Although SEA lags behind its global counterparts in the digital economy, the region holds the potential to enter the top five digital economies in the world by 2025.
Stressing on the accelerated pace of the adoption of digital technologies in the SEA region, in this exclusive interaction with People Matters, Amit Suxena, Vice President & Head of Applications - South East Asia and South Asia Growth Economies, Oracle, gives insights into how businesses in the SEA region are navigating the digital landscape and the trends that are shaping the workforce of today.
Amit heads Oracle's Applications and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) portfolio (ERP, SCM, CX and HCM) for the ASEAN Markets (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines) as well as South Asian Growth economies (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei, Nepal and Maldives) and has more than 24 years of experience working with brands like the Taj Group of Hotels, Bank of America and LogicaCMG.
The rapid spread of technology, generational gaps in the understanding or comfort with technology, and the highly accelerated uptake in digital tech is providing unique challenges for Asian businesses in navigating the digital landscape. How do you see this unraveling in the SEA region and how do you think organizations are managing this change?
To understand the role that technology is playing in SEA, we need to step back and reflect on how unique this region is. All countries in this region are at different levels of maturity in terms of how they view technology both from marketing as well as a social perspective. Most of the countries in this region are predominantly single-city economies unlike large countries like the US or developing countries like India and China. For instance, while Indonesia has many cities, more than 50 percent of the wealth of the country comes from one city, i.e. Jakarta that is home to a majority of MNCs and white collar workers. Similarly, Thailand has Bangkok and the Philippines have Manila. More and more companies are investing in such already overcrowded cities, which means that they have to use the best technology and get the right business models in place need to attract the best talent. Secondly, from a pure technology play perspective, the key challenge is how these organizations expand into other geographies considering that the maturity levels related to the use of technology differs in these regions. And while there are a lot of buzzwords around digital technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, what people are really looking for is simplicity in the use of technology. This is why more people in this region are adopting cloud technology and other solutions which are very simple and easy to use.
What do you think is unique about Cloud adoption in the region?
Earlier, in the SEA region, businesses didn’t have any automated systems to manage their workforces with. Not much attention was given to keeping people motivated or ensuring that an organization had the best talent. But the challenges of the region transformed and today, attracting and retaining people have become a business priority. When organizations started to automate their processes, they literally moved to cloud straight away. Today, for a small-medium enterprise or even a large organization which has a workforce spread geographically, it is important to have connectivity through mobile or digital. Such companies don’t want to invest in heavy IT Hardware and deal with the challenges that come along when they have to invest in a data center. They want something simple and Cloud is the solution. I have seen that the adoption of cloud technology has been much faster in this region because it makes it easier to scale a solution from one region to another. Cloud makes it easier to expand and adopt technology. In fact, the uptake has increased drastically in the last three years.
How are homegrown local companies across the Asia Pacific looking at transforming themselves?
From a people perspective, a lot of new-age organizations comprise more millennials and exhibit a startup culture and this young generation is extremely curious and desires to be connected to the things they think are happening around them. They want simplicity, a high level of connectivity and wish to make decisions backed by data. And this is true for all the functions and industries. The desire to have simple and data-backed solutions has led to a faster adoption of digital/cloud/SaaS channels in the SEA region. The pace of work for the millennial workforce is different and hence digitization is much faster in organizations in the SEA region.
How are organizations looking at transforming their HR functions and what role is technology playing in that?
Of all the areas that are impacted, the revolution in the HR world has been phenomenal. In the SEA region, the pace of growth has been slower comparatively to the rest of the world and this is why the region has lost a lot of good talent to other regions with better opportunities. This migration of talent has put a strain on organizations and their abilities to attract and retain the best and the right talent. Along with this, understanding the needs of the millennial generation and creating relevant people strategies is another area which HR in this region has to address. This is where technology comes to play a role. For instance, Oracle’s HCM system has a lot of AI & ML built into the applications. If I am recruiting somebody from the market, the HCM system will be able to tell me the chances of a candidate accepting a job offer for a particular post and compensation. The system will enable the recruiter to know that in this market if you increase the salary by x dollars, the chances of acceptance of the offer by a specific candidate will go up by y.
Through tech solutions and data, HR leaders can make better decisions and address the challenges of talent attraction and retention more efficiently. Data helps them gain the right resources for the unique market or audience they wish to cater to.
What advice would you give to organizations that are looking to accelerate digital transformation?
My advice would be to ‘Keep it as simple as possible’ and forget about all the awesome technologies that are there. Keep the technology ‘behind the scenes’, the front-end needs to be as simple as possible and remember the following three trends shaping the workforce of today:
Personal-development & self-growth: People want to take their careers in their own hands. Therefore, HR professionals should look at solutions where employees are able to make choices for themselves. This sense of ownership and an opportunity to grow will motivate them to stay longer.
A demand for flexibility or mobility: Employees work from different parts of the world or their work often takes them there. Hence, there is a need to have HR solutions which are flexible, mobile, and easily accessible.
Addressing challenges beyond work: The young crowd of today cares about the world, the environmental and the social issues and if there is an application which caters to the interests of the employees beyond work, organizations will be able to retain staff far more efficiently.
Organizations must be open-minded about new technological advancements and how other companies in the industry are capitalizing on them in order to pave the way for innovation and better business agility. One way of keeping abreast of technological advancements can be attending tech events or business conferences that media companies and Cloud companies (like Oracle) organize across the region.
Note: Oracle OpenWorld Asia will be held in Singapore on 26 and 27 March 2019. People Matters is proud to be associated with this event as a Media Partner.