APAC pandemic lessons: Déjà vu dictated a calculated response in ASEAN

Editorial leaders from CIO editions in ASEAN, Australia, New Zealand and India share in-market challenges, key lessons and examples of best practice during COVID-19.

As offices closed, airplanes grounded and government lockdown measures took effect, CIOs across Southeast Asia felt a collective sense of déjà vu. Armed with lessons from the SARS outbreak of 2003, this is a region nestled on the basin of the Pacific Ocean, a Ring of Fire area in which natural disasters — such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical storms — are commonplace.

As Manila-based Richard Parcia, CIO of Concepcion Industrial, alluded to, COVID-19 wasn’t the first crisis to impact the ASEAN nations, and it won’t be the last.

With preparation prioritised, the challenge centred around a lack of notice to implement such strategies, caused largely by sudden government lockdown measures, most evident in Malaysia and the Philippines.

As Kuala Lumpur-based group CTO of Star Media, Kang Yew Jin, recalled, “within the space of one day we literally had to scramble … You can imagine the chaos.”

After prevailing due to a sense of ‘creative calm’, CIOs strategies kicked in at speed across the region through a commitment to technology and business best practices. Following briefings with frontline technology executives, a common consensus continues to build within Southeast Asia: Cometh the hour, cometh the cloud.

Through facilitating remote working at scale, cloud technologies continue to meet increased user demand while ensuring productivity and collaboration levels remain high. For Singapore-based Ivan Ng, CIO of City Developments Limited, said, “while often over-hyped, cloud-based technologies certainly show value in these situations.”

The deployment of a cloud-first strategy spanned all sectors and sizes, including RMA Group in Thailand, Hung Hing Printing in Hong Kong, Havas digital marketing agency in Singapore and the Malaysian Aviation Commission government department in Malaysia.

For Jimmy Ng, group CIO of DBS Bank in Singapore, the organisation’s “nimble response” to COVID-19 helped reaffirm company-wide efforts to continue modernising through digital and cloud technologies.

But as cautioned by Voranuch Dejakaisaya, CIO of Bank of Ayudhya (Krungsri) in Thailand, business considerations must also be made to ensure long-lasting growth once the crisis subsides. In addition to IT responsibilities, Dejakaisaya assumed the role of crisis communication leader early during the outbreak, engaging with all key stakeholders in the business, collating employee data, engaging with staff and ensuring messaging is received consistently and quickly.

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