ASEAN firms warming up to enterprise mobility amid roadblocks

From startups to postal companies, organisations across the ASEAN region see mobility as strategic to their businesses, even as they face headwinds such as security and talent shortages

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With the Foodpanda app, a single tap on a mobile device matches restaurants with customers – a process that has eliminated inefficiencies in how restaurants connect with diners.

“We can scale massively with a super tiny team of people to communicate with despatch riders. But if each order needed a telephone call to a rider, we would need a gigantic call centre,” says Luc Andreani, managing director of mobile food delivery marketplace Foodpanda Singapore.

A lean team of 70 staff manages a pool of 2,500 despatchers, while another 70 employees handle back-end operations, enabling Foodpanda’s despatchers to send tens of thousands of food deliveries to hungry customers each day.

“It’s really about flexibility, accountability and scalability,” says Andreani. “I don’t really care where you work from and when you work, I just care about the results you can achieve.”

Obstacles to widespread enterprise mobility

While enterprise mobility is increasingly strategic and transformative for companies such as Foodpanda, its adoption is still nascent in Southeast Asia.

According to Pranabesh Nath, research director at IDC Malaysia, 80% of organisations in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region are still experimenting with enterprise mobility or have some basic mobility services in place.

Citing its latest enterprise mobility survey in 2017, IDC notes that 48% of organisations in the region have already deployed tablets and other mobile devices, while 45% are planning to invest in mobility in the next 12 to 18 months.

“Incumbent organisations realise that their competition is no longer their traditional competitors. They want to leverage mobility for a more engaging and personal user experience, often driven by disruption brought about by technology”
Pranabesh Nath, IDC Malaysia

“Incumbent organisations realise that their competition is no longer their traditional competitors. They want to leverage mobility for a more engaging and personal user experience, often driven by disruption brought about by technology,” says Nath.

However, many organisations still struggle to fully realise the benefits of mobility in their business. They continue to face challenges such as policy management, securing buy-in from business leaders, a lack of internal skills and piecing together the components of a secure digital workspace.

Vincent Wong, Citrix’s area vice-president for sales and services in Asia, notes that while many organisations have enterprise mobility policies, they are stumbling with implementation as they contend with complexity, costs and security concerns.

“Countries like Singapore are ahead of the curve, with more mobile application deployments, more defined mobility budgets and generally more business buy-in,” says Wong. “Markets like Indonesia and Malaysia form the next rung, but are still grappling with challenges like developing cloud and connectivity infrastructure, and skills shortages.”

Organisations in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) tend to use mobility to either improve productivity or provide customers with an omni-channel user experience.

“Enterprise mobility adoption tends to be more mature in organisations that are larger,” says Royce Teoh, head of digital business for Oracle ASEAN and Sage. “We expect organisations that have built up sizeable IT assets for their core systems, and want to allow their workforce to access this data remotely, to be key adopters of enterprise mobility.”

SaveMax Super Grosir, a wholesale retailer in Indonesia, has equipped its staff with remote access to up-to-date inventory information in its warehouses. This has allowed staff to improve the customer experience by responding to orders and requests efficiently and in a timely manner.

“Customer experience is of utmost priority to us,” says Joanito Iwan, SaveMax’s former information services and technology director. “We serve businesses that have barely any room for error. To ensure our customers’ needs and satisfaction are met, it is essential for us to be agile to business needs.”

Leading the charge to mobile business

What sets leading mobility adopters apart is their focus on meeting business needs by embracing true digital transformation, rather than just focusing on technology, says Peter Moore, SAP’s vice-president of database and data management in Southeast Asia.

SingPost, Singapore’s key postal service provider, for example, has undergone digital transformation to overhaul its technology systems, which now allow its workforce to operate on the go. It has focused on increasing employee productivity while rolling out new products and services.

An integration between Citrix’s XenMobile and SingPost’s native inventory and delivery platform lets couriers and postmen register successful parcel deliveries using their personal mobile devices in real time. Employees can also track deliveries on mobile devices to ensure parcels are delivered.

Moving beyond mobile apps

The scope of enterprises’ mobility initiatives, however, is expanding beyond smartphones and tablet devices. Some enterprises are now exploring the use of the internet of things (IoT), as well as drones, artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, chatbots, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications, smartglasses and other wearables to automate and mobilise business processes.

“Mobility used to be defined largely by hardware, then it moved to software and services. With AR/VR, we see the next major leap being made possible due to the impressive capability of the technology for both business and consumer use,” says IDC’s Nath.

“We are still three to five years away from seeing mature products and solutions. The paradigms are so different with AR/VR that developers and service providers are still grappling with how to best use the technology and its ethical implications,” he adds.

What sets leading mobility adopters apart is their focus on meeting business needs by embracing true digital transformation, rather than just focusing on technology

Another challenge is that users are now suffering from mobile app fatigue, says Oracle’s Teoh. “There are just too many apps for consumers. At work, employees have to deal with different apps for expense claims and annual leave applications. IT needs to think about how to streamline the way it reaches out to users.”

Take SAP, for example. The German software giant has implemented a staff fitness programme in Singapore that encourages employees to wear a fitness device that connects to the FitSAP application running on the SAP Cloud Platform. The data gathered is presented on a dashboard that tracks cumulative steps of all employees, average steps per day, distance covered and participation rate.

Over the next two years, IDC expects organisations in ASEAN to launch more mobile-related consumer applications, such as for customer service and transactions, while strengthening the security of enterprise mobility hardware, software and services.

“ASEAN enterprises will extend business communications apps to mobile devices, but most are not ready to adopt more advanced solutions such as mobility management suites,” says Nath.

Meanwhile, Foodpanda is pushing the envelope on enterprise mobility with drones and chatbot technology. “We are experimenting with deliveries by drones and adding chatbots to automate replies to customers,” says Andreani, noting that this will improve efficiency and services, but not at the expense of customer service.

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