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Chinachem turns to digital transformation to streamline operations in one of Hong Kong’s most traditional industries


According to a January story in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong has topped the table as the world’s most expensive housing market for the 9th straight year. That sounds like good news for property developers. But, according to the same story, prices of Hong Kong homes also fell 7.2 per cent in the previous four months.

What the news really shows is that the property market can be volatile. Combined with long construction times running into years, and billion dollar capital investments, that makes property development an extremely challenging industry.

Few of Hong Kong’s developers understand that better than the Chinachem Group. While it  began its life in agricultural projects and chemicals, through the decades, Chinachem has developed its presence as one of Hong Kong’s most famous property companies – through prosperous and tough times. Most recently, Chinachem was able to win a big land parcel in one of Hong Kong’s upmarket suburbs after surveyors cut their valuation by 10 per cent, another sign of softening property prices.

However, in an industry that is often very traditional in its execution, it is not just prices that are putting property businesses under increasing competitive pressure. The digital explosion is also having a huge effect. As Chinachem’s Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Donald Choi points out, technology is changing how companies in every industry are organized and run, and Chinachem isn’t any different.


Changing times

Hong Kong has been lucky in a sense, especially in the property market, which has been a long-term growth market. But complacency can be a killer.

Chinachem’s Head of Group IT, Joseph Cagliarini believes that the lesson of a truly global brand like Kodak, which went bankrupt because the world changed from film to digital photography, cannot be overlooked. Instead, he calls for a relentless pursuit of technology to make sure Chinachem is not only listening to its customers, but able to respond.

Different companies are at different stages of embracing digital transformation and technology. Anticipating what is required and strategizing change, Chinachem has turned its eyes to a new generation of milestones, and embarked on a journey to become an intelligent enterprise.

For the long-time property developer, that change starts with data. Or, more specifically, real-time data. Like many companies, it didn’t have a central view of its operations. So, all of its business units operated to some extent, autonomously. That created  a mountain of manual processes, and many separate systems containing valuable information.

In October Chinachem selected a comprehensive suite of SAP software and cloud solutions to drive operational efficiency across finance and HR operations for its corporate group and hotels. It chose SAP S/4HANA, as well as SAP’s  Business Objects, Business Planning and Consolidation, and Process Orchestration software, to help drive long-term efficiencies and growth.

SAP is also providing Chinachem with the full suite of SuccessFactors, including Workforce software for Time and Attendance Management, and the SAP Cloud Platform, to drive rapid innovation and increase the strategic value of human resources.

Once the solutions are fully implemented, Chinachem will enjoy a variety of benefits, including real-time updates on financial performance that will optimize their finance processes. Everything from planning and analysis to period end close and treasury management.


Long-term plans

S/4HANA also offers other key features that will support the group’s long-term objectives, such as enhancing financial planning and analysis, accelerating planning cycles, increasing profitability, and making finance functions more efficient.

The SuccessFactors HR platform will enable Chinachem to accelerate the building and deployment of apps and extensions that engage employees in new ways. This will allow HR to be flexible and innovative without compromising the organization’s core HR process.

In addition, the consistent and harmonized user experience delivered by SuccessFactors solutions and platform extensions will help Chinachem’s hotels to personalize their end-to-end HR landscape, creating an outstanding,  seamless and secure user experience. The group can also leverage data from SAP SuccessFactors solutions to make insightful business decisions that will have lasting impact.


Customers are still king

Chinachem’s  journey also involves adapting to changing customers – ones who now live on multiple platforms, both online and off.

With the right technology and software, Chinachem will be able to monitor customer behavior and, therefore respond to their needs without actually being asked. Executive Director of Chinachem, Donald Choi believes that advanced data analytics could be the key to this. Not to replace offline experiences – but to be at all the right places at the right time!

In an ever-changing and increasingly digital world, a comprehensive suite of SAP software and cloud solutions may not be the final answer for all of Chinachem’s needs. However, as Donald says, “it is a good starting point for this journey.”

Pictures are worth a thousand words. If you’d like to learn more about Chinachem’s digital transformation journey, click here to see a short video