Dentsu Aegis Network: digital as a way of life

Dentsu Aegis Network: digital as a way of life

Leo Liu, CTO, examines how Dentsu Aegis is helping its clients navigate their own digital transformation and prepare for a next-gen way of operating...

Business in the digital era can be a dizzying experience: it’s fast-paced and exciting, yet sometimes the changes happen too fast for some companies to build an adequate strategy to cope with them. Stepping in to help solve these problems is multinational media company Dentsu Aegis Network, a global expert in multimedia marketing solutions and a go-to resource for those who require assistance navigating through a digital transformation. With principle services consisting of content creation, media planning, sports marketing, brand tracking and market analytics, the company is well-equipped to establish a brand firmly in the digital consciousness and keep it there.

Joining the company in 2018, Leo brought with him a wealth of tech experience gained from previous positions at industry luminaries like Tesla and Cisco. “I’ve loved technology ever since I was young. I was fortunate to be part of some very innovative technology companies and witness the internet's evolution over the past 20 years,” he says. “I'm intrigued by digital transformation and passionate to help companies with their digital transformation journey.” Dentsu Aegis Network was the first media network Leo has joined and he saw a great opportunity to be able to drive digital transformations for both the company and its clients (representing a diverse spread of industries, countries and markets).

When it came time for Leo to formulate his approach to the CTO role, he relates that the leadership styles he’d worked under previously influenced him greatly. “One thing I learned from great leaders like Elon Musk (Tesla) and John T. Chambers (Cisco) is that they have a vision, a higher purpose to impact the world positively. It is important to have a vision which people can relate to and get excited about; a North Star to aim for,” he explains. Taking this philosophy into account, Leo implemented the Vision, Strategy, Execution framework to ensure his team is focused on achieving a long-term plan whilst making progress on execution daily. “Execution without strategy is aimless. Strategy without execution is useless.”

Although being able to conjure the vision is half the battle, Leo emphasises that the real benefit of choosing Dentsu Aegis Network to drive digital transformation lies in the company’s diverse range of clients: finding ways to optimise business whilst maintaining its capacity for handling a myriad of complex industries has made the company exceptionally knowledgeable and unique. Guiding each case is a star model that Leo calls ‘Vision, Structure, Process, Reward and People’. Regarding this, he says, “My job is to establish the vision, optimise the structure, streamline the process, encourage with reward and take care of the people.” It is primarily a people-centric philosophy, one which praises the efforts of teams whilst also recognising the value of individuals. However, technology has an equally important part to play, particularly in light of the recent disruptions to global workforces originating from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. “It is a very challenging time for everyone,” Leo states. “I’m keeping my team focused and motivated to ensure our business continues while the world is locked down. We are also taking this as an opportunity to accelerate digitalisation to make our business faster, better and smarter.” With almost 15,000 Dentsu Aegis Network staff working remotely, a new paradigm is emerging, not just for the company but also for its clients, who are looking to Dentsu Aegis Network for digital leadership in uncertain times.

Far from being a task that Dentsu Aegis Network can achieve on its own, the company relies on a network of close partners and suppliers to ensure that it can deliver high-quality work to its customers. In terms of what makes a great long-term collaborator for the company, Leo relies on the golden formula: domain knowledge, communication and a trusting relationship. Whether it is China Broadband Communications (CBC), Pulse Secure or Microsoft, Dentsu Aegis relies on its partners to provide critical expertise that enables the company to operate without disruption.

Leo is enthusiastic about the integral role that CBC plays in Dentsu Aegis’ daily operations. “CBC is our strategic partner in China, providing Dentsu Aegis with high quality internet network, cloud and managed ICT services,” he states. “CBC is an agile partner which is able to provide flexible, scalable network solutions which meet our ever-changing needs and help us achieve business growth. CBC is able to quickly identify and understand our business needs and has always provided us with innovative and cost-efficient solutions. On top of its all, the CBC team is professional and customer focused. Dentsu Aegis is looking forward to strengthening its long-term partnership with CBC as we continue to grow.”

Similarly, Leo singles out software company Pulse Secure for special praise: “They’ve provided the technological means to allow our 15,000 employees to access corporate resources from any location, any device, at any time. Pulse Secure’s ability to grant this working model to our employees is critical at this juncture; not only does it serve as a precautionary measure against infection, but also ensures our business is operating as usual, without any disruption to our customers.”

When asked his opinion on the significance of digital transformation trends (cloud, data analytics, AI and IoT), Leo has a mixed response to their contemporary application. In terms of cloud, he states that it is the requisite foundation, although often a challenge for companies with ‘legacy systems’ in place to migrate and adopt. However, Dentsu Aegis Network is staunchly dedicated to the cloud strategy and has made significant progress to overcome the challenges. “Our multi-cloud strategy assuredly improved our business resilience in this uncertain time.”

Similarly, for data and analytics, Leo highlights how valuable the insights granted by these innovations are to businesses in terms of understanding their clients: “The ability to quickly, accurately and comprehensively capture data for analysis, which in turn allows us to make informed decisions, has absolutely improved our organisational efficiencies and effectiveness,” he explains. “We leverage omnidata intelligence to help analyse the customers’ journey and consumer behaviour psychology to generate insights and enhance the effectiveness of marketing campaigns for our clients.” Conversely, Leo considers AI (artificial intelligence) to be widely misunderstood and relatively undeveloped in most organisations. “Many people are scared of the word ‘automation’; to a lot of frontline staff, AI equates to losing their job.” Therefore, Leo views it as crucial that the development of AI goes hand-in-hand with education and a mindset shift, which he anticipates will be increasingly important in the next five years.

Despite 2020 shaping up to be an unprecedented year for everyone, Leo affirms that his team’s focus remains the same: accelerating digital transformation. Dentsu Aegis is currently leveraging the latest cloud-based technology and microservices into a service-oriented NextGen MarTech Platform. “This enables our clients to drive digital transformation with the modern digital data and technology,” Leo says. “All our clients are also undergoing digital transformation within their own organisation and industry, so having a platform that enables them to quickly adapt to the latest consumer trends whilst maintaining customer loyalty is very important in this new digital era. Companies need to expeditiously adopt to the digital, interactive, virtual, networked and simulated new media world.” The time for transforming a business’ way of working couldn’t be better: with the COVID-19 pandemic derailing many preconceptions about the way people work, learn and play. “We kick-started the PowerUp initiative to accelerate our digital transformation within the organization early this year. The aspirational goal is to digitalise at least 100 workflows this year. In Q1, we identified hundreds of excel/email/paper workflows and the team has already digitalised more than 65 in a relatively short period of time.”

Leo is confident that Dentsu Aegis Network can be a force for positive change in the new world. “I think how people live will change forever, both for our generation and for the generation to come,” he concludes. “Digitalisation is the new way of life. This year is the turning point of our digital transformation journey.”

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