Interview: Marc Carrel-Billiard

To what extent did the change in human behaviour triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic disrupt the digital and cultural transformation of corporations?

MARC CARREL-BILLIARD: Business as usual is no longer an option. The digital gap widened with the outbreak of Covid-19, and companies are having to accelerate to higher levels of digitalisation to serve different customer expectations, adapt to health challenges and pivot to new growth opportunities. One area where this is especially apparent is cloud computing. Companies need speed, predictable outcomes and holistic value; the cloud is fundamental to their growth and success. The urgency to innovate is so great that most companies need to move their business from 20% in the cloud in 2020 to 80% by 2023.

In what ways is it possible to narrow the digitalisation gap and encourage competition between companies with more limited resources?

CARREL-BILLIARD: The focus for companies big and small should be on innovation. In today’s world incremental innovation is no longer enough. Enterprises are now presented with an unprecedented range of opportunities for innovation, and with that comes mounting pressure from competitors. In this environment, companies are being challenged to pair consistent, perpetual innovation with constant experimentation.

To meet these expectations and turn an enterprise into an engine for transformation, businesses must find their unique innovation DNA. This idea has three core building blocks: maturing digital technology that is more commoditised and accessible; emerging technologies that are poised to rapidly scale; and scientific advancements that are discrete yet deeply disruptive. Building an innovation DNA goes beyond the three pillars because well-executed strategies not only combine these building blocks, they also accelerate the discovery process by forging new partnerships, fuelling experimentation, and building a culture and ecosystem that will drive those efforts into disruption at scale. This, in turn, enables companies to differentiate themselves, leapfrog competitors, build a new generation of products and services, and even create new markets.

How can developing countries with limited investment resources remain competitive in the digital era and tackle skills gaps?

CARREL-BILLIARD: For developing countries with limited resources, public-private partnerships can help bridge skills gaps, drive innovation and build infrastructure, such as reliable electricity and internet connectivity. These two factors are critical to technology adoption and advancement. Indeed, a lack of broadband has kept more than 70% of the populations of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Myanmar from being able to participate fully in the digital economy. This underlines the potential impact of these programmes.

It is also critical that governments invest in broader education to prepare and reskill their population for the increasingly digital and data-driven nature of work. This involves upgrading training curricula and teaching approaches, investing in intelligent systems that can anticipate future workforce demands and promoting a culture of lifelong learning.

Which professional skills are in greatest need to avoid job displacement in the future?

CARREL-BILLIARD: As companies integrate emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence into day-to-day operations, they will need to prepare their workforces for other changes that will come. In many instances, employees in non-technical roles will need to upskill for jobs that require critical thinking, as well as learn how to utilise and optimise these new technologies. Other employees who perform routine tasks will need to cross-skill and prepare for roles that rely on human talent. Organisations that begin this process today will be better positioned for success in the future.