Based on Microsoft’s Asia Data Culture Study 2016, less than half of business leaders believe they have a full digital strategy in place today and even more needs to be done to develop a data culture
Asia Pacific, 10 May 2016 – Microsoft Asia today unveiled findings from its first ever Asia Data Culture Study 2016, which showed that while 88% of business leaders polled in Asia agreed that it is important for their organizations to have an agile business that is data-driven, less than half of them (43%) believe they have a full digital strategy in place. Business leaders also identified gaps in their organizations’ ability to drive data driven decision making.
The study polled 940 business leaders from medium to large companies in 13 markets in Asia. Respondents were surveyed on their organizations’ digital and data strategy, and readiness for the digital economy.
Andreas Hartl, General Manager, Cloud and Enterprise Division, Microsoft Asia Pacific said, “The confluence of cloud, mobility and data is changing the way companies do business with their customers. This is resulting in new demands that make it necessary for every business to transform to a digital and data-driven business.”
“In today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world, technology is interwoven into every aspect of our personal lives, forcing all businesses to be a digital business. As data is the electricity of the new economy, businesses need to turn data into actionable insights and predict the future as a way to get ahead of the trends and develop new revenue streams. Faced with economic uncertainties and disruptive competitors, analytics and predictive data is what organizations need to survive. With the right tools, insights can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time. When that happens, organizations develop what we describe as a ‘data culture’,” added Hartl.
The New Data Culture in Asia’s Organizations
The New Data Culture involves three organizational traits:
- Infrastructure for Data Agility: Data platforms need to be interoperable with multiple data sources to collect information from any device, share it and present it in a meaningful way. There is a left to right view of the business enabling better decision making real time. Intelligence is built in to develop predictions from data.
- Data Governance for Collaboration: There is C-Level ownership of the data strategy where access to data is democratized and governed by policies to protect information while empowering employees to collaborate seamlessly.
- An Analytical Workforce: The ability to access and analyse data is held by a select few, for example, data scientists or statisticians. For a new data culture to happen, talents across the board need to have the ability to ask the right questions, analyse data and drive actionable insights.
The study showed that business leaders in Asia are also keen to take the use of data to the next level. They see the top five benefits of driving a data culture within their organizations as enabling:
- Ability to make real-time decisions (86%)
- Efficiency in operations (85%)
- Improved processes (82%)
- Better business continuity (81%)
- Improved customer satisfaction and retention (77%)
However, the study also revealed that they are facing barriers to driving a data culture. The most common barriers in Asia include:
- Perceived high costs (49%)
- Data security concerns (43%)
- Lack of digital skills in the workforce (36%)
- Fear of change (33%)
- Securing funding (31%)
Asia Businesses in Data Culture Catch Up Mode
Asia’s businesses need to address the following areas in order to realize their full potential as a data-driven organization:
- Building infrastructure for data agility
88% of business leaders agreed that they need to drive an agile business that is data driven however, they perceive their capabilities in infrastructure to be lacking.
- Only 43% of business leaders said that their data is accessible across mobile devices today – a definite barrier in democratizing data access in the region where 2 billion smartphone users are expected by 2019 
- Slightly less than half (49%) of business leaders in Asia felt confident that their existing data infrastructure scales with business growth
- Only 47% of business leaders are using data to predict future trends
- Data governance for collaboration
87% felt that data driven collaboration across the organization needs to be enabled.
- Data security was ranked second as a barrier by business leaders in Asia in their data culture journey (43%)
- Only 48% polled claimed that they have a clear data governance plan to guide ownership, storage and use of data
- 53% of business leaders polled claimed that they have a clear data security policy to prevent unauthorized leakage and threats
- Creating an analytical workforce
84% of Asia’s business leaders agreed that it is important to have a data-savvy workforce. However, there are skillsets and culture gaps that need to be addressed in order for organizations to fully embrace a data culture.
