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Exclusive: Why open source will play a key role in Asean transformation in 2017

AvantiKumar | Dec. 21, 2016
Computerworld interviews open source advocate Damien Wong to talk about the role open source expects to play in Asean's continuing wave of digital transformation (DX).

open-source-(IDG connect)

Image (IDG) - Open source computing


In conjunction with an extensive 2017 roundup feature on Malaysia's ICT industry, Computerworld Malaysia recently asked open source advocate Damien Wong, who is also Red Hat's Asean vice president and general manager, to talk about the role that open source computing will play in the next two years as companies in the region ramp up their business transformation strategies to meet an increasingly complex operating environment.

When asked him for his experience of how local companies were actually handling the rush to digitise operations, he noted: "Typically, a digital strategy will address the 'what's' and the 'why's' but may not address the 'how's' and that's one of the biggest challenges Malaysian businesses really face."

Read on for the full interview.  

Damien Wong - Vice President and General Manager, ASEAN, Red Hat 

Photo - Damien Wong, Vice President & General Manager, ASEAN at Red Hat

Would you please start by telling us a little bit about what digital transformation means to businesses in the region?

DW: Digital transformation (DX) refers to how organisations can transform their traditional businesses through developing digital assets and delivering software functionalities better and faster, leveraging disruptive technology innovations in areas such as Cloud, Mobile and Big Data.

Today, open source is at the heart of digital transformation providing organisations easy access to these new technologies. Increasingly, enterprises are embracing open source-based innovation to accelerate the pace of digital transformation in their businesses. The fact that most of the disruptive technologies driving digital transformation have evolved primarily from open innovation has certainly been a driving factor for this trend towards enterprise adoption of open source.
IDC predicts that two-thirds of Global 2000 enterprise CEOs will have digital transformation at the centre of their corporate strategy within the next two years, resulting in a doubling of enterprises with advanced digital transformation strategies and implementations. 

In fact, Michael Korbat the CEO of Citibank made the statement that Citi in many ways see themselves as a technology company with a banking license. This exemplifies the extent by which digital transformation has changed the world!
Companies in traditional industries definitely do not want to be left behind in this wave of technology transformation.

We are seeing entire businesses being built on digital platforms, and industry incumbents are looking to be part of this rapid innovation cycle as a competitive response.

Open source is deeply embedded in the fabric of digital transformation.  Widely quoted examples such as Grab, Airbnb and Netflix have shown how digital innovation has allowed non-traditional players to enter and completely disrupt industries, leaving a trail of traditional industry players struggling to compete.
According to IDC, the 3rd Platform for Digital Transformation is comprised of the "pillars" of Social Media, Mobility, Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing.  Companies are evaluating how each pillar can be used to enhance their businesses internally and externally.  Internally on how to engage with employees to mould and retain top talent. Externally on how to engage with customers and drive cost-efficiencies. Nearly every company in the world should be thinking of how they can digitally transform their businesses.

In your experience, how are businesses in Malaysia and in the region actually embarking on this transformation journey?

Businesses in Malaysia and the region are starting to recognise the need to embark on Digital Transformation to remain relevant in their respective industries. 

However, many struggle to define a clear and coherent digital strategy to support this transformation journey.  Unfortunately for the uninitiated, digital transformation is not merely taking existing business models and processes and automating them, but rather taking on an entire different approach and mindset towards creating value chains that are now possible with the introduction of these disruptive digital innovations. 

This is where many traditional Malaysian organizations struggle to move from Digital Transformation intent to reality, and the deluge of information from numerous sources (especially vendors trying to associate what they do with the buzzword of the day) results in confusion on defining the way forward.
What really are the benefits and opportunities for businesses when they implement a digital strategy?

As the saying goes 'Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail'.  As such, having a well thought-through and executable digital strategy provides a clear plan for organisations embarking on Digital Transformation to succeed. 

The digital strategy should allow the organisation to focus on strategic objectives for digital transformation, whether harnessing cost efficiencies, driving digital innovation, or a combination of both.

Furthermore, an organisation's digital strategy should not be viewed as just an IT initiative, but rather as something jointly driven and owned with the Business.  After all, IT departments can provide insight into the underlying technologies to support new digital business capabilities but deciding how to harvest these opportunities still needs to be driven with business stakeholders.

