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Supercharging Digitalisation for a Sustainable Future, Conversations at TNB’s ICON 2022

The past few years have proven to be a major catalyst for digital transformation. Within just a few months of the pandemic, reports showed that digitalisation efforts were accelerated by up to seven years as the virus forced organisations around the world to adapt or risk immense losses. Yet, despite its potential to disrupt, digital transformation is proving to be an asset to business processes, unlocking efficiencies and improving experiences across the board. Coupled with the race to mitigate the effects of climate change, it seems that digitalisation is not just here to stay but will be critical for our shift to a greener future.  

At the ICT Conference (ICON) 2022, experts from Malaysia and around the world gathered to share their experiences and thoughts on the future of digital transformation, particularly in the context of accelerating Malaysia’s energy transition. The conference, this year themed Supercharging Digitalisation for a Sustainable Future, has historically served as a platform for industry leaders to share their knowledge and insights, and as a gathering space for audiences to witness successful technology adoption and implementation across businesses. The conference also featured a panel of experts, chaired by TNB’s own Head of Digital ICT Christine Yong, that discussed the nuance of digitalisation in a session entitled Digital Transformation -The Hype, The Reality & The Opportunities. 

Lessons in Digital Transformation 

Speaking from over 27 years of experience in the IT industry, Jimmy Wong, Chairman of the SHARE/GUIDE IT Users Association, said that the key to accelerating digital transformation lies in the strategy and culture of an organisation itself. As he explained, while organisations have different processes for implementing changes, digital transformation can bring value to businesses no matter what the prevailing culture is. The right mindset and strategy, however, is what will make or break the transformation as in the end, the only thing that is needed is a framework to tie down transformation initiatives into a comprehensive program that enables sustainable change. 

For accelerating digitalisation for business, Jimmy offered two simple yet realistic steps – first, is observe existing ecosystems and unlock the whole potential of an organisation’s assets, and second, is to tap on other successful digitalisation initiatives. “From a realistic point of view,” he said, “someone has already done it in some way, and someone has already done it well.” He cautioned against ‘reinventing the wheel’, but rather suggested that leaders take existing solutions and adapt it to their organisations’ own needs. 

From Dr. Nardev Ramanathan’s view as Senior Analyst at Lux Research, success stories are aplenty, but existing solutions are not the only resource leaders should tap into. As he said, “what you don’t hear so much is how some projects don’t actually succeed.” 

According to Dr. Nardev, examining unsuccessful digitalisation projects is an often overlooked way to understand the intricacies and pitfalls of digital transformation. According to his experience, analysing unsuccessful initiatives often reveals a mismatch between the project’s goals and its strategy and execution. Sometimes, there is even a lack of technological foundation for the project to take off. Data siloes, especially when data is stored in non-digital formats, are a key example of this. 

“To be able to transform yourself, you must first have the right set of technological maturity to be able to accept, adopt and successfully implement those technologies,” he explained.  

Opportunity Lies Ahead 

The beauty of IT, according to Mr Jimmy, is that when finances, time and ideas are available, anything can be done. With so many avenues for growth, prioritisation is crucial because at the end of the day, the desired outcome of sustainable digital transformation is to create value. Having said that, he also stressed that, from large corporations to small hawker stalls, opportunities for digitalisation today are everywhere – a sentiment echoed by Guru Gaonkar, Regional Specialist Cloud Leader at Google, who said that with TNB as a backbone for the entire country, there is much opportunity to be found when faced with the challenge of serving the country and its people.  

Leadership that can make good decisions and push the digitalisation and sustainability agenda forward is also needed. Guru aptly puts it, “the opportunity for [TNB] is to be the benchmark for every other industry in Malaysia and in Southeast Asia to follow – that leadership position opportunity is available.” 

The beauty of IT, according to Mr Jimmy, is that when finances, time and ideas are available, anything can be done.

From a corporate perspective, Christine shared that traditional organisations are usually wired differently, needing plans and strategies to be perfect before execution. In her opinion, however, there needs to be a shift in thinking that allows a ‘watch and see’ approach that prioritises action for the sake of learning opportunities.  

Guru, on the other hand, believes that the most important part of digital transformation is getting started. “It is quite nice to see that the intent is very strong…but how do we translate that to get more meaningful outcomes for everybody?”  

Chua Seng Heng, Malaysia Country Manager of Amazon Web Services, added on, saying that there needs to be effort to shift cultural perspectives in a way that creates pockets of opportunity. He advocated for internally encouraging employees to experiment and drive innovation without fear of failure. “Innovation can always come in conjunction with agility,” he said, explaining that there will always be cost effective ways of experimenting. With innovation and agility, Chua believes we will be able to drive this transformation with a lot more excitement. 

A Move to Fast-Track Malaysia’s Energy Transition 

This year, ICON 2022 also marked the start of a historic partnership between Malaysia’s national utility, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), and global technology leader, Microsoft. The two giants signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see TNB’s energy expertise combined with Microsoft’s experience in digital and cloud technology to modernise the digital foundations of TNB and accelerate the utility’s digital transformation.  

“Digitalisation is a foundational element of TNB’s Grid of the Future pillar, shared Ahmad Hushairi, Chief Global Business Solutions Officer at TNB, “which is a critical enabler in delivering the nation’s transition as well as fast track TNB’s own sustainability aspiration of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.”  

The MoU signifies both parties’ agreement to work collaboratively to discover and validate potential opportunities, as well as cater to digital technology skilling. “We have enjoyed many successful stories in the past, and I hope this will continue in the future,” said Hushairi.  

The digital revolution is all around us and the power industry is no exception

“I strongly urge the working team for both of our companies to keep our eyes on the horizon and keep our hearts anchored on the bigger picture of our work here together – collaborating to bring a more sustainable energy future for the next generation.” 

The digital revolution is all around us and the power industry is no exception. Renewables, distributed generation and smart grids require new capabilities and are calling for new business models and regulatory frameworks. To fulfill these demands, the utility of the future must be a fully digital system that is well-connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable and sustainable.  

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