Skilled up Kyndryl navigates multi-cloud era in ASEAN

Skilled up Kyndryl navigates multi-cloud era in ASEAN

Susan Follis ensures global system integrator remains hyper-focused on executing market growth plans across the region.

Credit: Kyndryl

As businesses settle on a multi-cloud approach to transformation across the enterprise - galvanised by post-pandemic recovery efforts and a desire for boardroom innovation - Kyndryl is stepping up to seize the moment in ASEAN.

Unshackled from IBM and enthused by heightened market demand, the global system integrator (GSI) is charting a new path forward in Southeast Asia with cloud and key vendor alliances at the heart.

And such a move is timely because according to IDC, nearly 60 per cent of enterprise organisations will utilise as-a-service private clouds to support meeting critical multi-cloud needs by 2024 in Asia.

The approach is a natural domino effect of organisations prioritising digital infrastructure resiliency investments during the pandemic, motivated by a desire to ensure long-term business continuity. As a result, year-on-year expected cloud services growth stood at 28.8 per cent in 2021 and is now estimated to reach US$124 billion across the region by 2025.

“Cloud and cloud-centric operating models have become integral components of the modern IT environment,” said Daphne Chung, research director at IDC. 

“The pandemic has put cloud to the test in terms of delivering on the promises of agility, flexibility, and scalability, and organisations are recognising it as critical to their IT strategy moving forward as they embrace digital infrastructure resilience to underpin their digital transformation journey.”

The spike in demand for cloud solutions has made it a conducive environment for GSIs such as Kyndryl to flourish, fresh from launching into the market at the start of the year. The challenge however lies in helping customers navigate a crowded environment of partners but for Susan Follis -- speaking as managing director of ASEAN at Kyndryl -- the newly formed company has an edge.

Notably, a long heritage as a managed service provider (MSP) at IBM which ensures the business has access to “different opportunities” and are “perceived differently than other global SIs”.

"Kyndryl has been able to put in place the plan and actions that we had stated six months ago,” Follis told Channel Asia. “We have increased our certifications with hyperscalers and also aligned with hyperscalers in each country in ASEAN."

Of course, go-to-market models differ by country but despite local nuances, Follis shared that Kyndryl has managed to align capabilities solutions with customer needs irrespective of location.

"Depending on whether they have a site or [manage] the region, they may be more focused on one hyperscaler than another – and that’s exactly the model we wanted,” she said. “We wanted to have that close-to-the-customer engagement that said if you’re going the way of a specific hyperscaler, we can go there too. This is the freedom that we didn’t have before.

“And so, we have listened to clients, aligned with our partners, and we are up-skilling our team with certifications across hyperscalers and partners. Our strategy is still evolving but we’re engaged and have started down that path.”

In sharing an update of the business since Kyndryl officially spun off from IBM in early November 2021, Follis cited that the GSI's track record has been “consistent” with global revenues of US$4.4 billion as of March 31.

In addition, Kyndryl now boasts a host of new and expanded strategic alliances with SAP, Cloudera, Lenovo, Pure Storage for multi-cloud solutions, with Nokia and Cisco for edge computing capabilities, as well as Dell Technologies for data optimisation and infrastructure management.

All of that is in addition to being a premier global partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS), and retaining alliances with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, signed in late 2021.

Close-to-customer engagement

When asked how Kyndryl determined which vendors to build alliances with, Follis shared their three-pronged approach to building partnerships, and above all it’s centred around meeting customer needs. 

“We can’t be all things to all people,” she said. “We’re not ever going to have the deep talent everywhere -- understanding that within our framework is point one.”

This framework entailed on-boarding global partners with the necessary deep skills and resources like centres of excellence to help support and enable their local teams. This tied in with their second approach of having a global reach with local partners.

“Finally, which I think is hugely important in ASEAN, is we have local partners,” she said. “The ’when’ and ‘why’ we bring in a local partner is about doing the right thing for the community, our clients and our customers. Basically, [with local partners] there’s language, proximity, and an understanding of how people work."

Furthermore, to effectively service a customer, the team at Kyndryl has always tackled issues by considering the customers’ viewpoint, with Follis sharing that every time they meet with clients across ASEAN, they ensure that both an alliance leader and a customer representative are present to “listen to the client, hear different views” before determining actionable next steps.

Talent a top challenge in ASEAN

When assessing ongoing challenges impacting the local market, Follis referenced the rampant skills shortages which continues to hamper all aspects of the ecosystem.

“The shortage is everywhere in ASEAN for all of us, our customers and partners,” said Follis. “I think we’re going to continue to see that because there are new things coming our way and nobody’s completely trained for it, so it’s important to create a culture that will allow you to fail early, learn from it and progress -- and that’s very different than the place we came from.”

Adoption of such a culture is “indicative of the innovation” that Kyndryl is capable of driving.

In short, it’s critical to empower highly skilled employees to be creative in delivering solutions for customers, while also ensuring that the business continuously up-skills staff. For instance, by the end of the first quarter this year, Kyndryl had more than 17,500 hyperscaler certifications among its employees, which is a 10 per cent increase from the year-end.

Also, beyond just applying it internally at Kyndryl, Follis advised partners to develop a similar culture that enabled experimentation and collaboration.

“It’s a huge challenge if you haven’t adapted it,” she said. “I think it’ll be a problem if you try to run a business in the old way.”

With employees being at the centre of how the business runs and progresses, Follis believes businesses must allow individuals to act accordingly to meet customer needs.

“Our biggest challenge is not technology,” she explained. “People love to live a box -- [they think] ‘I do this job and that’s what I was hired for’ -- and we just can’t do that anymore.”

Enabling creativity and innovation will be especially critical in a multi-cloud world as there’ll always be challenges to tackle, with each customer presenting their unique set of needs and demands.

“I don’t think any customer is going to have just one cloud as they go forward,” she said. “We’ve always said that it’ll be a hybrid environment and our strength is in being able to play across different cloud providers, as well as on-premises infrastructure.

“Some customers have tried to lift everything to the cloud and found that they couldn’t do that for many reasons such as regulations or just the way an application was written, so I think this hybrid world is going to be around for quite a while. The partners that we bring to the table or engage with will be the ones that can help us address that complex environment with their deep skills and what they have to offer.”

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