golyat, shared that there are immense opportunities for businesses in rising consumption across different online channels, particularly social platforms and e-commerce marketplaces.

At the same time, levels of competition have become more intense in terms of capturing the online market, as indicated by increased advertising in online channels.

“Across the board, this is a theme we see for the economy. There are a lot of opportunities despite gaps and missteps that are happening [among both] leaders and other incumbents,” he said.

Mr. David noted that even traditional sectors have been quite good to adapt, particularly in terms of opening up more channels of communication, but the challenge to keep at pace with the accelerated push for digitalization remains among organizations.

“The biggest challenge for a lot would be translating their historical activities to these existing channels,” he said. “When you look at the options that they should utilize for their executions on digital, it’s not always translating as well.”

Mr. David added that organizations need to look into other dimensions such as their culture, structure, and strategy. He sees that such “enablement activities” can help improve employee morale and perseverance.

“Companies who have this culture or mindset of always being in the know and staying hungry to learn, test something, or just be aware of the market, actually end up learning from their mistakes really early and implement better than what their competitors have done,” he added.

Aside from highlighting how GCash has leveraged digital products amid the increased need for digital payments and transfers, Martha M. Sazon, president and CEO of Mynt (the e-wallet platform’s operator), noted the deepened appreciation for customer centricity.

“Because of the change in the conditions that we’ve seen, people are forced to reimagine the business in a way that will service the customers, in a way that will reach the customers even better,” Ms. Sazon said.

The executive also stressed that as long as there are friction points in the customer industry, there will be a reason for any competitor to play. “Customer is king. It’s always been like that, but more and more businesses are realizing and are lazer-focused on customer experience,” she said.

Ms. Sazon also noted that the current situation calls for transformative leaders who are agile and flexible.

“[One has to have] a growth mindset [and a] very entrepreneurial spirit that always finds opportunities to grow and frictions to address,” she continued. “[This should be] combined with empowering the organization, trying to spot that talent who can deliver and encourage collaboration among other parts of the organization.”