Coming to grips with digital transformation in APAC

The hype over digital transformation is tapering off. Organisations in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region are now confronting the realities of rolling out digitalisation initiatives, many of which are plagued with challenges.

According to a global survey of CIOs carried out by Logicalis, a global IT solutions and managed services provider, optimism around digital transformation progress had dampened over the past year.

Across the region, fewer CIOs (3%) now think of their organisations as digital innovators compared to last year when the figure was 6%. The proportion of CIOs who characterise their organisations as part of an early majority in digital transformation is also down to 46% from 53% in 2016.

The sombre mood over digitalisation initiatives hails from bugbears in areas such as cost, complexity, corporate culture, skills and cyber security.

Specifically, 62% of APAC CIOs cite cost as the main barrier in digital transformation, 51% point to complex legacy technology and 49% say organisational culture is an issue, while 43% point to lack of skills and 40% cite security issues.

In the face of those challenges, it is heartening that APAC CIOs aren’t giving up the fight. Nearly half or more than half of them want to simplify IT, engage their business users, provide additional training and attempt to change the culture of their organisations.

CIOs, however, cannot do it all alone. Change has to come from the top and at a strategic level for digital transformation initiatives to succeed.

The CIO of a major Singapore bank whom I met recently says he works hand in glove with the senior management team, setting goals and measuring the success of digital transformation efforts with metrics and balance scorecards that are all agreed upon by all business units.

Those metrics are reviewed regularly and tweaked if need be, making the bank one of the most successful among its peers in embracing digital technologies not only to connect with customers, but also to change traditional banking practices.

Going by the survey results, the CIO I met with seems to be more of the exception than the norm, where most CIOs are still grappling with digital transformation initiatives that are led more by pragmatism than by strategy.

However, as Mark Rogers, CEO of Logicalis Group and Logicalis Asia, says, digital transformation is possible if CIOs have a clear vision and strategy, and receive the right support from management.