- Only 42% of business leaders in Asia polled felt that they have employees who have relevant skills to combine data to help identify business outcomes
- Lack of digital skills was ranked third-as a barrier which hinders the journey in embracing a data culture within the organization today
- Only 45% of business leaders polled have invested in training to increase the skill sets of their employees in data capabilities
A New Data Culture Needs to be Driven Right from the Top
87% of business leaders in Asia feel that the data culture should be driven top down, and there should be a formalized role in the leadership team to drive a successful adoption of their data strategy. Most business leaders felt that the data culture should be led by the CEO or the CIO. Emerging roles like Chief Data Officer and Chief Digital Officer are also increasing in importance.
“Business leaders in the C-suite, have a key role in driving change within the organization. The Asia Data Culture Study showed that business leaders feel that the CEO should champion the new data culture. However, speaking from our own experience at Microsoft, in order for this to stick, it is important that the values of a new data culture are driven and accepted across all levels of the organization. This starts with democratizing of data through technology so that more can access and are empowered to make decisions in ways which create value for the organization,” said Hartl
Journey to a New Data Culture
Business leaders in Asia seem to be open to harnessing information in new ways. The study showed that they rated, in order of highest to lowest priority: real-time analytics, cloud data storage, Internet of Things (IoT), Data visualization and Predictive data analytics as the top 5 data capabilities that are of importance to them in the next 12 to 18 months. These capabilities are clearly aligned to how they see their data culture evolving to meet their need
When it came to leveraging IoT, business leaders in Asia are more focused on addressing security management and safety monitoring as their top priorities.
“Starting with a pilot and learning from that is key to a successful, longer term journey. Customers need to think about new scenarios which will provide new insights and new opportunities. They need to ask different questions about their business, not just based on hindsight but about the future. Technology has evolved so much that this is no longer science fiction, but is being done by some of our progressive customers today,” said Hartl.
Microsoft is committed to investing in building the intelligent cloud for modern, data driven organizations. The open and flexible cloud enables them to leverage it as they see fit – whether that means launching new business models, evolving existing ones or transforming their organizations. With machine learning and advanced analytics built in, the Microsoft intelligent cloud automates the basics and delivers differentiated services.
This includes the industry’s most comprehensive and advanced cloud data platform, IoT services, CRM, ERP and more. The seamless integration of these services enable businesses to be agile and make informed decisions in new ways. These include moving from lagging indicators to leading indicators, making IoT actionable, enabling customer centricity and loyalty, increasing speed of innovation, empowering employees with insights from any device, all in a secure cloud environment.
In Asia, customers such as Laing O’Rouke (Australia), PTT (Thailand), and Citilink Indonesia, are transforming their business using Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud platform. These companies are driving digital transformations and reaping the data dividend through their efforts in driving a data culture:
- Lagging to leading indicators: For global engineering firm, Laing O’Rouke’s operations in Australia developed a smart hat with multiple data sensors which monitors the health of its workers on-site, as its workers are exposed to external environmental risks. With the implementation hosted on Azure, as well as a deployment on Azure IoT suite for real-time data analytics, the organization has been able to expand their toolbox by tenfold.
- Empowering employees with insights: Citilink, Indonesia’s largest budget airline carrier, is equipping selected ground staff with capabilities to observe customers’ preferences and note trends to deliver a more customer-centric experience via data visualization tools with Power BI.
- Enabling Customer Loyalty: Thailand’s PTT is driving transformation through advanced analytics and CRM to gain greater customer insights on their usage of energy, interactions with the company to increase customer loyalty
“At Microsoft, we continue to innovate and deliver solutions that empower our customers to be able to achieve more. In the last six months, we have brought numerous innovations to market to meet modern data and digital needs. These include SQL Server 2016, Azure IoT Suite, the new Dynamics AX and CRM Online which work seamlessly together on premise or in the cloud. Organizations are now able to embark on their digital transformation journey more holistically in a way which brings their data from hindsight to foresight, and to empower business leaders to deliver enhanced value in this new economy,” said Hartl.
 The Microsoft Asia Data Culture Study 2016 was conducted in March 2016 with 940 business leaders from medium to large companies in 13 markets including Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The Study was conducted by independent research consultancy Asia Insight through a series of online and face-to-face interviews.
 Asia Pacific will have 2 Billion Smartphone Users by 2019, Forrester, 2015, https://www.forrester.com/Asia+Pacific+Will+Have+2+Billion+Smartphone+Users+By+2019/-/E-PRE8244