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Why Companies Must Embrace Open Innovation

To remain competitive in an age of constant digital disruption, companies must adopt an open innovation culture. Marjet Andriesse of Red Hat explains why and shares advice on cultivating tech talent in Southeast Asia.

By Marjet Andriesse | 13 July 2022

Marjet Andriesse is senior vice president and general manager at Red Hat (Asia Pacific, Japan, Greater China).

Digital transformation has been underway for some time in Southeast Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the transition and revealed key vulnerabilities many companies faced in continuing to adopt legacy solutions in a digital age.

Many have made important strides in moving away from legacy infrastructure. However, to compete effectively and sustain growth in the current digital landscape, this is no longer sufficient. Companies now need to adopt an open innovation culture so they may be equipped with the flexibility to adjust their strategy as they see fit and grow alongside their business needs, unencumbered by restrictions imposed by proprietary software.

Here’s why.

Empowering the digitalisation of businesses in APAC

At Red Hat, as senior vice president and general manager for the Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China region, a big part of my job involves driving the next phase of growth in the region. Much of this comes down to accelerating digitalisation via the adoption of open-source technology. 

Open source may sound like a foreign concept to some. In essence, open source software is built on code that can be seen, modified and distributed by anyone. Because it is stored in a public repository, anyone can independently access or improve upon the code.  

A key benefit of this that open source software is completely customisable. With the right infrastructure and in-house developer team, companies can nimbly adapt to changes in digital and systems requirements without being encumbered by vendor lock-in, costly switches or the need to make systems requests to the company selling the software.   

This flexibility has become increasingly indispensable in a world where digital disruption is a way of life. While companies were often able to function comfortably without making significant upgrades to their digital infrastructure for years in the past, this is no longer the case. Businesses in APAC continue to see Red Hat as an enabler – delivering the speed, flexibility and innovation they need to thrive in the age of the customer. 

As a company we work across various verticals such as telecommunications, FSI, public sector. Our customers include all Fortune 500 companies in the world. For example, in APAC we work with leading banks such as DBS, SCB, ANZ Bank, ICICI, Shinhan Bank and AmBank, plus telcos such as StarHub, Singtel, Vodafone Idea, Telstra, Rakuten and Telkomsel. 

A closer-to-home example would be Red Hat supporting DBS – Singapore’s number-one bank, renowned for its digital transformation and services – to modernise its technology stack and facilitate migration to the cloud. On their road to digital and to accelerate a culture of innovation and experimentation, DBS adopted a variety of Red Hat solutions including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat JBoss Enterprise Application Platform, Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, and Red Hat Ansible Automation.

Red Hat worked with DBS to modernise its technology stack and facilitate cloud migration.

By leveraging Red Hat’s cloud-friendly technology, DBS has become much more scalable at a lower cost, with operating costs as a percentage of income falling by 40%. 

This brings us to the next step in digital transformation: the adoption of open hybrid cloud, which allows companies to run applications across environments – metal and virtual machines, edge computing, private and public clouds – without needing to retrain employees, rebuild applications or maintain disparate environments.  

Why open hybrid cloud is the future

The pandemic has shown us that the path to the future is rarely a straight line. For many of our customers, a hybrid cloud infrastructure has helped them navigate unprecedented events that require a quick turnaround and don’t allow for a brand-new plan or revamped architecture. 

Too often, proprietary solutions can restrict a company’s adaptability and choices in the future. An open hybrid cloud provides growing organisations with the flexibility to find the best option for their workforce and adjust their IT strategy as they see fit. Companies could use on-premises infrastructure to store sensitive data, public cloud for app development and delivery, or multiple public clouds to meet local regulations in different markets. 

While cloud providers may use open technologies and industry-standard interfaces to build public cloud platforms, this doesn’t mean they always live up to the promise of an open platform. A truly open hybrid cloud platform enables portability, migration and heterogeneity, without exorbitant migration costs to move workloads across the hybrid cloud continuum. It also allows organisations to deploy any application, in any environment, without lock-in.  

