Confronting 2020’s challenges — and reimagining a better future
Fujitsu CEO and chief digital transformation officer, Takahito Tokita
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Confronting 2020’s challenges — and reimagining a better future

Sam Forsdick & Kenny MacIver — November 2020
With a focus on helping customers navigate today’s disruptive forces, Fujitsu’s virtual annual conference — Fujitsu ActivateNow — laid out a vision for how digital transformation can support the need for new ways of working, more adaptable organizations and greater resilience.

“Now it is time to reimagine how our businesses and our societies could be different — and better. This is an opportunity to reset business and ways of working, and shift to something completely new.”

Those words by Fujitsu’s CEO and chief digital transformation officer, Takahito Tokita, reflected the intense atmosphere of momentous change in the air at the company’s flagship annual event — this year held virtually and renamed Fujitsu ActivateNow (from Fujitsu Forum) to underscore the need for urgent action.

As the impact of the global pandemic has grown over 2020, Fujitsu has been reimagining itself and helping customers in industry sectors that have changed dramatically to do the same, said Tokita, offering the support needed, in many cases, to “face almost impossible challenges.”

An example of that is Fujitsu’s Global Delivery Centers, which provide service desks and offshore development from eight countries around the world. At the beginning of this year, 95% of the workforce was based in those centers, but over 10 days in March, almost all 23,000 moved to remote work — and that was at a time when customers needed more support than ever.

It mirrored that transition at thousands of its customers. At New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, for example, it installed 2,000 virtual workspaces in three days and at UK energy company Centrica, 1,400 home-working laptops were deployed over a single weekend.

But the advanced technology proved invaluable in many other areas. As coronavirus began to impact, Fujitsu deployed AI-based chatbots to local government authorities across Japan to help them meet citizens’ demand for information 24/7.  The company also accelerated the availability of Fugaku, the world’s fastest supercomputer that it build for Japanese research institute RIKEN, to enable Covid-19 to model infection spread and socio-economic impact and research into therapies and countermeasures.

“As a result [of all such efforts],” said Tokita, “I believe we built trust and tighter relationships with customers.”
Agile responses

Joining Tokita for the keynote sessions were customers such as Mars Petcare and Japanese bank Mizuho Financial Group — both of which reflect Tokita’s appreciation that “organizations are recognizing the need to use digital technology to build resilience.”


“Miao Song, Global CIO, Mars Petcare=
Miao Song, Global CIO, Mars Petcare

Mars Petcare’s global CIO, Miao Song, explained how a solid IT infrastructure and cloud strategy allowed the company to quickly switch to working from home and fulfil new customer requirements during the pandemic.

She explained that “using an agile approach and scaling it up in different markets, we were able to deliver our products to pet owners directly.” On an optimistic note, she added: “The current situation actually offers a lot of opportunity to use technology to make a fundamental difference in everybody’s life.”

Mizuho Financial Group CIO and Chief Digital Innovation Officer, Satoshi Ishii, also shared some of the changes underway at the Japanese retail bank. Significant changes in Japan’s economic and social landscape — from low birth rate and an aging population, to prolonged low interest rates — are inspiring Mizuho “to transform its business and operational style by exploiting new technologies.”

Partnering with Fujitsu, for instance, it has introduced computer tablets in bank branches, which are connected to a new core banking system, known as MINORI. This allows customers to complete tasks such as opening accounts, making withdrawals and changing address, without the need to wait for a teller.

This is allowing Mizuho to diversify its in-branch offerings and reskill employees, Ishii said. “To maintain and improve trust-based relationships with customers, it is vital to quickly and flexibly respond to change, to transform business style and operational processes, and to actively introduce technologies or skills.”


“Satoshi Ishii, Chief Digital Innovation Officer, Mizuho Financial Groupe=
Satoshi Ishii, Senior Managing Executive Officer, Chief Digital Innovation Officer, Mizuho Financial Group

A new way of working

The subject of new ways of working was high on Tokita’s  agenda. “At Fujitsu we are rethinking what a company should be and how our workstyle should be in a new world. We have brought in a new concept we called Work Life Shift, transforming the way our people are working and we are changing our work policy and culture to match.” The approach has already been introduced to 80,000 of Fujitsu employees.

At Fujitsu ActivateNow, London Business School’s Professor of Management Practice, Lynda Gratton, also offered her assessment of these new working structures and what the future of work could look like. The shift to remote-working arrangements during the pandemic has raised new questions around the purpose of office space. While Gratton doesn’t see a future where we never return to the office, she does believe that it could serve a different function.

“What we will see is that the office becomes a place of serendipity, collaboration and cooperation and not a place where you simply sit at your desk and work all the time,” said Gratton.

Such a cultural change aims to encourage more creativity and flexibility. Fujitsu’s offices are already being reimagined as places to “connect and collaborate” with colleagues and customers, rather than as a place employees go to as a matter of routine.

According to Gratton, only 8% of people say they would want to go back to the way things previously operated — meaning that many of the changes accelerated by the pandemic are likely to be permanent.  She used the metaphor of working cultures being frozen. “Pre-Covid, we were locked into traditional ways of working. We’re now going through a process of ‘unfreeze,’ as Covid has changed the way people think about work and the way they think about themselves.”
Building resilience

New ways of thinking were also shared by business model guru and author Alex Osterwalder. Building resilience is key to withstanding the many disrupting forces currently facing businesses, he told the Fujitsu ActivateNow audience.


“Alex Osterwalder=
Alex Osterwalder, business model expert

His critical advice to businesses that want to thrive and survive:
• Constantly reinvent the organization — in particular, when it’s at its most successful
• Don’t just compete on things like technology, product and price. Compete on superior business models that leverage innovation
• Transcend industry boundaries; the best companies can't be confined to a single industry anymore.

Reflecting on new business models, Tokita highlighted how Fujitsu customers everywhere recognized the need to use digital technologies to build future resilience. But behind that needs to be a clear, higher purpose. In Fujitsu’s case, its purpose for a post-pandemic world has now been revised to “make the world more sustainable by building trust in society through innovation.”

Watch all the Fujitsu ActivateNow 2020 keynote, highlight and breakout sessions

First published November 2020
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