To survive in Asia, technology providers must adapt, offer value-added differentiated services and work closely with customers to navigate technological change as well as regional market dynamics.
Logicalis understands this all too well, undergoing “deliberate organisational structural refinements”, in the words of Chong-Win Lee, CEO of Asia, to better align to market demands.
Lee himself is a product of such refinements, being appointed in late 2017 to lead the provider’s growing operations across the region.
Since Lee’s appointment, Tsu Pheng Lim was appointed to the newly created position of CTO in March 2018 in an effort, said Lee, to transform the company into digital transformation specialists.
“Our customers require us to be first and foremost an organisation with a very solid understanding of the technology trends impacting the regional market,” said Lee, when speaking exclusively to Channel Asia. “But also understanding the solutions available that could be leveraged to unlock value for our customers.
“That is the reason why we felt that it was key for us to bring Tsu Pheng Lim on as the CTO. Also, previously we had three sales leaders in Singapore, but no country manager, until now.
“These appointments are inline with our goal to transform our image, and reinforce our position as a strong regional network integrator for our customers.”
Changes to Logicalis’ organisational structure was a priority for Lee, streamlining local and regional operations to more effectively reach out to customers and align more closely with technology alliances.
“The goal was to align the whole team with the vision, strategy and execution of our roadmap that was based upon transforming Logicalis into becoming the premier digital transformation enabler for our customers,” Lee added.
Logicalis first made an attempt at managed services in 2016, however, as Lee admitted, the uptake was not what the technology integrator had hoped for.
“In some ways we adopted a build it and they will come approach,” said Lee, and as such, “the take-up rate was not what we had expected.”
In an honest assessment, Lee believes the reason the first attempt at managed services did not succeed, was due to a mismatch between what customers wanted and what Logicalis offered.
However, with Lee onboard and the organisational changes in place, together with a renewed focus on customer engagement, a second attempt at managed services was made in 2018, which proved to be more successful.
“The approach we took this time was based on what we had learned from our previous experience,” said Lee. “This time, we first looked for which customer segment was underserved in this area, and tailored our approach accordingly.”
In preparation for their second attempt at managed services, Lee and his team brainstormed about the unique value proposition they believed they could bring to the increasingly competitive managed services space.
“We believed we could offer our customers value around managed security protection, in particular,” said Lee. “We talked about the reasons why many of our customers were not currently protected, and to a large extent it involved the potentially high costs associated with the solutions.”
Lee explained that another fact contributing to this lack of protection was the absence of a chief security officer or a dedicated IT person who could manage all these security solutions.
Based on that, Lee added, “we tabulated potential obstacles that customers in this segment - in the mid-market - were facing in terms of being able to properly protect themselves against malware and ransomware, for instance.”
“We spoke to customers on what price points they felt were reasonable for the type of service we were thinking about launching and based on their feedback, we crafted up a service offering that matched their expectations at a price point that they were happy with.”
In assessing the market, the physical shop is no longer the primary customer touchpoint for many organisations, instead the key interaction channel now tends to be through digital, whether that be via a browser or through a mobile application.
“What you find is that the mobile application now for many customers has become the main and most critical customer interface,” said Lee. “What that translates to in terms of actual imperatives within the organisation is to essentially become agile, able to take advantage of opportunities quickly, as they become available in the market.
“These organisations need to be able to roll out applications, and subsequently updates to those applications very frequently and very quickly.
"That means that the traditional methods of deploying applications and developing applications are no longer going to be up to the mark."
This leads to the whole concept of application modernisation, which first started with the advent of digital native organisations that has now spread to large more established organisations, such as banks and to an increasing extent, government entities, who are transforming their legacy infrastructure through a process of digital transformation.
“Application modernisation is one area which I think is getting a lot of transaction,” said Lee. “More organisations are shifting more towards a DevOps mode of operation. We are seeing application modernisation and DevOps as two key change catalysts within organisations today.
"These trends are driving the need for modernising the underlying infrastructure and leads to a whole other spectrum of initiatives that we are currently seeing in the ICT space."
Furthermore, as innovation cycles shorten and customer requirements increase in sophistication, partners such as Logicalis need to become more nimble, while absorbing key changes in terms of skill sets that are going to be more relevant in the coming years.
For channel partners, unless the services being offered to customers becomes more sophisticated and varied, the potential value for customers could become diluted over time.
“Partners need to move away from just being a network integrator or a server storage integrator,” said Lee.
“Customers are increasingly independent in those areas. The areas where customers will need help with are areas channel partners will need to very quickly get up to speed with, such as application and infrastructure modernisation."
There is still much to do for Logicalis, admitted Lee, from transforming a go-to-market strategy to executing the organisations training and development roadmap to ensure the firm’s sales, engineering and support teams are prepared for the changing demands of the market.
The skill sets that Lee believes will proliferate in the coming months and years revolve around containerisation and microservices in the application modernisation space.
“In the security space, we are crafting out the core curriculum at the Asia Pacific level, which we are sharing with our regional offices,” said Lee. “This is to ensure that our regional teams are skilling up in all the key areas in a consistent manner across Asia, enabling us to offer customers a consistent level of service."
Road to growth
The road to growth is not all smooth sailing, especially as key regional markets become more competitive, and channel partners try to balance quality customised services with a price sensitive customer base.
“There will be challenges for channel partners but also opportunities as customers shift from the traditional on-premise capex-based model of ICT consumption,” said Lee. “We will continue to see a trend towards a mixed capex, opex model whereby customers are buying an increasing percentage of subscription-based services.
“Channel partners definitely still need to work out how they remain relevant and able to provide value add to customers as these changes are unfolding in the industry."
However, in terms of the actual ICT value proposition the channel can bring to customers, partners need to be very clear about the digital transformation opportunity and make sure that they position themselves accordingly to be able to play that role effectively.
“We see a clear opportunity for partners such as Logicalis to play a key role in guiding customers to maximise their use of digital transformation so it has the biggest impact to their organisation and leveraged fully,” said Lee.
“This starts from being able to help customers understand how digital transformation could help them deliver efficiencies, lower costs, and potentially help them to better interact and transact with their customers in new ways and forms that were not previously feasible or technically possible,” added Lee, “and in the end, be able to string together a cool solution that serves as an enabling platform for them."
As a global gold certified Cisco partner, Lee sees trust and clarity as key attributes of a successful partner-vendor relationship.
“Clarity is important because they have to be very consistent and clear that their route to market is going to be channel driven,” said Lee. “They should have a very comprehensive channel framework that cuts across enablement to joint marketing, towards rules of engagement then incentives and rewards.
“From a channel perspective, we have made a commitment towards working as a close partner of Cisco and what that means is basically a commitment around enablement.
"We also invest in technical training and certifications in addition to investments in appropriate demand generation activities."