11 January 2021
Digital transformation improves more than an organisation’s operational efficiency; it also helps the organisation move up the value chain. Of a total of 188 real estate companies from Europe, America, Asia and other regions surveyed by KPMG in early 2020, about 58% report that they currently have a digital strategy in place, representing an increase from 52% in 2018-2019. In addition, approximately 95% of real estate companies said they have plans to undergo a digital transformation.

In response to this trend, Hong Kong’s property developers have accelerated their digital transformation plans to improve their competitiveness while contributing to the building of smart cities. Fostering change in corporate culture is critical to the success of driving digital transformation, which is why Chinachem Group has created a Business Transformation and Innovation department to digitalise its core business processes and promote the use of proptech.

“First, we use technology to strengthen our marketplace edge; and second, we aim to formulate new business models and explore new revenue streams. We may even invest in promising start-ups that show traction in the market for new income streams.”

Fostering an innovative culture and mind-set

For digital transformation to be successful, it is difficult to rely on one or two departments alone; it requires cultural change as well. Outsiders such as consultants may not understand the pain points of on organisation, whereas the department in charge truly understands where the problems lie and know what solutions may be realistic. As a result, digital transformation is not confined to technological innovation; rather, it requires a radical employee shift in mind-set. Digital transformation can only succeed when an organisation perceives change as a core value and, likewise, when employees embrace innovation.

Citing his company as an example, Damien decided to work with Chinachem Group’s Human Resources Department to launch a programme known as “Innovation Ambassador” in order to encourage employees to innovate and drive change in corporate culture. He confessed that before joining the Group, he thought that digital transformation might be difficult in a traditional organisation like Chinachem Group, which has a long-running history of success. It turns out his worries were unfounded.

“Hongkongers are never afraid of innovation. For instance, during the pandemic this year, we set up an inter-departmental task force to fight the coronavirus using technology. From hand-washing fluid to thermometers, the task force’s members were immersed in up-to-the-moment research and discussions,” said Damien. “Our hotels decided to use robots for room service. We even studied the feasibility of using AI-enabled robotics to transport luggage to different rooms. All these were new approaches for us.”

Finding the right business solution

Chinachem Group is now running on the fast-track to digitalisation, and its Finance and Human Resources departments are using System Applications and Products (SAP). Chinachem Group is also the first Hong Kong company to use Building Information Modelling (BIM), Aconex and Novade to help digitalise the construction industry. Chinachem Group also actively supports the local start-up ecosystem. It works with accelerators to encourage start-ups to create innovative solutions, thereby enabling the industry to address specific challenges and meet a variety of new demands. At the same time, the Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Smart City Consortium in July 2020 to promote the development of a smart city. Currently, Chinachem Group is planning on its very first IoT equipment safety standard.

With regards to future development, Damien explained that Chinachem Group would begin the second phase of the deployment of SAP to centralise and streamline the Group’s business processes and information flow and upgrade its existing leasing management system.

Grow with start-ups

Chinachem Group will also connect local and overseas stakeholders to let them know the Group is eager to embrace innovation. “We hope to make us part of the larger tech ecosystem so that start-ups will approach us. We also look for opportunities to co-invest in start-ups with venture capital funds. This way the entire start-up ecosystem is aware of our commitment to digital transformation and by doing this, we will create a better future,” said Damien.

One recent example of Chinachem Group’s work is the introduction of the Enertainer, a battery-storage system created by a local start-up, for the construction site at Anderson Road. “Traditional diesel generators are the most usual power source for remote construction sites because connecting to the grid is extremely difficult. By using the Enertainer, we were able to run all equipment without fumes or noise of diesel generators on site and reduce carbon emissions by 85%. This is one of the reasons we promote the use of clean energy wherever possible in our site works,” Damien explained. There are more examples. For instance, the Group was the first private sector company to introduce the ‘kNOw Touch’ contactless panel developed by the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC).

“For start-ups and companies undergoing digital transformation alike, it is common to fail, but those who fail fast tend to succeed faster,” said Damien. “Therefore, there must be a procedure, or what is known as Minimum Viable Product (MVP), to allow them to review, correct, and restart. Traditional organisations do not have this mind-set or culture, but we often remind our colleagues that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Sometimes it’s not a big deal to fail, but the most important thing is we learn from our mistakes. Have a plan B, so that we can cope with uncertainty and timely respond with agility.”

Damien Wu, Managing Director of Corporate Development, Chinachem Group
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