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APAC IT leaders lay out priorities for 2020

Robotic process automation and data analytics are among the top priorities for IT leaders in the Asia-Pacific region in the new year

IT leaders in the Asia-Pacific region spent much of 2019 driving digital transformation projects to improve customer service, among other goals, and the new year will see them taking those efforts to the next level.

At MyRepublic, a regional broadband and mobile service provider, a customer service initiative was rolled out in Australia and New Zealand, with almost all customer enquiries in the two markets served through live chat rather than phone calls.

According to its chief operating officer, Eugene Yeo, the initiative had resulted in better customer experience, with the average waiting time slashed from over 10 minutes to just 40 seconds. The company also improved operational efficiencies, with each member of support staff handling 2.5 chats concurrently instead of one call at a time.

At the back end, MyRepublic also started adopting more virtual appliances rather than hardware offerings, in areas such as deep packet inspection, a method of examining and managing network traffic to ensure network security.

“This reduces dependencies on specific hardware and reduces hardware investments since we can leverage on standard cloud compute units,” said Yeo. “It also allows us to move to an operating expenditure cost model.” 

In 2020, MyRepublic will build on the success of its live chat service with the addition of a robotic process automation (RPA)-powered chatbot.

“With the successful move of our main support channel from calls to chat, we can now implement chatbot automation to drive further efficiencies in the way we service our customers,” said Yeo.

“An RPA chatbot will have the capability to perform the same functions as a live agent. Of course, there will always be fall-back from chatbot to live agents when certain cases cannot be resolved by the chatbot,” he added.

Another key initiative underway at MyRepublic is the use of predictive data models that will use big data to improve several aspects of its business.

“At the beginning, we will focus on understanding customer happiness, as well as interests, to assist with better business decision-making,” Yeo said.

While Yeo has made headway in driving digital transformation at MyRepublic in 2019, others, like Nigel Lim, a regional IT manager at a Japanese multinational company, are still in the midst of spreading the digital transformation message.

“We just had our annual regional conference where my session’s objective was to instil a sense of urgency, as well as offer pointers on how to get started on digital transformation,” said Lim.

In the new year, Lim will drive efforts to reach out to senior leaders in his organisation, starting with chief financial officers whom his team works closely with. “We will also be speaking with country CEOs, and sharing what other offices are doing and what we are helping with,” he said.

At the grassroots level, Lim will also actively partner with business units on various technology projects, with an eye on using “mini successes” from those engagements to promote digital transformation across the organisation.

Lim said these projects are likely to be areas that his team are most familiar with, as speed matters. “This could be efficiency improvements in the back office, or requests to organise and analyse information,” he said.

Not to be left out are public sector organisations, which are also driving the digital transformation agenda. The Rehabilitation Research Institute of Singapore (RRIS), for example, is working on a data project that will culminate in an Asian-centric database of kinematic data on how people move.

“We are involving more partner research laboratories around the region. A new research network to share data is in the process of being built up,” said Colin Quek, deputy director of informatics at RRIS. “2020 will also see some of our assistive technology robots enter the phase of human testing.”

According to TechTarget’s 2019 IT priorities study, organisations across Asia-Pacific are doubling down on their digital transformation efforts, primarily to improve employee productivity, streamline operations and improve customer experience.

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