The world is abuzz with a massive change in the way things are working when it comes to companies. This change is spurred by the introduction of many technologies which have revolutionised and fundamentally changed how things are done. Perhaps the biggest observable change so far is that start ups have become the new normal. The simple reason behind this is that there has been a fundamental change in paradigm when it comes to product development and the duration is takes for an industry-wide disruption to occur. What once took decades is now happening at a near daily pace. The reality of the nature of disruption today is that you don’t have to be a large corporation to disrupt nor do you have to be a digital native. You simply have to be able to impact the way things are done and fundamentally change a preset mindset.
Being Digital Simply Means Adopting A New Mindset
Looking back at disruptors such as Grab or Uber, this statement couldn’t be more true. Even in our sit down with Mr Santanu Dutt, Head of Technology (ASEAN) at Amazon Web Services, this point was stressed upon. The world has changed from an industry-first paradigm to one where customers are placed front and center. Development starts with the identification of a gap in services or a new way of offering the service which would cater to better customer experience. From there, companies need to address the constantly changing demands of the customer with quick iterations. The harsh reality is, when it comes to competing in Industry 4.0, companies are now vying for a very limited commodity: customer attention. The days in which customers have a sense of loyalty are quickly fading. Instead, they look to new experiences and features which make their life easier.
So the big question is: How can companies have a competitive edge in this marketplace? As Mr Santanu put it, “Being digital is also largely a cultural change. Yes, it is about technology but [also] a cultural change of a company to have their product and services digitally [and] expand their reach.”. He stresses that the fundamental cultural change is for companies and their employees to understand the needs of their customer, listen to their feedback and to iterate quickly to address them. In fact, in recent years, we’ve seen companies die because of this. One of the best examples of this on a international scale is Blockbuster and other video rental services. With the advent of fast, broadband internet, their customers started expecting videos and movies to be immediately available for on demand viewing. The only company to capitalise on this fundamental change was Netflix. Netflix changed from an overnight DVD and Bluray courier and rental service into a platform which allowed users to stream video on demand. This was, of course, followed closely by Amazon Prime Video and other companies. Another example is that of Grab which started off as an app to making hailing a taxi easier and safer. It is today, Southeast Asia’s largest ride-hailing application and e-Wallet.
Learning and Unlearning to Compete in Industry 4.0
There is a misconception that comes with companies going digital and that’s the assumption that going digital simply means that companies need to adopt new technologies to streamline processes. Truth be told, going digital entails more than just adopting new technologies; it involves the learning of new approaches and technologies and the unlearning of old approaches which are holding the company back. However, in adopting new technologies such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud based services, companies cannot simply be looking at a “lift and shift” approach where they simply take their pre-existing architecture and shift it to platforms such as AWS. Instead, SMEs need to look at learning new the technology and implementing them in such a way that they are maximising their potential. In essence, unlearning the old and optimising essential processes and architecture using new technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and Data Lakes.
To be agile and effective, SMEs must look to the most effective approach to their needs. Certain industries may not permit the complete migration of on premises infrastructure to one that is purely cloud based. In cases such as these, Mr Santanu says that there is no harm in keeping core services on premise with permitted peripheral services being moved to the cloud. This approach allows SMEs to benefit from an agile workflow whilst keeping inline with regulations. When it comes to regulated industries, certification is essential. This is why SMEs looking to take advantage of Industry 4.0 should look to partners who share the burden of getting industry certifications. Companies such as AWS share this burden with their clients and ensure that any certification necessary for relevant industries is met on a regular basis.
With these worries aside, SMEs can focus on learning new approaches such as implementing DevOps in a leaner, more efficient manner. This will, over time, lead to better processes which allow for greater profits while minimizing cost. With partners such as AWS, SMEs can focus on servicing their clients while leaving infrastructure maintenance to their partner.
Planning For Scale from the Beginning
To keep up with the demands of the rapidly changing landscape in Industry 4.0, companies need to have the foresight to plan for scale from the get go. While AWS acknowledges that know how and skill set may continue to be a gap in the near future, the company is working with Universities to train the future. In Malaysia alone, AWS is training over 100,000 students who will soon enter the work force ready with the skills and knowledge required to take advantage of Cloud Computing.
That said, companies have to look to scale dynamically. As businesses continue to grow rapidly thanks to the internet, they need to be ready, from the beginning, to cope with scale. At a moment’s notice, they may be required to adapt from thousands to hundreds of thousands of transactions. This can only be achieved when infrastructure is able to scale as such. With Cloud computing platforms such as AWS, SMEs need not worry about new infrastructure acquisition. Instead, they are able to accommodate with simple automation the increased scale.
Malaysia is already moving towards industry 4.0 with the push from the government as well as industry. More importantly, SMEs need to learn to iterate – at scale – to accommodate the needs and demands of their customers. That said, it is still early days in Malaysia. The change in mindset needed for the country and its industries to fully appreciate and benefit the potential of Industry 4.0 is still in its growing stages. Mr Santanu stresses that with the passage of time and the willingness of Malaysian SMEs in adopting new technologies and approaches, there is no doubt that the country will be able to reap the many benefits of Industry 4.0.
Santanu Dutt, Head of Technology (ASEAN), Amazon Web Services
Santanu Dutt manages and grows the Solutions Architecture teams across ASEAN, which empower businesses from startups to enterprises in their transition to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. Santanu began his journey at AWS as founding employee and Head of Solutions Architecture covering West India focusing on building up skill sets in various domains such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, serverless, containers, Big Data and more. There, he assisted customers such as Reliance Jio, Tata Motors, Tata Capital, and Axis Bank, among others to scale their businesses, before moving to Singapore to expand the regional AWS business.
With over 15 years of information technology experience across cloud computing, big data and data center infrastructure management, Santanu also worked internationally in the United States and United Kingdom, and led the virtualization, migration and systems consolidation for various enterprises and system integrators.
Santanu is a regular speaker at leading industry conferences like NASSCOM, eTailing, INFOCOM, CIO Klub, TIE and Cloud Connect, where he drives the advocacy of digital transformation and innovation among businesses with cloud and big data technologies. Santanu holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics from Mumbai University.