Digital acceleration in the time of the coronavirus: Asia-Pacific

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Global survey of 600 technology decision makers conducted by MIT Technology Review Insights, in association with VMware, found that most organizations in Asia Pacific and around the world had largely prepared for e-commerce and remote working made mandatory by the pandemic. More than three-quarters of Asia-Pacific organizations have invested in digital and information technology, and their efforts have increased their collective capacity to manage new ways of doing business.

Six in ten respondents in the Asia-Pacific region report having business continuity plans in place, although less than half consider them effective. In contrast, organizations that had invested heavily in digital transformation – integrating modern technologies into processes and strategies to achieve business goals – found that their plans were working everywhere. These “digital leaders,” as we refer to them in this study, have built strong digital foundations to support the technologies they need to better respond to change.

“We call ourselves a technology company,” says Gautam Aggarwal, regional director of technology at Mastercard Asia-Pacific. “We don’t see the adoption of our technology as a ‘transformation’ but rather as a continuous journey.” He sees this mindset as one of the main success factors that have allowed Mastercard to function normally during the pandemic. “We have a high growth infrastructure, both an external customer-oriented network and an internal corporate network. We also have a very comprehensive business continuity plan behind our infrastructure, although it has never been tested at this level before. “

Digital leaders – before and during the crisis

Over 70% of survey respondents in Asia-Pacific say the pandemic has driven their organizations to accelerate digital transformation. “Priorities have changed for all businesses since the crisis – or rather, existing priorities have intensified,” said Sanjay Poonen, CEO of VMware. “The pandemic has just changed the makeup of the channels that businesses use, using the digital tools with which they are already familiar.”

Jimmy Ng, group chief information officer and head of technology and operations at Singapore-based DBS Bank, recognized early on the strategic advantage of advancing digital capabilities. “This early start to the journey has really helped us deal with this pandemic.”

DBS’s digital aspirations are codified in a program it calls GANDALF, an acronym combining the initials of the digital commerce giants it seeks to emulate – Google, Amazon, and Facebook, with D representing DBS itself. The name derives from the mighty wizard from JRR Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. “The intention was twofold,” says Ng. “First, learn from the best technology companies and bring the best of their practices to the bank. Second, we wanted to make sure that we really operate as a technology company rather than a bank. “

The initiative enabled specific pandemic response capacities that bolstered DBS’s business resilience: When the bank saw the first case of covid-19 among its workforce, Ng’s team stepped up to the plate. action. “We used AI tools to ingest data from staff calendars, staff access data, and even staff Wi-Fi usage to very quickly track contacts to three degrees of separation, creating models in a few days. It also informed how we developed protocols within the bank to stop the spread among employees, ”he says. Emergency protocols facilitated a multitude of efforts, from disinfection guidelines and the reorganization of team members at DBS facilities to apply physical distance measures.

As testimonials from DBS and Mastercard confirm, digital tools have enabled organizations to respond with agility to the new challenges of a rapidly changing era and, in general, to be better prepared for them. Asia-Pacific digital leaders, who report substantial progress in digital transformation, report their organizations have more reliable technology planning: 55% of Asia-Pacific digital leaders surveyed, for example, say their 2020 IT budgets will be the same. At the same time, more than a third of those surveyed in Asia-Pacific report increasing their IT budget, on average by more than 10% from 2019 spending. This reflects efforts in the region to accelerate digital transformation. : Almost four in 10 respondents are increasing the adoption of mobile applications and switching to a “cloud-first” development strategy, more than those in any other region.

Ng describes how DBS digital infrastructure achieved results: “Today we are about 99% virtualized and by the end of this year over 90% of our entire legacy stack will have been transformed. . ” For some time now, the bank has pursued a “mobility first” concept for application development, which Ng sees as a key factor in the rapid transition to remote working.

Download the full report.

This content was produced by Insights, the personalized content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of MIT Technology Review.

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