Richard Jones: Disrupt yourself!

Recent news sees a lot of buzz around digital transformation. It’s almost too easy for companies to decide on going digital and leveraging the use of big data analytics. We see a growing uptake in companies digitising and virtualising, while embracing applications on almost every virtual platform available. We sat down with Richard Jones, Resident Advisor of Software Connectors Asia, to talk about disruptive technologies, the big data scene in the ASEAN region, as well as the future of data.

The ASEAN region has traditionally been a late adopter of many new technologies, whether it be due to availability or infrastructure issues. At the same time, we do see a thirst amongst consumers to be more digitally advanced in all areas. There will always be a disparity between the supply and demand economics of any industry. In digital, the supply is definitely there, however the distributors in between are not quite quick enough to catch up on the demands.

“Vendors or big players will always try and drive change forward and that is how the economics work. The challenge is the industry has, in certain sectors, adopted and matured with new technology and other sectors that are really lethargic and behind. That in and of itself, creates a paradigm shift. You get a huge gap between industry, between sectors. More importantly, there is a phenomenal gap from millennials coming out from universities using super high tech, clever technologies coming into industry where they are 15 years backwards. And it just doesn’t gel very well.”

MDEC CEO Dato’ Yasmin Mahmood once commented that “as a nation, we want to be there”; however, not everyone has a map to their common destination. Richard agrees that the mind-set of industries as well as the youths needs to be in sync with each other, or the gap will grow and those left behind will struggle to survive.

“The industry has to make sure that they understand the need to embrace the latest technology and rapidly move around these capabilities, whether it be cloud or application or mobile technologies, but there is an extra focus on the education sector as well. An awful lot are coming out of school with a very different understanding of what business is about. They don’t realise the complexities of regulation, governance, compliance. We see millenniums come and leave very quickly because they can’t see how a company evolves just from looking at a bunch of slides and listening to talks. It is a very different environment between a university and a company and education is not addressing that gap.”

Richard explains that there is now a huge push around startups and innovation labs. For millennials going into internships, there shouldn’t only be focuses on the glory of innovation, but also traditional skill trainings that sometimes revolve around mundane boring jobs that contributed to the growth of these companies as well. He emphasises it’s not a sole responsibility of any one single industry or sector. 

“An initiative has to come out, and it’s not just the government or the industry; industry governing bodies that are bringing vendors, education, industry together under a chapter and a mission, have a critical role to play bringing that peak together, because they are independent from everyone, without an agenda apart from trying to progress.”

The BASE initiative recently launched by Cloudera is one of the many trying to address this gap. Working with the government, educational institution as well as industry players, Cloudera aims to bridge that disparity. Formerly the VP of Sales for Cloudera, Richard was keen to express his opinions on how he thinks the initiative should run.

“I believe there should be a cadence on reporting: How many people had gone through the programme, how many people are reaching out, publicising it as a blog and getting industry following behind it, what’s happening and how the companies are working around it, how industries are working it. If no one starts publicising, openly sharing what had been done and what is in progress, I don’t see people getting involved as much as they should.”

Richard’s vision for the BASE initiative may sound easy, but the practicality of it may prove to be a lot more complicated and difficult to achieve. He understands that Cloudera is driving the initiative, but he notes that for the ecosystem to be successfully created, it needs to be agnostic in working with other software organisations. “A launch reported in the papers will just be that – a launch, rather than engaging environment that brings academia, industry and government together to be driving the mark across industry. [If BASE takes off successfully] it becomes a framework for future of analytics and big data to drive talent and skillsets in the market.”

The industry and the government within the region is putting out their best efforts to address the disparity. However, there is much left to be said in the national frameworks and mentality of the region as well.  “A huge barrier in the region is still around data credibility and the conscious decision of openly sharing data between agencies. They’re getting better though. It’s starting to move, but it’s the nations that have to battle that out. The fact is that nations in this region still have subterfuge. It’s going to change at some point, and I think 5 – 10 years from now it will be a very different market than today.”

Richard shares that open data is gaining traction very quickly across the globe. Increasingly agencies are looking to share as much as possible around citizen information, resident information, change of politics. Within the next 10 years he surmises that there will be an explosion of industries and companies offering data out to organisations to work with.

“It’s data upon data – when they are sharing more data sets, they are also collecting more data for the industries that are using it, for what reasons they use it and how that’s being leveraged. And they can look back at what they need to target their next application or their next usage. The problem is the environment and the perspectives of organisations to gain access to those data structures.”

Richard hopes to see more and more industries and companies getting on board to embrace innovation not only in technology but also business models. “Companies need to challenge the status quo of existence because some young company could surprise lethargic, very comfortable, traditional industry that own the market, coming from corners they don’t see.”

“The businesses themselves are looking at technology which improves things, but what they are not changing is some of their very fundamental core assets. It’s a balance to how that changes but there are still far too many organisations that run systems into the ground before the changes start happening. You can no longer be thinking a 5 – 7 year strategy; you have to be thinking 2 – 3 max and keep up with the changes in technology.”

Richard has high hopes for the region though, and right now although we may not all have the map, we seem to be on the right path to navigate the transformation. “From a ventures perspective, MDEC are very focused to develop the Multimedia Super Corridor to be the next Silicon Valley, and I see them as one of those places throughout ASEAN. How they are attracting different organisation into the nation, comparing with how prepared they are willing to work with companies, they are the most matured in the region. It’s something to be proud about.”

Just as navigation applications need the right codes and data, we hope the region’s code and data of infrastructure and mind-set will be compatible and scalable with the latest application in vision and adoption of new innovations for the digital transformation.

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