Q&A: Tristan Rogers, Head of Multi-Cloud and Applications Portfolio at Fujitsu
To build adaptability, organisations must free themselves of technical debt by digitalising their core.
What is business adaptability? And why is it important to long-term business success?
An adaptive organisation observes, assesses, and articulates changes in its external environment and responds in a quick, tactical manner. Organisations today need to act much more like living organisms. They should use all their ‘senses’ to assess and respond to what's going on around them, as a sentient being would.
In recent years, the rules of business have changed, not just owing to the [Covid-19] pandemic. The pace of business change is a lot faster than before. To remain competitive, organisations need to work towards their long-term goals in a much more tactical, iterative manner, rather than through ‘big bang’ programmes, which are only revisited once three to five years.
What is the biggest challenge organisations face in becoming adaptive? And what can they do to address it?
Technical debt or legacy systems are the ball and chain that hold companies back from investing in new products or new ways of going to market. Most organisations that invest in innovative technologies without freeing up capacity in their organisation will inevitably struggle. They are paying for new technologies before resolving their technical debt.
Organisations need to make sure they are not encumbered by that kind of ball and chain. Today, there’s a trend towards an operational expenditure (OPEX) approach, which means spending as you go, as opposed to committing to a long-term investment. This approach enables organisations to be fluid and adapt to change as technology changes.
Can you provide an example of how an organisation has successfully addressed technical debt?
A really good example is Rice Exchange, who we are working with to transform the $450bn global rice-trading industry. A major part of this involves using cloud and emerging technologies to help the industry overcome its organisational and technical debt constraints.
Rice trading is a complex and process-intensive market where many suppliers need to interact across diverse and distributed supply chain ecosystems. This relied on very traditional methods of commerce and communication with no digitalisation or automation involved – so trades could be inefficient and slow, with very little transparency and traceability for buyers and suppliers, who could often find it difficult to connect. This rigid way of working also meant that supply chains were unable to adapt to disruptive events, such as bad harvests.
Rice Exchange is solving many of these problems as a global trade network that brings together suppliers and customers of rice; a crop that billions of people rely on for food and livelihoods.
With Fujitsu, they implemented the first fully integrated digital platform for the global rice trade. Based on cloud, automation and blockchain, the RiceEx platform connects all partners together in real-time, enabling faster, more secure and more transparent trades. It is estimated that the platform will reduce the time it takes to complete an exchange between a supplier and a customer by 90% – down to six minutes, and it will also result in 20% savings for stakeholders, driving much greater efficiency and security than before. This all builds towards their ambitions of greater profits for small farmers, less waste and social good.
How important is it that organisations democratise the use of data to drive their own digital transformation?
It’s hugely important. To be adaptive and agile, organisations need to be able to make the right decisions fast. The way to do that is through data. For instance, for Proventia, a company whose mission is to improve air quality at global level, using data in real time is critical. In collaboration with Fujitsu, Proventia created an event-processing platform to record and stream back to the cloud the data from Internet of Things (IOT) devices attached to public transport buses in London.
Using this data, they can monitor which buses are beyond the permitted threshold for CO2 emissions. And then they can recommend and enable corrective action such as retrofitting the exhaust systems of certain vehicles, which transport operators and the local transport authority can execute.
Compliance is a key driver of improved data availability, but can it also be a challenge for some firms?
Compliance is a challenge for most organisations – but particularly those in highly regulated industries such as financial services (FS) firms, because they have accumulated historical customer data. Tapping into the value of this data is challenging on several fronts. Owing to mergers and acquisitions, divestments and diversification over the last 20 years, the data is held in different, often incompatible, systems. The sensitive nature of the customer data also means that it needs to be brought together in a compliant way, so only the appropriate data can be seen and used across the whole enterprise. Only then can organisations start to analyse and interrogate that data to support their decision-making.
How important is it for traditional players to enhance their ability to utilise data?
Disruptors in the financial services, retail and other sectors, including platform businesses such as Airbnb and Deliveroo, don’t have the ball and chain that more traditional organisations do. As a result, they are able to bring projects and services to life in weeks, rather than months, and respond to evolving customer demand much faster. To remain competitive beyond 2021, traditional players need to enhance their decision-making through the use of data in a much more tactical and agile way. This would be key to survival in 2021 according to around three-quarters of organisations (74%).
To survive and thrive in times of rapid disruption, being able to continuously evolve at pace is essential. Through human-centric innovation, Fujitsu helps organizations worldwide to accelerate iterative yet holistic change that increases business, customer and societal value.