Building Companies that Disrupt Themselves


Disruption goes hand in hand with technology. But it isn’t just about market competition. It’s about looking internally to change behaviours and empower staff to innovate and embrace risk. An expert panel at the TCS Summit Asia Pacific 2019 talked about how the latest digital technology is driving their organisations to disrupt themselves as well as their competitors.

Olivia Wirth, Chief Executive Officer, Qantas Loyalty was joined by Peter Grey, Non-Executive Chairman, MLC Life Insurance, Datuk Md Arif Mahmood, Executive Vice President & Chief Executive Officer, Downstream, Petronas and N. Ganapathy Subramaniam – Chief Operating Officer & Executive Director, Tata Consultancy Services.

Trust is key to strong customer relationships

Opening the conversation N. Ganapathy Subramaniam, Chief Operating Officer & Executive Director, Tata Consultancy Services said how customers see their service providers is critical. Disruption must be focused on what customers want both now and into the future. “Trust is important in terms of how customers relate to business and promoting ongoing loyalty,” he said.

So how are top organisations disrupting themselves to create better solutions and keep ahead of their customers needs?

Flying ahead with a customer focus

Olivia Wirth, Chief Executive Officer, Qantas Loyalty said that disruption was at the core of its business. “It’s part of our DNA and the way we think,” Olivia said pointing to the establishment of Jetstar some 14 years ago as an example of disruption in action. Similarly Qantas Loyalty has continually evolved and disrupted itself to thrive and meet customer needs, she said. “Technology plays a critical role in innovation but more importantly it is about meeting unmet customer needs,” Olivia said. “If you’re not focusing on customers then it’s just disruption for disruption’s sake.” Despite its ongoing success of the business, Qantas Loyalty recently underwent a massive overhaul to identify where it could improve its value proposition for its customers. “We recognise that competitor sets change and that we can never be complacent.” Olivia said spending time with their customers gave the organisation a better understanding of their concerns, fears and needs and the role the business could play in their lives.

Focusing their energy on customer needs

Datuk Md Arif Mahmood, Executive Vice President & Chief Executive Officer, Downstream, Petronas said the organisation was disrupting itself throughout its food chain, from getting oil out of the ground to retailing through petrol stations. “It’s about customer-centricity,” Arif said. “Having a customer lens isn’t so much about how we see our customers, but rather how they see us.” Arif said he the company spent a lot of time investigating the needs of consumer groups such as single mothers to understand how it could solve their problems. For example, do customers want more than petrol such as food or other key services? “We are looking at opportunities online for more seamless, frictionless and unique experiences,” he said. Digital strategy has to be part and parcel of an organisation’s business strategy, Arif emphasises. “It must be driven not just by the CTO but by the CEO.”

Companies who put the customers at the centre of what they do will be market leaders

Peter Grey, Non-Executive Chairman, MLC Life Insurance, said the organisation disrupted itself in October 2016 by taking the radical step of partnering with Japan-grown, Nippon Life Insurance Group to create a new insurance business.  “In the process we created our own new transformational systems,” Peter said. “We began to look at the core of our business and getting a perspective directly from customers themselves. This meant a complete reset in our thinking and the way we use data.” When it comes to mass customisation and tailored services, data analytics had driven a transformation in the way policies were designed, improving its ability to resolve the life insurance needs of its customers and reducing risk because of the greater amount of information at its fingertips.

One thing that’s evident is that these companies are market leaders because they are putting customers at the centre of what they do. Taking a machine first approach, exploiting digital and importantly partnering within and without their ecosystems to drive solutions across their value chain, they are anticipating the needs of their customers, both today and into the future by keeping the conversation with them going.
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