Collaboration, inclusivity, adaptability and transparency are some of the aspects of cultural change affecting digital transformation in the region.

With learning points gleaned from the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian firms have latched on to digital transformation as a strategy, not just for growth but also for survival. The APAC difference in transformation effectiveness translates into important business benefits for the region’s firms, including helping them bring new products and services to market faster than their global counterparts.

These are some of the observed trends in a report by Harvard Business Review (HBR) Analytic Services commissioned by Red Hat. Out of a total of 690 HBR users and readers, the study surveyed 143 business executives from various APAC industries including financial services, IT and manufacturing sectors.

The study findings state that 95% of APAC executives cited digital transformation as gaining importance over the past 18 months. Also, 80% of APAC business leaders ranked cultural change and technology modernization to have equal importance for digital transformation.

Compared to only 23% of executives in the rest of the world, 40% of APAC executives were quickly developing and delivering new applications to market.

Three building blocks of modernization

According to APAC executives, cultural change stood out as one of the three building blocks of modernization, along with technology and business processes.

The survey respondents indicated that company culture now includes factors such as collaboration (44%), inclusivity (42%), adaptability (41%), and transparency (40%). Also, companies looking to digitally transform successfully are said to need to support their cultural change initiatives with efforts to modernize their infrastructure and application architecture.

The findings assert that by combining the two initiatives, companies in APAC can:

• Adopt continuous integration/continuous delivery methods, which were deemed vital by 75% of the respondents.
• Quickly develop and deliver new applications (40%).
• Respond rapidly to customer demands (39%).
• Update systems efficiently (39%)>
• Control maintenance costs (39%)

APAC executives apparently have clear ideas about where to invest over the next 12 to 18 months to maintain their digital transformation momentum. They planned to invest in AI and machine learning (40%), as well as increase their spending on cloud-based business applications by 8% and business process automation tools by 6%.

Said Anthony Watson, lead, Enterprise Domains, ANZ Bank: “Transformation isn’t something that happens for only a focused period of time and then there’s no change after that. Our maxim is that constant change is absolutely a part of our organization’s DNA — and that of other organizations across the region as well. We set the expectation throughout our organization that we will be evolving constantly. Our company is using technology to modernize operations to deliver services faster and more efficiently. Technology also lets us better integrate customer feedback as we develop new financial products.”