If you ran a global enterprise, would you be confident enough to migrate 200 servers and your business-critical Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to a public cloud?

In 2018, that was what Del Monte Foods did, and the move paid off handsomely. In less than four months, the company cut its information technology (IT) spending costs by 35 per cent, increased operating efficiencies, and was able to roll out IT support to its staff in less than an hour -- when it used to take weeks.

Examples like this illustrate why cloud computing - the availability of platforms, system resources and next-generation technologies on-demand - has become the mainstay of enterprise IT for many forward-looking businesses around the globe.

In our experience working with clients, companies must depart from adopting technologies as point-solutions in order to scale innovations repeatedly and grow up to twice as fast as others. Instead of a patchwork of technologies, they must evolve future systems by cultivating the mindset and methods of leading companies identified in Accenture's Future Systems research, which measures the impact that technology investment and adoption have on a company's financial performance.

Our largest enterprise IT survey to date found that 95 per cent of leaders have adopted sophisticated cloud services such as serverless computing, compared to 30 per cent of laggards, who tend to see the cloud as cost-effective "data centres".

Southeast Asia's cloud landscape

Not all enterprises, and not all countries, are embracing the cloud with the same level of enthusiasm. In South-east Asia, the official attitude towards public clouds varies greatly from country to country.

In Indonesia, for example, data sovereignty laws restrict the sharing of data across borders. This places limits on the use of public cloud services for applications that involve sensitive data, if the services are delivered out of data centres located in another country.

In Malaysia, too, cloud adoption remains relatively low, especially in sectors such as financial services where regulators tend to be more conservative in their stance towards public cloud usage.

At the other end of the spectrum are countries such as Thailand which have adopted a more open approach towards cloud adoption. This has led to the emergence of cloud native-companies that are adopting new cloud-optimised architectures from the get-go, in order to fully capitalise on the cloud to scale innovation.

Likewise in Singapore, where cloud maturity is high, we see the government leading the way with its use of the cloud for public sector transformation. Businesses here are also more willing to experiment and are moving a lot of workloads to the cloud.

Levelling up

The cloud maturity landscape across South-east Asia is therefore highly uneven. Enterprises that are working towards becoming future-ready will have to start by developing a cloud strategy.

Many considerations come into play as they do this. One question that enterprises will have to ask themselves is whether they are able to move at scale to the cloud. As illustrated by the Del Monte experience, migrating a significant proportion of workloads will reap returns and help realise the business case for cloud.

Another important point to note is that moving applications and data to the cloud is one thing; running them efficiently on the cloud is another. How well the enterprise is able to optimise its use of the cloud on an ongoing basis will impact its business case for cloud. Enterprises need to continuously monitor how their cloud resources are being used. This involves making effective use of various commercial options available with the cloud, such as reserve instances, power scheduling and other features that increase flexibility in resource provisioning.

The business case can also be strengthened by developing a data architecture that caters to geo-based requirements, so that data and applications reside in regions that make most sense from a business point of view. This is especially important for enterprises that operate in countries with tight data sovereignty requirements.

For example, we see Indonesian banks building their core ERP systems within their country, but having digital services engagement with customers built on a public cloud in Singapore.

In our experience, we also see enterprises run their marketing campaigns from their data centre in Indonesia but burst out to a public cloud in Singapore during the launch when capacity requirements are high, and switch it back off when it is no longer needed.

Getting grounded in cloud computing

As enterprises in the region strive to be future-ready, they will need to get even more grounded in cloud computing. A distinctive trait of a future-ready enterprise as identified in our report is its ability to leverage the cloud successfully for next-generation technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics. These cloud-native services enable the enterprise to improve customer experiences, reduce costs, respond more quickly to market conditions and identify new opportunities.

The report cites how Alibaba Group's financial arm, Ant Financial, is using cloud and AI to offer a range of services in mobile payments, banking, insurance and wealth management. Cloud services and AI are embedded across multiple processes and product lines, enabling the company to instantly assess the credit risks of underserved people who may not have bank accounts, and even target them with loan offers.

With an agile and flexible cloud-based infrastructure, Ant has been able to transfer innovations and lessons at scale across the organisation, and even to external ecosystem partners.

Another course of action that can help enterprises level up is to use the cloud as a platform to develop customised apps that are focused on creating unique value for the business. Cloud platforms make custom development more cost-effective and efficient by taking care of the plumbing. This enables development teams to focus on specialised business-specific applications.

Investing in talent

Underpinning all these action items is the talent required to execute them. Leaders understand that investing in talent is the best way to move forward. They are mindful of the pitfalls of skills obsolescence and thus pay a lot of attention to skills training. They are using experiential learning, launching apprenticeship programmes, and using AI and advanced analytics to personalise learning, predict skills needs and match workers' skill requirements with appropriate training modules.

They also make sure their talent is not afraid to experiment and present non-traditional ideas - important components of learning and growing, and instrumental in shaping the mindset and culture of a future-ready enterprise.

Peter Yuan​

Managing Director – Technology Lead, Southeast Asia​

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