Asia and the 4th Industrial Revolution: SAP exclusive interviews


Bernard Chiang - SAP Malaysia 

Bernard Chiang, Managing Director, SAP Malaysia (pic): Yes, this digital education initiative has also extended into Malaysia with HOPE worldwide Foundation Malaysia, where we have set up two computer literacy labs in KL and Penang. Over 300 students receive training and use the centres, every year.

Also, very recently, SAP Malaysia was involved in a meaningful CSR project. In partnership with a local corporate Mydin, SAP Malaysia brought children from HOPE Worldwide Malaysia out on a shopping spree. It was intended to help them get new supplies for school.

Empowered to gain the benefits of an education, these children are our future. By helping them, we help bring potentially unlimited good to society as a whole as well. That is the nature of our social activities, not only in Malaysia, but around the globe.

On the education side of things, SAP is also helping develop human capital for Malaysia. A crucial factor affecting how businesses are run now is the fact that millennials are entering the workforce. Companies need to treat millennials just like any other employee, but must recognise that they are different from previous work generations.

For example, SAP under the MyUniAlliance programme spearheaded by Multimedia Development Corporation has to date trained 5,000 millennials in Malaysia and is expected to increase to 3,000 per year from 2014. 18 Institutes of Higher Learning [IHL], including two foreign universities, have benefitted from the programme. These IHLs bring SAP's technology and best practices to students in undergraduate and graduate programmes.

The wonderful thing about this is that, should these graduates go on to become SAP consultants, they can expect to be one of the best paid consultants in industry.

What opportunities are there for companies in Malaysia and APJ in the connected future of increasing mobility and the Internet of everything?
Chiang: In my view, many Malaysian companies are already very seriously on the very of cutting-edge technologies. We have broken through traditional barriers, recognised the need for change, and embraced it as a necessity. Mobility already has a strong foundation here, thanks to extensive infrastructure and strong players competing on a level playing field - that keeps them honest, and forces them to constantly innovate.

Yet in all honesty, what I am failing to see right now is the right use of mobile technologies in Malaysian SMEs. True, this technology has been the mainstay of large corporates, but at today's prices, and with so many open development platforms, that's simply not an excuse.

Most importantly, SMEs first need to recognise the strategic benefits on mobile and the internet. Once they realise that potential gold mine ahead, they'll realise that any initial capital expenditure they may encounter is a mere drop of water in the ocean.

The Malaysian government has constantly pushed ICT companies here to the very edges of the envelope, supporting them, nurturing them, in the hopes that they will provide the support and infrastructure that both large corporates and SME alike can use to jump into the next century. Yet still I feel there is reluctance on the part of SMEs to really push themselves toward that end.

Fox-Martin: The proliferation of mobility, wearable technology and Internet of everything ushers in a new era of hyperconnectivity that will affect the way businesses operate and how people live and work. In the era of hyperconnectivity - big data analytics, collaboration capabilities, smart applications, and security systems underpinned by abundant compute power, storage and data can be delivered to any device instantaneously through the cloud.

We will see IoT permeate every industry as they undergo digitization. Let me give you several examples.

Smart cities can save millions of dollars by optimising energy usage - when smart city lighting doesn't sense any pedestrians, it can dim the smart LED lighting system. Transit systems that actively monitor rail conditions and trigger preventative maintenance can avoid catastrophic and costly service issues and keep transit systems running.

A connected car can deliver personalised and relevant offers. For example, when you stop for gas after a long car ride, a connected car will understand how many passengers are in the car - it will know how many of the seat belts are fastened. As you get gas, the gas pump will connect with your in-dash system to offer you a discount on sodas.

Connected logistics can give you access to real-time information from your vehicles and cargo. With this information, you can plan your routes, maintain your vehicles, and schedule your people to improve service offerings, while driving down costs.

In essence, hyperconnectivity will revolutionize the way companies go about servicing customers and keeping the lights on.

What skills gaps and other barriers does Malaysia need to address to play a full role in the big data analytics arena?

Chiang: Malaysia is currently coming off a very commodity-based economy and moving towards high-knowledge services. Through its economic transformation plans, the government has given great support to the ICT industry and movement has been rapid.

I would say that it's not just about Big Data, but many elements of current exciting trends in the IT world that have been proven to really work for some countries. With that thought in mind I would say overall, it's not just training a new, young, tech savvy population, but also the re-arming of the current workforce with updated skillsets.

Here we're fortunate that global corporates have chosen Malaysia to be a training hub. We benefit from their extensive experience, and global knowledge. This is especially true in areas such as lean IT, cloud computing, and Big Data. The terminology is out there, but the workforce needs to be trained and certified in their detail if they expect to bring real value to the industry.

Malaysia is just six years away from 2020 [the year the nation hopes to achieve developed digital economy status]: Given SAP's deep and long involvement in local industry, what is the industry doing well and where does it need to improve?

Chiang: To me the most basic premise of this is quite plain. The facts are that the Malaysian ICT industry is to date already relatively well developed. We have strong government support. We have global players assisting us. That is one side of the equation.

On the other side, we have large corporates and SMEs, each facing their own sets of problems, yet both in increasing danger of succumbing to the perils of lower economic performance, rising costs, and reduced income.

The IT industry has the tools to help, but how are they going to more effectively communicate with one another? It has always been seen as the big elephant in the room companies try and avoid. If they think if they look at an IT vendor, they feel as though they can actually see their bottom-line turn red. But in fact, the opposite is true.

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