MSPs outline revised customer priorities in Southeast Asia, size up services growth

MSPs outline revised customer priorities in Southeast Asia, size up services growth

This interactive virtual roundtable series housed viewpoints from leading partners across Southeast Asia

Credit: Channel Asia / IDG

Partner success in the months ahead will be dependent on premium service delivery and enhanced customer engagement, amid plans to reposition Southeast Asia for future growth.

Central to such efforts will be the deployment of collaboration, security and SD-WAN technologies, shaped by managed service providers (MSPs) and underpinned by revamped digital transformation agendas.

That’s according to Advance findings, a newly launched Channel Asia virtual roundtable series housing leading partners throughout ASEAN. During the launch session, featured providers included NTT; Logicalis; Insight and Cloud4C Services, alongside Acuutech; ArkPhire and Total eBiz Solutions.

Launched in early August, Advance is a centralised editorial resource designed to help partners access forward-looking content as the Southeast Asian market attempts to reposition for growth. Delivered on-demand, the platform facilitates channel collaboration through access to real-time, relevant and local analysis, complemented by virtual events and research.

Despite ongoing Covid-19 challenges – triggered by the uncertainty of lockdown measures, government stimulus packages and customer budgets – partners are seeking to move the conversation forward to focus on short- to medium-term priorities.

Hence Advance, launched with the aim of helping partners search for pockets of opportunity – and revenue – in the months ahead.

State of Southeast Asia: accelerated demand for managed services

Services adoption - irrespective of company size or solution preference - is exploding across ASEAN, triggered by customers embracing new ways of consuming technology.

While the region remains in a somewhat embryonic stage compared to more advanced markets globally - such as the US, UK and Australia - the digital dial is shifting as local businesses seek outsourcing expertise to drive transformation plans, counterbalanced with rising cost and business model considerations.

Such a dynamic is placing MSPs at the heart of strategic change in Southeast Asia, with services adoption set to skyrocket in the months ahead.

“Managed services adoption will definitely accelerate as organisations consider an agile technology sourcing model to help expedite business model transformation,” outlined John Lombard, CEO of Asia Pacific at NTT. “As enterprises seek to recover from Covid-19 and restore business operations, they are expected to turn to service providers that go above and beyond the delivery of tactical IT solutions to deliver positive business outcomes.

“Organisations are also struggling with the change of pace of skills in the industry and are unable to hire specialised skills in-house. Hence, using a service provider effectively will ensure that they have the latest skills and service expertise across diverse technologies."

Echoing Lombard’s observations, Tsu Pheng Lim - CTO of Asia at Logicalis - believes such an increase in services demand will accelerate further during the next 6-9 months, triggered by heightened digitalisation efforts at both national and regional levels.

“Amidst the unknown economic variables brought on by Covid-19, one thing is certain; organisations are now embracing digital transformation in everything they do at an accelerated pace,” he explained. “More than before, businesses need to create a differentiated experience for their customers in the digital marketplace."

For Tsu Pheng, customer survival will be dependent on the creation of new business models and structures, supported by the strategic roll-out of emerging technology solutions.

Yet only a select group will have the resources to finance such efforts - cautioned Tsu Pheng - with customers hampered by increased technology complexity, demanding line of business divisions and legacy systems. Not forgetting the rising challenges related to how IT is consumed, heightened cyber threat levels and lack of expert resources to support modernised infrastructure.

“Managed services solutions that are scalable, reliable, future proof, expertly managed and provide predictable monthly costs at the same time, will help organisations lower IT costs, improve security and compliance while significantly enhancing operational efficiency,” Tsu Pheng added.

Delving deeper, Hitesh Bhardwaj - vice president of Cloud4C Services - cited cost pressures and access to technical expertise as key factors in the turbo-charged demand for outsourcing ASEAN-wide, irrespective of company size or sector.

“Due to the Covid-19 scenario playing out longer than expected, we are all witnessing demand for goods and services falling for most of the traditional businesses,” he explained. “To conserve cash and transform their businesses at the same time, organisations are accelerating to leverage cost-optimised, managed services models.”

The ‘new normal’, according Bhardwaj, also requires the provision of agile and dynamic services platforms to end-user, whether to book a cab, buy a financial or insurance product online or simply to order food or shop online.

“These services must be always on,” he said. “The technical skills to build, run and maintain these new services consumption platforms are in short supply and difficult to retain. We are seeing strong demand from businesses which are already online and using the 'new normal' to build even more robust business models. We are also seeing traditional businesses, starting to transform, to prepare for the future."

Maintaining the resourcing theme, Hitan Mehta - CEO of Asia at Acuutech - acknowledged that organisations are seeking to “maximise bang for buck” in the short- to medium-term due to a dwindling pool of local and accessible talent, combined with access to in-depth solution expertise.

“MSPs use automation and knowledge across multiple clients to manage at scale, meaning it's in a modern MSPs interest to automate to reduce operating expenses and pass on the benefits to customers," he advised. "I believe this approach will continue to accelerate, therefore traditional system integrators and maintenance type providers should start to explore becoming an MSP or working under the wings of an MSP."

For Bijjala Radhakrishna - CEO of Total eBiz Solutions - Covid-19 has triggered a rise in customers seeking to engage specialist MSPs rather than carrying out IT functions in-house, allowing the business to focus on core priorities instead.

“This allows customers to focus on strengthening their vision and strategy in responding to pandemic and post-pandemic situations,” he advised. “Their key priorities will be to consolidate managed services rather than adopting a piece meal approach. Customers are not just looking at infrastructure or applications because more requirements are emerging in relation to remote working, security and cloud."

Customer priorities: technology

In the short-term, and perhaps unsurprisingly, customer priorities remain anchored around collaboration, SD-WAN and security - placing new services demands on MSPs as a result.

“Work-from-home has now become a norm rather than an exception,” confirmed Tsu Pheng of Logicalis. “In Singapore, during the circuit breaker period, 80 per cent of the white collar workforce was working from home. Even though some last minute adjustments had to be made, most companies were coping fairly well.”

With customers deploying collaboration tools such as Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom with relative ease, Tsu Pheng forecasts a shift in focus post-pandemic as businesses prepare to build out layered modern workplace strategies.

“As companies re-imagine the future of how and where we work, considerations regarding how to continue and sustain daily operations with minimal face-to-face interactions will require a wider spread of technology to enable such operations,” he stated. “This includes paperless offices; smart secured home offices; effectively running virtual workshops and product demos with customers and performing work while using personal devices securely anywhere."

Organisations tasked with selecting the most appropriate collaboration platform, understanding the deployment process, training end-users once adopted and managing the suite of solutions on a 24/7 basis face a challenging undertaking however, especially those operating at small to mid-sized levels.

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Tags servicesManaged ServicesInsightLogicalisNTTAdvancecollaborationTotal eBiz SolutionsAcuutechArkphireCloud 4C Services

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