By Arra B. Francia
Senior Reporter

BUSINESSES must play catch-up with emerging technologies if they want to remain relevant in this era of artificial intelligence, automation and e-commerce, with top brass’ adoption of latest trends crucial to driving growth.

Speaking at the BusinessWorld Economic Forum 2019 on Thursday, Ayala Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said businesses must be proactive in adapting to new technologies, lest they run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

“Businesses should realize that what brought us success in the past will not be the same issues or factors what will bring us success in the future… Technological infrastructure has introduced a whole new way of addressing consumer needs quickly and efficiently,” Mr. Zobel said in his keynote speech during the forum held at the Grand Hyatt Manila hotel in Taguig City.

Mr. Zobel said his group has consistently embraced innovation, enabling it to remain in business for the last 185 years.

The entry of new technologies will translate to new jobs in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and data analytics, according to Management Association of the Philippines President Rizalina G. Mantaring. Fast-changing business conditions need managers who are innovators who can capitalize on AI and other technologies. “The future could be very different. If you’re unable to envision that, you’ll probably be out of business in 10 years or less… You have a workforce that will have to continuously learn, you need to deal with fear in a workplace, so people skills will be critical in the age of a machine,” Ms. Mantaring said.

Boston Consulting Group Singapore Partner and Managing Director Shiv Choudhury noted how important it is for people in key management posts to be innovative. Focusing on retail, Mr. Choudhury said management’s openness to data analytics could spell the difference in attracting more customers. “Retail is the most data-rich environment… Just like consumer experiences that disrupt us, what can absolutely help us make huge advancements is data,” Mr. Choudhury said, adding that data can be used to personalize consumer experience.

Personalization is one of Lazada Philippines’ major strategies to date, according to its Chief Executive Officer Raymond N. Alimurung. “What we are doing today is personalization. It’s changing the way the app looks. So the app of your Lazada homepage looks different from the person beside you,” Mr. Alimurung said.

Conglomerate Alliance Global Group, Inc. (AGI) has also taken the lead in integrating new technologies into its business. AGI Chief Executive Officer Kevin Andrew L. Tan noted how the group launched the iTownships concept last year, in which “[w]e are able to drive more value… by using mobile to customize the living spaces based on the type of technology they want.”

Just as the foresight of top management is needed to adapt to emerging technologies, employee’s skills are also vital, in that they must be able to quickly learn and adapt once more intelligent robots enter the workplace.

“We have to invest in our people, especially in a world of disruption,” said Susie Lee, vice-president for Global Business Solutions at Degreed.

McKinsey & Company Philippines Managing Partner Kristine Romano assured that embracing new technologies like AI will not replace human beings, but will add significant value to businesses.

And since most people entering the work force now belong to Generation Z, or those who grew up with the Internet integrated into daily life, it is necessary for businesses to keep up with digital transformations, said Acumen Strategic Consulting, Inc. Managing Director Pauline G. Fermin. “We need to take the slack as they enter the workforce to respond to the learning modes that this generation needs… Businesses must be digitally enabled and workflows should be reconfigured to properly enable this generation,” Ms. Fermin said.