Entrepreneurs urged to speed up digital transformation

Entrepreneurs are advised to develop business models and offerings that fit the needs of the market as they prepare for digital transformation amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a virtual training organized by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), e-commerce expert Janette Toral said transformation is not just about technology, but it is also the way one does business.

“Is our business model still viable? If you are making money from retail, if you are making money from people coming to your establishment to eat, if you are generating income from people coming in making reservations and you need to have an 80-percent capacity before you experience significant revenue, if that is not possible anymore, then that means you have to review your business model, you have to reevaluate the business model.” she said.

Toral cited a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm which at first was worried because it was losing clients amid the pandemic.

“All of sudden, they find themselves discovering new clients catering to the health sector. And now, even if 50 percent of their workforce are working from home, they now have to open 300 new seats because of the new clients that they were able to attract,” she said.

Toral said a hotel in Cebu is not just relying anymore on guests coming, but is now delivering food.

“Even the hotels changed the way they do business, deciding on new service components that they need to focus on and explore that as a revenue source,” she said.

“There is no way to go but transform but it would require rethinking like maybe venturing into food, (and) not only food, we talk about novelty food, healthy food. You can also venture into e-commerce, sell goods that are not usually accessible to people and (cater to) new customers segments, customers that you never served before but because of the new normal. You might really need to look into them and see how you can serve them,” she added.

Toral also urged the need to “learn, unlearn and relearn” how business processes can be improved.

“We have to unlove whatever processes we may have to do because if we are so in love with the processes that we have today, it will be hard for us to adapt to digital transformation,” she said. “…see how can you change the way you do things right now so that you can serve your clients better and remain in business for a longer time.”

Toral said business owners can also work with partners especially in this time of pandemic.

“So don’t look at your customers as a permanent customer. Can you level up your business model to the point that can your customer become your partner? Can you change the business relationship from a client relationship to a business partner relationship?” she added.

Toral further said they also need to determine ways on how to serve stakeholders and customers in a better way.

“If it takes you three days before you can reply to them (customers), what changes can you make so that you can reply to them in a day? If it takes you a week to deliver those products, what do you need to change, how can you be more creative in delivering this service so that you can shorten that delivery time?” she said.

Dr. Deborah Soule, technology and organizational researcher and educator, said entrepreneurs can leverage the “power” of digital technology, such as the internet and Facebook, to advance marketing in the digital space.

“Another aspect of digitalization might be in how you engage with your suppliers and how you manage that currently,” she said in the same virtual training.

Soule also underscored the need to help employees to be more productive and collaborative through providing them productivity tools so they can work more mobile and flexible.

She said business owners can likewise build new business models and platforms.

“…I see a possibility to connect (with) more players in my industry in a more effective way with digital tools, or I see a way that I can use data to build new product offerings,” she added.

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