In a modern world, the line separating innovation from the digital sphere has become increasingly challenging to distinguish.
As we enter Industry 5.0, or as Scientific Futurist Catherine Bell claims, “the 5th Industrial Revolution”, digital has become the global standard for businesses. And many are now integrating conversational, generative, and more cutting-edge versions of AI into their daily processes.
However, embedding these technologies is complex. These transformation projects require not only technology adoption but also strategy alignment, cultural resets, and sometimes the addition of external talent to help drive the change.
For businesses to grow and evolve, embracing these shifts is becoming a non-negotiable. So, which companies are committed to the change in 2023 and beyond?
In this article, we’ll look at five large organisations (above) and investigate how, despite not being digitally native, they are putting technology first and adapting their strategies with the future in mind.
MassMutual is learning from fintech
MassMutual, primarily headquartered in Massachusetts, USA, is a well-established life insurance firm with a rich history dating back to its founding in 1851. The company specialises in providing life insurance, retirement planning, and financial services to both individuals and institutions.
As one of the largest life insurance companies in the United States, MassMutual also maintains a significant presence within the financial services sector.
Digital change is difficult for any company, but for larger and more established firms, it becomes even more challenging - especially when stakeholders are already encumbered in old systems. This hasn’t stopped MassMutual, though - who consider themselves digital pioneers of the insurance industry.
In a podcast last year, the CEO of MassMutual, Roger Crandall, spoke about the condition of his industry. He claimed,
“I think we are in the midst of the biggest transformation of our industry ever.”
He also talked about the impact of start-up fintech companies and how they’re influencing the wider context. He says,
“Any established industry, particularly one that is regulated, will look at new entrants and be tempted to say, ‘They are distorting and harmful. They don’t get it.’ But if you take the long view, that’s how innovation happens.”
MassMutual has been on its own journey of innovation, with a mission of building a “fully digital insurance company” - in part, driven by how volatile and unpredictable the market has been. They’ve invested tech in various areas of the business, including policy administration, claim-paying, and a machine learning model for underwriting.
Not an easy change for an industry so rooted in corporate tradition and, operationally, one with an abundance of legacy platforms.
2) Walmart is enhancing its e-commerce
The e-commerce space has become increasingly competitive over the last 15 years, and with huge innovators like Amazon banging on the front door, there’s no time to rest on your laurels.
Walmart is one retail company committed to improving its digital capabilities whilst preserving its personal touch. Their statement of “people-led, tech-powered” speaks to that positioning.
So, how are they competing?
Walmart’s answer came this year in the form of “My Assistant,” a cutting-edge generative AI-powered tool designed to accelerate document drafting and summarising for off-site employees - all according to Walmart.
Ben Peterson, the Head of People Product,says,
“Similar to how early users of Microsoft Excel had to be trained to understand how to harness the power of a PivotTable and VLOOKUP formulas, generative AI users have to understand prompting and high-impact use cases to truly harness its power.”
In the talk, he also reiterates that Walmart will stay committed to being a leader in generative AI, ensuring that the company’s 2.1 million global associates are supported by the best technology available.
Much of their innovation is powered by Walmart Global Tech, a division which focuses on innovation within the retail industry. From AI-powered inventory systems to quantifying marketing campaign effectiveness - the organisation is well-supported in their digital endeavours.
3) IKEA buy into warehouse efficiency
Another shift we’ve witnessed in the past few years is the increased need for organisations to modernise their warehouse management. Companies are competing with an on-demand mentality from their consumers, and it’s putting more pressure than ever on retail players to deliver their products quickly and efficiently.
To solve this challenge, Ingka Investments, the investment arm of Ingka Group (the largest owner and operator of IKEA stores in 31 countries), announced it had acquired Made4Net - a US-based supply chain solution provider that focuses on software.
“We expect to deliver faster, more accurate order fulfilment solutions and improved supply chain efficiencies, meeting both the needs of IKEA customers and co-workers."
Of course, acquiring can be a turbulent process, but when due diligence is followed, the benefits can truly revolutionise departments like operations. It means you buy into, often, unique technology as well as the people who know how to manage it the best.
For IKEA, it ensures that their customers experience greater consistency across the delivery service, offering greater transparency on delivery timings as well as product availability.
4) General Motors aims to produce only electric vehicles by 2035
With 85% of consumers buying more sustainable products, organisations have both a financial and ethical incentive to deliver on sustainability.
That’s something the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, wants to make sure the company is ahead of the curve for. She says,
“I think there's so much changing right now. I believe we have the right strategy when people say, what keeps me up at night is, are we moving fast enough?”
The company will certainly have to move fast if it wants to hit its goal of selling only zero-emission cars and trucks by 2035.
The automotive industry especially has felt growing pressure to go green, with brands from Tesla to Toyota making pledges towards the production of electric cars. The New York Times reports, “The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.” - if this is to be believed, then surely the first transitioners place themselves as pioneers of history.
Mr Parker, the company’s chief sustainability officer, comments on the organisation’s internal motivation, saying:
“We want to have a business in 15 years that’s a thriving business.”
To realise this vision, substantial investments in additional battery plants and the continued development of their electric vehicle models are paramount. While ambitious, the plans and comments from the employees show that G.M. is committed to transformation - whether pressured by consumers and government policy or not.
5) Bayer embraces healthtec
The Covid-19 pandemic has, in large part, propelled the digitisation of the healthcare sector.
At a time when people had no choice but to have video GP appointments, track vaccine passes on the official NHS app, and reply to phone call diagnostics, healthcare firms had to find digital solutions for patient needs.
However, there’s still much to be improved from both a patient and service provider perspective. And pharmaceutical firms like Bayer are attempting to bridge that gap.
The German multinational, founded in 1863, is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and is responsible for producing analgesics such as Bayer Aspirin and Aleve, as well as food supplements like Berocca. The company has made it clear that it is looking to invest in digitally-enabled precision health products which focus on personalisation and “novel delivery mechanisms”.
David Evendon-Challis, head of R&D and chief scientific officer for the Consumer Health division of Bayer, has said:
“Digital therapeutics are a perfect addition to our portfolio of care and tap into new tech-savvy consumers looking for drug-free treatments as well as help eliminate gaps in care provision. We’re excited to partner with Mahana Therapeutics and enter the field of digital therapeutics in consumer health.”
The organisation is doing this in multiple ways. The first is through collaboration, having partnered with Mahana Therapeutics, which developed prescription digital therapies for those suffering from chronic conditions.
In early 2023, it also acquired Blackford Analysis, a medical imaging AI developer based in Edinburgh. It means that instead of using IV contrasts for scans, which can be painful and inappropriate in some instances, they can use AI scans to reveal pathologies in patients’ organs.