Changing customer requirements, driven by the emergence of new technologies and buying behaviours, are combining to redefine the channel in Singapore.
In a step away from tradition, the market is moving at pace to challenge the status quo, triggering transformation at both vendor and partner levels.
Partner success will be determined by the ability to evolve amid a crowded industry, creating a need for customer-centricity and differentiation.
During an exclusive CTO Lunch – in association with Microsoft and Channel Asia – leading partners outlined the criteria required for success in Singapore, documenting changing customer requirements, partner best practices and key opportunities ahead.
Central to partner growth during 2020 and beyond will be cloud, as Singaporean businesses build out viable go-to-market strategies through the channel.
“The cloud market is rapidly maturing in Singapore,” observed Andy Waroma, managing director of Cloud Comrade. “Customers are convinced that cloud migrations expedite their digital transformation.
“The public sector in Singapore is committed towards public cloud and financial institutions regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore are now better informed on how they can take advantage of cloud. Also, mid-market customers are realising the benefits of consumption-based IT solutions.”
In assessing local customer requirements, Samuel Bednall – business development executive at Telstra Purple – acknowledged that the Singapore market is split between traditional methods and more forward-thinking cloud strategies.
“Singapore has an interesting mix of traditional organisations who are cloud adverse and see IT as a cost centre, to organisations leveraging advanced technology to lead the world in their specific industry,” he said. “Public cloud adoption has become relatively mainstream with the majority of organisations, regardless of industry, now leveraging this within their business.”
For Bednall, cloud adoption in Singapore has been accelerated through the “specific requirements” of line of business units, as opposed to conventional IT department deployments.
Such an observation is endorsed by IDC data, which forecasts that technology spending by line of business decision makers will overtake technology spending by the IT department this year.
“Organisations have also recognised the value of data science in providing a strategic advantage over market competition,” he added. “Furthermore, the numerous cyber security events in recent years, especially those that resulted in data breaches, have placed businesses on alert.
“But despite this, some organisations still consider traditional security technologies such as perimeter security and email filtering as the only thing they need.”
In light of increased attacks and breaches, Singapore businesses now rank cyber security as a top business priority at enterprise level, according to findings from Telstra.
Revealed via the 2019 Telstra Security Report, 83 per cent of Singapore businesses experienced ransomware attacks in 2018, accounting for the highest rate globally (61 per cent) of paying a ransom after an incident, alongside New Zealand.
Almost half (45 per cent) of businesses in Singapore also expressed concern about the potential loss of productivity following a major security breach, with over half suffering a security breach last year.
In today’s “information-rich” environment, customers can receive information through “just a few simple clicks” on electronic devices, creating new levels of expectations through the channel.
“With this convenience, customers have higher expectations on efficiency, overall experience and security,” said Andrew Tan, managing director of JOS Singapore. “Despite the increasing expectations, budget limitation often remains a challenge. There is a need to strike a balance between meeting individual expectations and the needs of the business."
Consequently, Keith Leong – vice president, global sales and customer group at NCS – said that to be successful, technology providers in Singapore must now adopt an “agile approach” when engaging with customers.
“Many of our projects must be attuned to such demanding needs as the customer environment is always changing,” he added. “Our key priorities are building capabilities in areas such as cloud, cyber security, responsible artificial intelligence [AI] and machine learning.
“We’re also working with Microsoft to help build skills in NCS and we continue to focus on simplifying our processes through leveraging Microsoft technologies.”
The shift in focus comes at a time when spending on the technologies and services that enable the digital transformation of business practices, products and organisations is estimated to reach $375.8 billion in Asia Pacific.
From a Singapore perspective, and according to IDC, customers are now beginning to understand the value of digitalisation in practice, placing the channel at the heart of transformation plans.
“Agility is the key in the digital transformation of the businesses today,” said Srichand Baswa, director of key accounts at Web Synergies. “Client requirements are changing every day which is driving the vendors to come up with new approaches to execute the implementation of technology projects, products and solutions.
“Emerging technologies create new possibilities which encouraging clients to better their expectations and use technology to make real-time decisions and address business challenges.”
As a leading nation within Southeast Asia, Mohit Sharma – CTO of RightCloud, recently acquired by SoftwareOne – said Singapore has a heritage of being “dynamic” in relation to evolving alongside changing customer requirements.
