Microsoft is backing independent software vendors (ISV) to help Malaysia return to growth post-Covid-19, leveraging a “vibrant ecosystem” to drive recovery efforts via the cloud.
That’s the message of K. Raman - managing director of Malaysia at Microsoft - amid plans to point the local market in the direction of an expanding network of ISVs building specialised solutions on Microsoft Azure.
Long viewed as a leading priority for Redmond, the rise of the ISV across Southeast Asia - following strong traction in Indonesia - is evident of an evolving go-to-market strategy built on the delivery of unique cloud-based offerings, hyper-focused in nature and aligned to changing end-user requirements.
“As we navigate through the nation’s recovery and resiliency phase, we know that things will not be ‘normal’ for the foreseeable future,” Raman observed. “But despite the uncertainties, we know that the organisations that can survive and thrive will be those empowered with the right technology to respond to the circumstances as they evolve, and equipped with the skills and resources they need to innovate and collaborate.”
In recent months, Raman said Malaysian businesses have “significantly increased” investment in technology to keep pace with the digital era.
Yet such a statement varies depending on solution segment, with more than half of businesses across Malaysia forecasting “sizeable cuts” to technology budgets during the remainder of 2020, as the realities of Covid-19 start to hammer home.
According to GlobalData findings, 31.3 per cent of enterprise-level decision makers in Malaysia expect technology investment to decline by at least 10 per cent within the space of the next six months, with 28.1 per cent preparing for a drop in excess of 20 per cent.
More broadly speaking, technology spending in Malaysia during 2020 is expected to decline by 8.3 per cent as opposed to the 8.2 per cent growth expected before the Covid-19 outbreak.
As reported by Channel Asia, spending on hardware is expected to fall by 9.1 per cent, against the growth of nine per cent in 2019 and the projected growth of 7.3 per cent before the outbreak. Enterprise customers in Malaysia are moving aggressively to contain costs and defer all capital expenditures on upgrades, which will strongly impact the spending on hardware this year.
The demand for software is also set to fall, with large-scale organisations delaying the roll-out of applications in 2020. The market for enterprise collaboration platforms however, is set to increase by 29.7 per cent owing to the rise in remote working.
The market for technology services in Malaysia is also set to go down, with enterprises looking to delay new projects, hold-off non-critical IT deployments and pause long-term digital transformation initiatives until at least next year.
Public cloud will be the silver lining however, with the market expected to grow by 3.5 per cent over 2019. Enterprises in Malaysia are expected to continue to invest in cloud, with cloud-based applications and storage options offering strong business continuity from an operational perspective.
Against this backdrop, enterprise organisations across the country must adopt new digital technologies and re-evaluate business models to regain the lost ground in the post-pandemic world. Such market dynamics aligns with Raman’s viewpoint that recovery will be triggered by digital and cloud, rather than traditional technology products.
“We have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation within two months - such is the pace in which our economy has transformed,” he added. “At the heart of this transformation our partners, including our ISVs, who have played a critical role in helping our customers become more agile and resilient in these unprecedented times.
“Our partners are the digital first responders supporting those on the frontlines of this pandemic and its reverberating effects across industries, helping businesses maintain continuity.”
As Microsoft increases efforts to deliver “advanced cloud-based technologies” to Malaysian customers - with a new local data centre now 40 per cent complete - Raman said reliance ob ISV innovation is increasing in parallel.
“ISVs are an important extension of Microsoft,” he outlined. “Our ISVs develop, market and sell their own software based on Microsoft’s platform to address the digital needs of customers and industries, especially within the business-to-business (b2b) space.”
Recent examples of ISV innovation in action across Malaysia include solutions delivered by Ticket2U, Visual Solutions and Zeoniq, in partnership with Microsoft.
“Their work exemplifies innovation and collaboration, driving their customers’ success through the adoption of new technologies,” Raman said. “We are proud to partner with ISVs and to innovate solutions that support Malaysian businesses as we head into the future. Together, we aim to keep our nation empowered, productive and secure.”
Ticket2U goes to market as online ticketing and event management platform in Malaysia, managing more than 5000 entertainment and sporting events - including seminars and shows - during 2019. Due to the pandemic and movement control order however - with all outdoor and large events coming to halt - the Kuala Lumpur-based business pivoted focus in a bid to maintain business continuity.
“Their work with Zoo Negara illustrates this strategy shift,” Raman explained. “Zoo Negara required public support and funding to sustain their operations and protect the animals.
“In response, Ticket2U reached out to its partners and launched Zoo Negara’s Adopt an Animal program, allowing people to donate and adopt an animal through a quick and safe platform built on Azure. This platform also allowed donors to instantly receive a certificate of adoption, further incentivising people to consider funding the zoo.”
Following early success with Zoo Negara, Ticket2U expanded capabilities to other non-governmental organisations and community events to help facilitate new funding support rounds from the public.
“This initiative illuminates the value of not just technology, but also the way it can be leveraged to bring good to society at large,” Raman said. “For Ticket2U, it also functioned as a springboard to explore new solutions, including a people-tracking and thermal scanning software with facial recognition features powered by Azure Cognitive Services.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft also joined forces with Visual Solutions, a human capital management system provider spanning administrative, self-service and strategic functional areas of human resources (HR).
“Remote working is the new norm so Visual Solutions has been rapidly enhancing and extending its cloud-based offerings to accommodate the evolving nature of modern workplaces,” Raman outlined.
Based in Johor Bahru, Visual Solutions developed new software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions hosted on Azure to help businesses digitalise HR functions. Central to such efforts was a payroll system specifically designed to help SMEs reduce the manual work involved when processing payroll.
Delivered free of charge during the movement control order period, the offering helped organisations quickly migrate work to the cloud, supported by an anti-buddy punching system to ensure that no more than one person entered the work premises at any given time.
“This system requires only one access card and comes equipped with essential security features including staff monitoring, temperature checking, geofencing and GPS tracking,” Raman stated. “All these solutions helped their businesses in Malaysia enhance the capabilities of their HR segments by replacing laborious manual work with efficient digital management processes. This ensured business continuity and allowed for a smoother transition to remote working during the movement control order period.”
Another recent example involved Zeoniq, specialists in point-of-sale solutions for retail and food and beverage sectors.
With businesses migrating online during the pandemic - and online orders on the rise - the Selangor-based ISV integrated their system with multiple delivery providers - including GoGet, Lalamove, Mr Speedy and Zeek - to increase the efficiency of last-mile delivery while reducing the resources required to coordinate logistics.
Alongside consolidating systems with third-party food ordering platforms such as GrabFood and FoodPanda to streamline operations, Zeoniq introduced a self-ordering system to make it easier for customers to make orders via mobile phones without the need for menus or waiters.
Leveraging Azure, all solutions are based on a cloud-native design allowing Zeoniq the ability to scale offerings in response to customer demands.
“Zeoniq continues to play a key role in supporting the digital transformation needs of the Malaysian retail sector as they migrate their business operations to the cloud,” Raman said. “Their work ensures that the nation’s economy can continue to operate digitally, even in times of crisis – ensuring the sustainability of our nation’s economy.”