Ultimately the benefits from a successful transformation journey will allow businesses to innovate quickly, compete more effectively, and achieve their desired business outcomes whilst being agile - enabling them to adapt and thrive in an environment of near constant change.
When embarking on a digital strategy, what challenges and barriers are faced by businesses in Malaysia in your experience?

Typically, a digital strategy will address the 'what's' and the 'why's' but may not address the 'how's' and that's one of the biggest challenges Malaysian businesses really face.

With a digital strategy, the risk of failing is even higher because for most Malaysian businesses (assuming they have already successfully defined a digital strategy), there is a big paradigm shift in terms of culture, mindsets and capabilities.
For example, a traditional bank will have to keep existing banking operations running in a stable and secure manner, while at the same time building digital innovation capabilities to compete against Fintech disruptors. 

The former requires a risk-averse mindset where failure is not an option while the latter is completely the opposite where failure is an indicator that new things are actually being tried.  Some traditional organizations have shared an "either-or" mindset with regards to thinking about Digital Transformation, but the reality is that it needs to be an "and" mindset.  It's challenging because it's almost like the analogy of building a plane as it flies!  And yet, there are numerous examples where traditional organisations have made the leap successfully.
So how does Red Hat typically help businesses succeed in their DX journey?

We have earlier established that open source innovation is driving the vast majority of disruptive digital technologies.  However, open source innovation in the community tends to be extremely fast-paced, focused on driving new capabilities rather than on ensuring the attributes that businesses need of technology - reliability, performance and security.  

In that respect, Red Hat has been a stalwart of the Open Source world for over two decades, being the largest open source software company in the world.  Red Hat bridges the divide between the Community and the Enterprise, helping businesses get access to the much-needed innovation from the open source ecosystem, while at the same time providing the enterprise-required attributes to adopt these technologies.
Furthermore, the ability to translate ideas into reality rapidly through DevOps capabilities and next-generation application architectures, is going to be a key differentiator for success in the digital transformation journey.  Once again, Red Hat provides an integrated and open portfolio of technologies to support DevOps initiatives, as well as the training and consulting offerings to help businesses adopt and maintain these capabilities for the longer term.
Open source breaks down the barriers of legacy organisation challenges by empowering businesses to engage innovation partners and fostering a collaborative and open ecosystem, along with other benefits such as lower investment costs, faster implementation and improved agility.
Open source is now at the forefront of every major breakthrough in technology. The industry as a whole should challenge the status quo and think differently. To compete in the digital economy, there is now a greater need to collaborate and participate in the open source communities of today.
To end, let's talk about the solutions you are excited about and how these help businesses turn their digital transformation vision into a reality?

To win in the digital space, organisations need to adopt a fundamentally different approach from an architectural approach, application development processes, and underlying technology platforms.  Red Hat provides the application platforms, middleware, and services to organizations to succeed in digital transformation through next generation architecture. By taking a big-picture view of an organization, Red Hat analyses their challenges and helps them overcome it with comprehensive, cost-effective offering and solutions.
Some of these include:

  • DevOps Platform - The consumerization of IT has changed customer expectations and IT must adapt its culture and processes to deliver apps and features faster. With DevOps, organizations can accelerate IT delivery by embracing an open culture. DevOps applies open source principles of transparency and collaboration to culture, automation, and platform design, delivering increased business value and responsiveness through rapid, iterative, and high-quality IT service delivery.
  • Providing DevOps Consulting Services - Getting DevOps right is critical. Red Hat helps businesses understand and implement DevOps methodologies, governance, environments, and tools faster than if they were to do it alone.
  • Supporting an Open Hybrid Cloud - With an open hybrid cloud infrastructure from Red Hat, IT departments can better serve business by delivering more agile and flexible solutions while protecting business assets and preparing for the future.
  • Connecting Apps, Data and Devices - Digital transformation starts with a robust, scalable integration architecture. With Red Hat's broad portfolio of modular technology and services, organisations will benefit from a simplified way of how they connect their business and IT assets across on premise, mobile and cloud environments.
  • Connecting Mobile Devices (Mobility) - The nature of mobile of being always on, immediate, pervasive, and capable of greater context awareness is shifting how businesses engage with customers. Mobile offers organisations the opportunity to create new revenue streams and drive operational efficiencies. But, most importantly, it speeds the path to digital transformation.
  • Automating Processes - Change is constant and agile business applications are key to remaining competitive. By having a robust Business Process Management (BPM) and Business Rules Management (BRM), business decision makers are able to quickly create and change business rules - matching it back to their desired objectives at any given time.


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