Digital Transformation in Asia – we still have some way to go

Digital Transformation in Asia – we still have some way to go

Digital transformation is still fledgling with IT legacy systems the mainstay of many Asian organisations.

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Throughout 2020, organisations across the globe were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, shape or form.

Across Asia, while digital transformation projects were key to many organisations, the reality was that many Asian countries were playing catch up in their getting their digital transformation projects implemented.

Asia is a complex region and the technological advancements and capabilities of countries across the region vary. Whilst there are many multinationals and large local organisations in the region, IT legacy systems are still very much the mainstay of many Asian organisations.

With remote working set to continue in the foreseeable future across Asia, organisations will need to step up their digital transformation projects to ensure that business agility and productivity continue to remain high and that organisations can continue to operate.

According to IDC, 65% of APAC (excluding Japan) GDP will be digitalised reaching US$ 1.2 trillion in spending by 2022. IDC expects that by 2023, 70 percent of leaders in A2000 (top 2000 APAC-based) organisations will have shifted their management orientation from processes to outcomes, establishing more agile, innovative, and empathetic operating models while by 2025, driven by volatile global conditions, 75% of business leaders will leverage digital platforms and ecosystem capabilities to adapt their value chains to new markets, industries, and ecosystems.

Asian countries on the right digital path

In Asia where organisations can be more cautious in their approach in business, the uptake and roll-out of digital transformation projects has been slower compared to markets such as Australia, the US and Europe.

- Jordan Windebank, General Manager, Versent Asia


Singapore has been touted as the gold standard in Asia when it comes to technological advancements and driving digital transformation initiatives. Well before the pandemic hit, the island nation already had a digital road map in place.

When COVID-19 impacted the country, the primary concerns were to stay in business and transform digitally. This was supported with aid from the Singapore government which allocated more than S$500m (US$365m) to assist Singaporeans and local businesses manage the crisis through digital transformation.

A sector that has benefitted from this has been the financial services sector, where fintech companies were offered digitisation grants which can be paired with banks and asset managers to help them digitise. 

Digital transformation projects are being rolled out across Singapore both among government agencies as well as private enterprises in order to respond to uncertain market conditions, disrupted supply chains as well as the increased demand for digital services brought on by the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

With travel and hospitality sectors hit hard by COVID-19, DBS Bank and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) teamed up to use digital technology to encourage domestic tourism demand in the immediate term as well as drive cross-border demand and catalyse the country’s tourism industry development in the mid- to long-term.

On a similar front, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), supported by the Economic Development Board, launched the iFuture digital capability program to further accelerate digital innovation in Singapore.

The program will see P&G investing up to SG$50 million in total business expenditure linked to new digital capabilities and training over 50 employees to take on new digital roles aimed at strengthening Singapore’s position as a leading digital hub for the region.

Singapore’s drive to be a digitally smart nation holds it in good standing for the future as it looks to help organisations and businesses in the country create and drive digital industries.


Another Asian country worth noting is Vietnam. It is in a unique position as it is heavily invested in STEM, with the government emphasising their efforts in the technology sector. The country also has a large and young workforce and a deep pool of technical talent. The country’s tech sector is also viewed as an important industry for the country’s future economic growth.

In fact, Vietnam’s three largest IT universities are also based in cities where the country’s technology hubs reside, providing a growing population of young coders, engineers and entrepreneurs driving economic growth and technological innovation for the country.

In June 2020, Vietnam rolled out its National Digital Transformation Roadmap with an aim of updating everything from government operations to business processes and improving the lives of citizens in the country, another example of the government’s push in digital transformation.  

While Vietnam’s digital economy may be lagging countries like Singapore currently, Vietnam has made a strong push into areas of digital banking and ecommerce with a booming start-up economy.

Furthermore, Vietnam’s IT sector has experienced steady growth with revenue from IT, telecommunications and electronics hitting US$112.5 billion in 2019, doubling in just four years from 2015. We will no doubt see Vietnam’s digital transformation progress make significant advancements in the next one to two years.

How to get your digital transformation right

Digital transformation projects have largely been viewed as big budget and lengthy projects. In Asia where organisations can be more cautious in their approach in business, the uptake and roll-out of digital transformation projects has been slower compared to markets such as Australia, the US and Europe.

However, digital transformation doesn’t have to be costly, laborious or time intensive. Below are some tips to ensure your digital transformation project stays on track:

  • Have a clear view of your KPIs and business strategy. Your digital transformation project should support these objectives.
  • Start small. Generate benefits through a small aspect of the project so that it becomes self-funding. Once you see the results, you can go on to tackle other areas.
  • Build out agility cost optimisation and link that back to benefits for the business.

And while digital transformation projects don’t happen overnight, if planned and executed well, can reap your organisation numerous benefits, from increased revenue to reduced cost and risk, all of which is geared to helping your organisation succeed in a post-COVID era.


Jordan Windebank is General Manager, Versent Asia

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