As businesses across Vietnam adjust to the new market realities of Covid-19 – complicated further by shifting societal dynamics – CIOs are approaching a digital transformation crossroads.
Impacted by an approaching global recession on the one hand yet motivated by a desire to return to growth and kick-start innovation agendas on the other, technology executives across the country are weighing up future opportunities and challenges in equal measure.
On the whole, the enterprise is aggressively pursuing digital initiatives and pending government policy decisions, will continue to make solid progress in the months ahead.
Mirroring other markets in Southeast Asia, Vietnamese businesses have been transitioning through a three-step process of recovery, spanning “respond, adapt and accelerate”.
“The number one concern for CXOs during the first half of 2020 was keeping operations running and enabling employees to work-from-home, these were the most important objectives,” observed Nitin Ahuja, general manager and sales director of Nascent, Asia Emerging Markets and Vietnam at VMware. “The availability of VMware’s cloud computing solutions across both private and public cloud services greatly eased the transition to home-based working.”
Hampered by Covid-19 – and subsequent local lockdowns – organisations quickly turned to technology to overcome rising company challenges, triggered by a sharp rise in remote working.
“Our Workspace ONE offering helped local companies initiate work-from-anywhere at any time policies, supported by any device on any application,” added Pham Viet Thang, country sales manager of Vietnam at VMware. “This helped facilitate work-from-home regimes.”
Following the initial reaction to the pandemic – which prompted heightened demand for collaboration, security and business continuity solutions – organisations have since adapted to fluctuating national conditions amid plans to lay the foundations of rejuvenation.
Now, with 2021 on the horizon, companies are embracing the ‘accelerate’ phase, reassessing technology priorities, operational processes and business model frameworks in the process – such a shift in mindset places the CIO at the centre of national change.
Transformation centred on customer experience
As outlined by technology executives during this CIO Executive Forum – in association with VMware – digital transformation strategies are being shaped with the aim of enhancing customer experience levels, cited as key to future success in Vietnam.
Specifically, key priorities include ensuring a seamless experience for customers through the synchronisation of multiple channels, supported by a digital service ecosystem of open APIs and microservices. CIOs are also leveraging big data to create in-depth customer profiles, offering analysis into end-user behaviour patterns in diverse and accurate manners.
Furthermore, acquiring new customers – irrespective of sector – remains a leading business agenda item going forward, achieved through embracing digital platforms and technologies.
The financial services sector houses a local example of innovation in action, highlighted through one leading CIO spearheading the creation of a digital transformation office to boost customer numbers and increase company profits. This is in addition to allowing the business to develop new products and maximise the potential of big data to enhance internal decision-making cycles.
According to IDC, customer experience is defined as a “functional activity encompassing business processes, strategies, technologies, and services that companies use, irrespective of industry, to provide a better experience for their customer and to differentiate themselves from their competitors”.
Within this context, CIOs were unanimous in citing the main technologies capable of achieving customer experience as part of a broader digital transformation strategy, including public and private cloud; big data and analytics; robotic process automation (RPA) and mobility solutions, alongside artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning offerings.
Embracing cloud, with caution
During 2020, cloud services remained resilient across ASEAN as businesses leveraged flexibility and scale to respond and then rebound from the pandemic.
As outlined by IDC, Southeast Asian investment in software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is projected to increase by 21.5 percent, 22.7 percent and 37.5 per cent respectively during the next 12 months.
Reflecting regional appetite, Vietnamese CIOs are also buoyant with regards to cloud, labelled as a “key component” of digital transformation agendas. In addition to the technological benefits, the “pay as you use” model is also appealing for businesses seeking to create and test new solutions at speed, launching products “within weeks, rather than years”.
For one CIO, plans are in place to transition 80 percent of customer and internal services to the cloud by 2022, with another organisation migrating all enterprise applications – including those supporting 60 million customers – to the skies.
Yet despite the direction of travel being clear, CIOs acknowledged that legal and regulatory barriers remain with regards to the deployment of cloud services in Vietnam. This is evident when assessing the levels of clarity in relation to what level of personal data is restricted to cloud services located in-country, and whether data can be held offshore.
In addition to customer experience and cloud, maximising the value of data also ranks high on the priority list of CIOs, with organisations increasing investment in data lakes and data warehouses to enhance decisions at executive level.
As documented by one CIO, a boardroom approved strategy is in place to manage data across 28 million customers, delivered by an increased organisational focus on extracting value from numerous other databases within the company.
Of parallel importance is also AI, on display in financial services through enabling customers to register credit and debit cards online, with 20 percent of transactions now completed digitally.
Almost six months after the approval of the National Digital Transformation Programme – set to be rolled out by 2025 – CIOs stressed the importance of a unified government policy in ensuring digital transformation deployments continue to progress at pace.
For example, a central certification authority is required to support remote signing services which would enable customers to enter into e-contracts with multiple companies – this in turn is expected to kick-start an explosion of digital transactions in the future.
Furthermore, CIOs also advocated for the synchronisation of databases across industries such as telecommunications, electricity, banking and social insurance to better support centralised digital identity efforts.
Despite the minor roadblocks ahead, Vietnamese CIOs are united in the belief that digital transformation stands tall as a strategic business priority in 2021 and beyond.