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Roadblocks to Digital Transformation – Stories from Southeast Asia

Kaustubh Patwardhan I Director – Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, Ashnik
Singapore, 13 Jul 2018

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“KP, though every industry understands the need to transform digitally, only 62% of APAC organisations are in the initial stage of transformation and only about 35% of organisations have Digital transformation or DX leadership structure in place. Many are still struggling to clear the basic DX Roadblocks” said an IDC Research Consultant to me who was attending our last TechInsights session in Singapore. We were having a drawing conversation on how DX is becoming a must-do today, but a reality check suggests of some major hindrances along the way.

Since the past 10 years, most organisations are trying to embark on a bimodal IT strategy where one arm of IT tries to work a traditional legacy even if slow, so as to not create risks for business as usual. Whereas the other arm of IT tries to be agile and edgy. But essentially, both will need to integrate in the future as the success of digital transformation lies in scaling, hyper-personalisation, seamless experiences across channels and cost effectiveness. I work with a lot of large organisations in Southeast Asia, and I could clearly see at least 5 prime challenges that most organisations who run bimodal IT strategies are trying to resolve on priority. I would like to share with you all what those are, so here goes:

Roadblock 1: Organisational Structures

At present, there are many silos in the IT and Business sectors of most organisations. For DX to effectively work, it should be able to scale throughout the organisation structure. A more collaborative environment removing barriers within an organisation is easier said than done and a lot of organisations are tremendously struggling to achieve this. There are some who are trying to achieve this through agile teams, DevOps processes and culture change, Garage concepts. Thus – Change Management is becoming very critical in such organisations.

Roadblock 2: Performance Metrics

Usual business KPIs measure revenue growth, cost savings, gross margin, profits, but these traditional KPIs alone can’t effectively help serve a DX journey. Some of the newer KPIs like rate of commercialisation of new ideas, net promoter scores are becoming quite important. Simply looking at the rate of innovation or idea generation is not going to be enough. An organisation generating 5000 ideas a month without successfully converting them to commercialised offerings is far less effective than an organisation generating 100 ideas which are being commercialised and help bring new customer experiences, and improve efficiency.

Roadblock 3: Technology Roadmaps

Whenever am discussing new initiatives with a customer, the customer will always ask for POCs, mostly free POCs – a very common process in Southeast Asia. However, while human resource investments and time investments are considered by the organizations on such tactical projects, hardly any thought is given to the strategic nature of the initiative. It is highly vital to connect these opportunity costs to DX strategies to achieve their business goals. The roadmap should be clear and all encompassing.

Roadblock 4: Skills and Capabilities

Getting the right set of capabilities and talents have become a global problem for many CIOs and CTOs today to drive their DX initiatives. The exponential growth in technology space from Big Data, IOT, Blockchain, and Machine Learning to AI is simply mind-numbing for many to decide the core capabilities to invest in or search for. But some organizations have cracked this and now understand the need to scale their internal capabilities. Thus looking at flexible team structures, collaboration with start-ups, crowd sourcing, funding of innovation incubators, etc. to bring in fresh talent and proficiencies.

Roadblock 5: Silos of Innovation

Many organizations do understand importance of generating new ideas, but shaping those ideas and rolling them out to achieve their business goals is where they hit the big roadblock. And the major issue in this is the silos of innovation. In this age of technology-driven business, industry disruption can happen from any direction by any player – traditional or non-traditional. Gone are the days where only traditional R&D units are entrusted with idea generation. Idea generation and innovation has to happen throughout the organization. While meeting the rapid changing nature of the market, those ideas should also be capable of being commercialised and tried in a swift fashion. Yes, failures will happen, but fail fast is the new mantra. Hence it becomes necessary to remove the silos of innovation and bringing forward the ideas that will help achieve the business goals.

Like Frances Hesselbein said, “When you see a roadblock or challenge as an opportunity, it is amazing how you are already half way there.” Pretty much sums up the much required impetus for all CIOs and CTOs to go right ahead and kick-start their DX journeys. Understanding and working a way around the roadblocks to one’s own transformation is crucial for businesses and IT today. And thus, the focus needs to shift to making your IT, Agile, Modular and Autonomous. Time to accelerate that DX vision of yours and turn it into a remarkable reality.


  • Kaustubh Patwardhan is Ashnik’s Director for Southeast Asia (SEA) and Hong Kong. He leads sales, strategy and business development for the region. Kaustubh joined in 2013 and heads Ashnik’s SEA enterprise open source business with responsibility for strategic planning, channels and partners, sales and operations. He has been instrumental in building Ashnik’s culture which is centered on agility and innovation, aligning it to the core ideology of open source itself. Besides playing a key role in Ashnik’s multi-fold sales growth trajectory, his key accomplishments are building a solid partner ecosystem across the region and being highly responsive on customer engagements.

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