Pragmatic digitization for Asian businesses surely the way forward

Companies of all sizes and organizations from the scale of national governments down to SMEs are under a great deal of pressure to digitalize. That’s due in part to the massive rise in consumer electronics and services: the ease with which we can order our lives online, we feel, should be translated into business life too. As a result, companies and institutions that don’t or can’t respond to the always-on, right-now demands of customers and service-users are those that will fall by the wayside.

Naturally, attitudes to digitization change from country to country, and business to business. The American giant, General Electric (GE) has hit rocky ground in the past, with a plummeting stock price and shareholder outrage after a massive and costly failure in a broad-reaching digitization drive.

In Asia and Australasia, there is a great deal of pressure felt locally due to the advances in technology and innovations coming from mainland China. While some of those new ideas and products are not suitable for immediate deployment in countries like Singapore, Malaysia or Japan because of regulatory concerns, the take-home lesson is one of the need for innovative initiatives that produce quick results.

Asia’s unique approach

Unlike the GE example in the US, teams bringing technology forward in new projects in Asia are under a lot more pressure to produce provable results early on in a project. There simply aren’t the long-term investment opportunities in the rapidly shifting ASEAN market to allow for slow implementations and an experimental approach.

“Many Asia businesses have recognized the urge to demonstrate quantifiable results at the early stage of their innovation initiatives,” said Mark Lunt, managing director at JOS, a Hong Kong-based IT services company. “They often work with a tighter budget, less ambitious and more pragmatic innovation plans.”

He added that Asian companies have learned and continue to do so from the American and North European colleagues, but the more grounded, pragmatic business sensibilities required for business in Asia puts the emphasis on quickly proving the case for the new.

What is proven to be effective in the APAC is a pragmatic, business outcome-oriented approach. To an extent, that puts the technology questions further down the line. The first issues addressed should be what do we need to achieve in a business sense, and how best to achieve those goals in a stepwise manner.

Five pillars for technological change

The actual technology choices (which platform, which product, implementation roadmap) only come at a later stage. But what have been found to be the prevailing themes on thought leadership hubs and at tech conferences & exhibitions are (in no particular order), AI, big data, cloud, cybersecurity, and IoT.

“They are the five most important technologies to enable innovation and each of them has an important part to play,” added Lunt.

These five pillars of influence at present are pretty much always intrinsically linked: one cannot exist without the other.

Take as an example an installation of IIoT (industrial IoT) in an edge-based instance. The data deluge created by multiple devices requires processing by big data technologies to normalize it before it can be processed. The processing part of the algorithm is a necessity for genuine business insights to be unearthed, and the processing requires advanced AI technologies, such as NLP (natural language processing) for, for example, sentiment analysis.

The data throughout the process is often stored or processed in a cloud computing environment. Out in the cloud, too, there are many services available like open-standards machine learning routines that can draw significant insights from data banks so large they could never be examined properly by human eyes.

As data moves from individual IIoT devices to the data lakes or warehouses, cloud services (XaaS = just about anything as a [cloud] service), and machine learning (ML) processing, the required element of security becomes apparent. Cybersecurity must underpin every aspect of digitization, with effective, built-in safeguards required for the protection of IP (intellectual property) and also to satisfy local and transnational data governance and regulations.

Choosing the correct solutions (hardware, software, infrastructure, methodology) is a business-focused decision, dependent on the desired outcomes. It is an impractical move to simply meet the CEO’s spontaneous request ” to use IoT on the factory floor”” – a better choice is to develop a strategic plan that realizes the best return against the factory gate price by exploring the right technologies that decreases ongoing cost in a manufacturing process. The way to that commercially-oriented goal may well be through IIoT, but a platform as complex as IoT does not exist in isolation, and the choice of provider or system doesn’t come easily, precisely because of that lack of isolation.

Making innovation real in Asia

Media, communications and network connectivity are three areas in which the US and much of Europe lags behind the APAC, so companies in Asia already have significant advantage there. But it’s the business-focus of Asian enterprises that eclipses their slower-moving US colleagues, every time – and never more so when it comes to getting an idea to market quickly, and proving an ROI in relatively short timescales.

Aiming to help Asia businesses to turn their ideas into business reality, Lunt said JOS’s credo is Make Innovation Real. With more than 60 years of experience in the region, JOS has been powering the digital, transformative changes that propel companies not only ahead of competitors, but also into the position of global leadership in their verticals. To share this experience with business in Asia, JOS introduced the JOS TALK information hub for exchanging ideas of pragmatic innovation.

Pragmatism and practicality are ways that allow innovation to be real. A step-wise yet swift motion towards a more agile, digital future is the way forward, with the key being experimental roll-outs to prove business viability, followed by broadening uptake of exciting technology as it establishes itself.

To learn more about daring to innovate using technology – wherever you are in your digital life cycle – your first port of call should be with the go-to collaborator and consultant in the digital space. Your vision can become a digital reality when you Make Innovation Real.