Q&A | The exciting future for cloud business in Asean

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The Asean region is rapidly becoming one of the most important, not to mention most powerful, economic zones in the world. This status is expected to become more prominent in the coming years, as Southeast Asian countries start to execute plans and policies for the region’s economic integration.

By 2020, it would have fully implemented these reforms, and will thus begin reaping the benefits of the unified economic powerhouse. This transformation prompts institutions and businesses to keep up with the changing fiscal landscape through digitization.

Neeraj Shaabi, regional managing director of Oracle Asean, shares views on this digital migration process and how companies as well as the government should leverage this to keep pace and progress with the entire region.

Q: What would you say most characterizes developments in your region right now?

In Asean, a region with 10 member states representing over 622 million people, economic integration is at the forefront of development. The establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 is a major milestone in this direction, offering opportunities in the form of a single huge market of $2.6 trillion and over 622 million people. The AEC is collectively the third largest economy in Asia and the seventh largest in the world, so there’s huge potential in this market.

My territory also extends out to the South Asia Growth Economies such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. To move rapidly with integration on that scale, you need digitalization on a business, government, and societal level.

A good example of this is the Smart Nation initiative of Singapore. A city-wide IT infrastructure connects, collects, and comprehends data and information, pulling together private and public sectors along with our citizens into everything we do, from extending healthcare into the home to making our public transport systems and road traffic more efficient.

In a densely populated nation like Singapore, leveraging technology allows us to use our resources more efficiently, and frees us from some of the constraints of a compact living space. It also turns the issue of a dense population into an advantage, as this gives us more power with crowd sourcing and collaborative applications.

Q: How are you seeing digital transformation impacting the business landscape in Asean?

Across Asean and South Asia, we’re seeing a strong move towards adoption of cloud solutions. This means that businesses can leverage the latest IT solutions in the cloud without going through the time, effort and expense of buying and implementing hardware and software in-house and then having to maintaining it as well.

Businesses get up and running on best-of-breed software applications very rapidly, so they benefit from faster time to market with new products and services. And going forward, rather than just wasting resources on system maintenance, they can focus on innovation to gain market share. Enterprises become much more competitive both within their own markets and also when facing global competition.

Q: The countries that make up Asean and others in South Asia represent a range of levels of economic development. Are there different approaches to cloud in each country?

Indeed it’s a mixed bag, and there are some surprises in the different geographies. Intuitively you would think that in markets like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, there would be a more advanced degree of adoption, but in fact emerging markets like Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are very vibrant and showing a lot of cloud adoption.

The underlying dynamic of very few legacy systems allows these countries to go straight to new-generation concepts such as the cloud, and that’s been very positive. I’m delighted to see at this conference we have almost disproportional representation from these countries and a huge interest in adopting the ideas we’re talking about here.

On the other hand, the larger HQ-based multi-nationals are extending their on-premise assets out to subsidiaries across the region with a cloud value proposition. Cloud provides an easy way to bring the entire ecosystem that the company operates into their net.

What we’re also seeing is cross-industry proliferation, breaking out from the core industries such as telecoms and finance and extending out to a broader mix of industries in the mid-market space – food manufacturers, logistics companies, a taxi company, and an online grocery store – all fascinating business stories.

Q: What size companies are most enthusiastic about SaaS adoption?

There’s something for everyone. Cloud offers a path to more rapid development for growing companies in dynamic markets. More established companies can choose which of their systems they want to keep in-house with a private cloud versus for example, moving customer-facing systems into the public cloud.

Q: What would you say to companies hesitating on a move to the cloud – don’t some companies worry about data security and lack of control over their applications?

A massive amount of resources are channeled into these cloud centers. Oracle’s technology and best practices represent decades of experience that IT departments in businesses such as manufacturing really can’t match, simply because IT is not their core business.

We have a state-of-the-art cloud data center here in Singapore, with security at every level, from the front door down to the database and computer chip. And, we provide best of breed applications across the entire range of business departments.

Q: Has Oracle also had to adapt to digital transformation?

As IT becomes much more integral to a company, we find we’re talking to line of business managers who use the ERP, Finance, HR, and Customer Experience solutions themselves, such as the Supply Chain Manager or Chief Marketing Officer. These are the people who really understand what they need to achieve their business goals, and with cloud, those solutions have been brought within reach.

On the other side, as a provider of those cloud services, we need to talk the language of the line of business rather than just talking to the IT folks.

Q: Where are you seeing greatest uptake on SaaS business solutions?

We are seeing a whole new category of ERP Cloud customers, as these solutions bring immediate gains in efficiency and adaptability. We have a robust Customer Experience portfolio, and we’re making inroads in HCM.

The workforce is really the most valuable asset for any corporation, and as we see many new entrants to the work place with the younger population demographic of Asean and South Asia, companies need to hire the best people and also engage and retain them.

Q: What were the highlights for you at the MBX conference?

The diversity of attendees has been truly in the spirit of Singapore as a global city. I was pleasantly surprised at how global the conference has become.

We had people from 30 countries attending, and the crowd has been very enthusiastic about the learning experience throughout all the different keynotes and business tracks. With the success of the conference I’m sure we’ll see many more in the years to come.

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