“This also makes Singapore unique in reshaping the technological landscape and leading from the front,” Sharma said. “On the one hand, financial industries for example are dictating the region in terms of technology, while adhering to regulatory compliance.”
Furthermore, Sharma said the government continues to play a “pivotal role” in “reshaping the futuristic landscape” of technology with investment in initiatives such as Smart Nation.
“With all this coming together, Singapore is rolling out a visionary technological roadmap – from the adoption of cloud in digital strategy to leveraging solutions based on AI, machine learning and the Internet of Things,” he added.
Taking the conversation one step further, Randeep Kapur – chief technologist of Asia at DXC Technology – outlined that in response to growth at both public and private sector levels, new digital ecosystems are being built to service customer demand.
“For example, ministries in Singapore are now engaging more in ecosystem digitalisation,” he said. “We are focused on empowering both the citizen and the customer through technology.
“DXC is responsible for digitalising the end-to-end ecosystem of a customer, in addition to building out a business mindset, before introducing technology.
“Customers are engaging with DXC to create a roadmap to meet the right objectives, before building a proof of concept and implementing key technologies based on requirements.
“Both DXC and Microsoft have dedicated teams and we work together around-the-clock to service our customers. Microsoft has been our strategic partner since day one and continues to support our customers on their end-to-end transformation journeys.”
To drive a digital economy in Singapore, Sharma of SoftwareOne stressed the importance of building out cloud expertise, in addition to enhancing security capabilities.
“With an increasing number of security challenges and cyber threats, it is becoming pivotal to stay ahead and provide comprehensive solutions to our customers,” Sharma said. “We have made significant investments in setting up our Security Operations Centre (SOC) to ensure our customers already have cyber security defensive controls in place.
“Automation has played a huge role in the detection and remediation of vulnerabilities as well as overall security maintenance.”
Going forward, Sharma said SoftwareOne will continue to “go deeper” with organisations in building out digital transformation strategies, with a focus on application modernisation, DevOps, AI and machine learning.
“Today’s customers expect more from technology providers than ever before,” he added. “They are looking for solutions rather than focusing on certain product and services.
“With Microsoft as a partner, it further strengthens our focus on transforming our customer business as they look for deep expertise and understanding of their industry. Microsoft also helps us to leverage its comprehensive portfolio while creating a differentiated value proposition in the market.”
In also aligning to cloud, security and DevOps, Waroma of Cloud Comrade cited the rise of containers as an emerging technology within the Singapore market.
“Most customers are ready for public cloud migrations and managed services but still uncertain as to how best to secure those workloads and achieve required compliance with IT policies,” he advised. “Many companies are looking at containers to streamline their application deployments and build multi-cloud redundancy by de-risking the use of a single provider.
“From a partnering perspective, Microsoft Azure is being requested by many enterprises which represents a natural evolution. Microsoft products integrate well-together and customers understand the Azure value proposition in their own organisational context.”
In operating as a strategic partner of Microsoft, Telstra Purple helps customers deploy and adopt Microsoft cloud technologies in Singapore.
“Telstra and Microsoft have also built globally unique joint product offerings, such as Telstra Calling for Office 365, which allows us to be differentiated in market,” added Bednall of Telstra Purple. “Our relationship with Microsoft, particularly in Australia and Singapore, is strong, and Microsoft’s partner management program is very mature and easily understood.”
Meanwhile, Web Synergies is building out expertise in Microsoft Dynamics, backed up by specialisation through AI, machine learning and IoT.
“Microsoft is our key partner as we continue to transform our solution offerings and packaging of products, alongside acquiring skills to support and provide services,” Baswa of Web Synergies said.
“We in turn then trigger transformation of our customer business models by introducing new products and technologies to enable new channels of growth.”
In response to an “ever-evolving” Singapore market, and to meet “various business demands”, Tan of JOS Singapore outlined cloud, security and automation as key areas of focus, including business process management and robotic process automation.
“Microsoft has an extensive solution portfolio and strong brand image that are very beneficial to partners,” Tan added.“We work closely with the channels team on joint marketing activities to reach our customers with our services that complement with the solutions that Microsoft offers as a comprehensive solution which caters to their transformation needs.
“With portal access, we can leverage existing materials from Microsoft to better understand the individual solutions as well as attending both sales and technical related webinars and workshops.”