We’ve previously worked with AIA to shift to an open hybrid cloud approach, as they felt the cloud was crucial to the organisation’s success. Through their Cloud First programme, AIA used Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform – an enterprise open-source solution for easy-to-use automation at scale and across environments – to eliminate manual provisioning and configuration processes while improving security and compliance.  

As a result, the company reduced its service time to market by cutting provisioning times from more than 90 days to about one hour. Now, its IT teams can take advantage of self-service to create development environments and contribute to the creation of new innovative services. The Ansible Automation Platform also helps AIA align with corporate governance and compliance measures to reduce risk from human error and other threats.  

However, to compete effectively and sustain growth in the current digital landscape, organisations need to do more than shift away from legacy infrastructure. Beyond the technology, adopting an open innovation culture – or what we at Red Hat call open-source culture – is key, because this empowers staff to initiate and iterate change rapidly from the ground up. In the rush of digital transformation, organisations can sometimes forget the people element, which has been a vital component of Red Hat’s success.  

Red Hat recently entered a partnership with Samsung to develop next-generation memory solutions, supported by Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Why tech companies are setting up shop in Singapore

Southeast Asia’s tech industry is booming. Its internet economy is growing at breakneck speed and is home to some of the fastest-rising names in the tech startup scene, such as superapps Gojek and Grab, as well as e-commerce players Lazada and Tokopedia.  

We’re seeing an influx of tech companies setting up shop here in Singapore, taking advantage of its global connectivity, strong IP regime, and strategic location in the heart of Asia to expand their operations in the region and capture a larger target market. It also continues to be a firm favourite for regional HQs among the world’s top multinational companies and fast-growing startups. 

Talent-wise, there has also been an influx of tech professionals into the city. Of late, many have chosen to relocate here to take advantage of the stable political environment, reliable and affordable public transportation system, and generally high quality of life. Many are also seeking to challenge themselves in a different market after honing their skills in tech hubs such as Silicon Valley and London. 

This is also in response to the huge thirst for tech talent here, with salaries for roles such as software engineers increasing by a record 32%. The intensifying competition for talent is a boon particularly to candidates looking to explore emerging opportunities in Southeast Asia. 

With demand for tech talent continuing to outstrip supply in key digital roles, recruitment experts expect pay jumps of up to 30 per cent (Information source: The Straits Times)

That aside, on a personal note, I have always enjoyed working in a fast-paced environment, so Singapore seemed like a perfect fit when I moved here in 2016 to lead Telstra’s enterprise business in Asia. The city is a gateway to the APAC region supported by great infrastructure – I must say, it has the most developed transport, communications, industrial and housing systems that I have encountered. 

Cultivating the next raft of tech talent

Beyond attractive perks and packages, companies must invest in talent development early, building the ranks with junior hires and offering development programmes to help them grow in their careers. They should also look to beef up their workforce with mid-career switchers through professional conversion programmes. 

When it comes to mentoring or fostering female talent – a topic that is close to my heart – I have been inspired by the Asian notion of ‘kampung spirit’ that nurtures solidarity in communities. 

I am a firm believer that building a bank of highly visible and active female role models can produce a strong positive influence in society – be they at home, at work, in academia, or in sports. Hiring in cohorts can also be beneficial as it gives women a support network to lean on. 

Even small daily interactions with these role models can have an outsized influence. For example, a study has shown that female students are more likely to choose a STEM major when they are assigned a female professor. Though some of us leaders may sometimes shy away from being in the spotlight, I think it is important to be seen for the right reasons. 

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to nurture talent. Role models should take on a community mindset and lead their employees and youth groups in an open and inclusive manner. This creates a virtuous cycle that spurs greater workforce participation and builds a stronger pipeline of future talent. 

About Marjet

Marjet is senior vice president and general manager at Red Hat (Asia Pacific, Japan and Greater China). She has over 25 years of experience in technology and professional services across Europe and Asia. 

Connect with her here.

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