Big Ideas

Digital Rising

Oracle’s Hiro Sugihara sees “digital aid” as an energizing force in the era of transformation.

by Aaron Lazenby

Fall 2016

For centuries, Japan has successfully navigated radical disruptions, both sudden and gradual: isolation, war, natural disaster, economic stagnation, and more. And the rapid advance of technology stands to further complicate the country’s business environment, where cautious investment and a shrinking consumer market put new pressure on the well-established businesses that dominate the economy.

But for Hiroshige “Hiro” Sugihara, president and CEO, Oracle Japan, business outlook shouldn’t be defined only by the challenges that threaten the status quo—particularly when it comes to the role of technology. Rather, he believes strategy should be driven by a shared sense of purpose and the belief that technology plays more of an additive (as opposed to disruptive) role with respect to the future.

“I call this ‘digital aid’ rather than ‘digital disruption,’” says Sugihara, favoring an optimistic view of technology and the future. “It is the benefit to society that is generated by digital technology.”

Sugihara sees a direct connection between the technology that for-profit and nonprofit organizations use to support operations and the market benefit they provide. He believes that the concept of “digital aid” allows Oracle (particularly the company’s secure, cloud-based offerings) to support the products and services that enhance people’s lives.

“Oracle is fundamentally a B2B enterprise, so we don’t provide services directly to consumers,” Sugihara explains. “But everything we support—companies, governments, communities, and schools—is created and run by people, for people.”

Delivering on operational excellence—and securing trust in the systems and processes that support operations—is the essential role of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Sugihara believes that Oracle ERP Cloud offerings represent a new generation of benefits in the ERP space. That means there are new, unrealized operational advantages available in the cloud, and an enhanced downstream effect on the economy and broader society.

Everything we support— companies, governments, communities, and schools— is created and run by people, for people.”–Hiroshige Sugihara, President and CEO, Oracle Japan

According to Sugihara, a series of commercial “digital divides” exists among organizations in the economy. For example, a small, innovative company might have an IT or operational disadvantage that limits its success against a larger competitor. Companies with the capacity to go global or reach into distant markets separate themselves from those that can’t. But affordable access to enterprise-class IT and operational systems, such as Oracle ERP Cloud, can bring competitors closer together and activate new ideas in the marketplace.

“I think that midsize companies, for example, can benefit from our cloud services in that they can now access business best practices and innovative technologies more affordably and more quickly,” says Sugihara.

That activity and spirit is very present in Tokyo, as Japan prepares to host the Olympic Games for the first time in more than 50 years. Sugihara is energized by the potential that preparations for the 2020 Olympics will help transform the host city—and show Japan’s spirit of innovation to the world at large. “It is said that this Olympics will fully utilize revolutionary IT technologies,” explains Sugihara. “This will help further advance digitalization in Japan.”

Indeed, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has regularly advocated for an expansion of the use of robotics in the Japanese economy—so visitors in Tokyo for the Olympics should expect to interact with robotic hosts and translators. And investments in infrastructure—such as the continued development of Tokyo’s “future city” of Odaiba, home of the Olympic village—will provide an impressive stage for Japan to show off its technical prowess.

Don’t forget, it was the 1964 Olympics that sparked the creation of an iconic Japanese innovation—the bullet train.

This is what Sugihara means when he speaks of digital aid, the capacity for technology to improve society as a whole. As that technology becomes more prolific and accessible, so do the benefits. “We believe in, and aim to deliver, digital aid for the people and society of Japan as a whole,” he says. “We hope that Oracle’s cloud offerings will be used to improve the lives of the Japanese people.”

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