Cloud adoption may appear daunting, but right now one should Keep Calm and Just Cloud It
By Tan Jee Yee September 14, 2020
- Step-by-step approach allows companies to digitalise without overextending
- Most businesses, without realising it, already on cloud, trust no more key barrier
In a Covid-19 world, cloud adoption has become a necessity for businesses to survive. A cloud infrastructure provides businesses the accessibility and scalability to manage expanding – and changing – customer demand, while allowing businesses to still function during crises like the pandemic.
Yet a number of businesses owners are still hesitant to migrate, with legitimate concerns on things like cost, complications and security.
A recent webinar titled “Stay Calm and Just Cloud It!” organised by MalaysiaKini and Digital News Asia, hopes to reassure that the cloud isn’t as terrifying as it appears, even if it’s a little complex. The consensus, it seems, is that while cloud adoption and execution may be hampered by infrastructural limitations, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Panel speaker Chan Kee Siak, who is also CEO of cloud services provider Exabytes Network Sdn Bhd, began by noting an aspect few businesses realise – that if you’re already using online tools like Facebook Live to promote a product, you’re already on the cloud.
“In today’s world, without realising it, a lot of us – including MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) – are already on the cloud one way or another. Email services that we are using are part of the cloud. Storage services like iCloud and Dropbox are cloud services,” he says.
What’s important, then is how companies can continue to embrace more and apply these tools to their day-to-day businesses to achieve better efficiency and, potentially, help reduce cost.
Panellist Lim Chia Wei, who is executive director of Malacca Securities, shares how cloud adoption has enhanced the operations of the 57-year old stockbroking company. When she first joined the family business in 2013, the company was in the midst of transformation, with an eye on online trading.
Lim oversaw the operation. Initially, much of it was about streamlining manual processes and the backend, enhancing their systems part by part to support automation.
More recently, however, they’ve begun on a more full-fledged approach in digitalisation. This includes utilising cloud-based work productivity applications, as well as introducing digital marketing. And then, of course, there is M+ Online, Malacca Securities’ online stock trading platform.
“I feel that we can proudly say we have successfully transformed from a very traditional broker into a key online player in the industry,” she says.
“I think [the company] is definitely more efficiently run,” Lim adds. When she first joined, the brokerage primarily dealt in manual processes with tonnes of paperwork. “With technology, we are able to introduce automation and scale our processes, and we don’t have to hire people to handle volumes.”
Growing adoption, but not enough
The good news is that more businesses are clearly moving towards cloud adoption in Malaysia, especially in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Chan (pic) himself observes that even stalls and traditional mom-and-pop shops have started having their own e-commerce presence.
At the same time, businesses that are already utilising basic cloud services are looking into more cloud-based tools, such as cloud-based payroll applications and CRM (customer relationship management).
The third panellist, Chin Chee Siong, who is the national vice president of SME Association Malaysia, offered a more complete perspective. His organisation recently released a survey on the status of Malaysian SMEs after the movement control order (MCO) period. The association surveyed 1,713 business owners on the measures they have taken after the MCO.
It found that only 43% of the SMEs surveyed have embarked on digitalisation. While this number could be higher, what’s intriguing is that 69% of them considered the journey to be a success. 49% of those who haven’t started digitalisation expressed interest to do so, with a majority intending to begin in the next three to six months.
“It is clear that most of them [SMEs] have taken the journey of digitalisation, but this is not enough,” stresses Chin, a past-chairman of Pikom as well.
So how should an enterprise begin on their cloud journey? For Lim, Malacca Securities’ journey was approached in a hybrid manner – it begun internally, with work processes shifting to cloud applications and the utilisation of productivity tools for their internal workflow. They used it even more during the MCO period, as it promotes collaboration even in a work-from-home environment.
The gradual digitisation eventually expanded towards other departments such as human resources. Today, even Malacca Securities’ processes such as health benefits, utilise cloud applications.
Lim, however, says that cost-effectiveness alone can’t be a key driver of cloud adoption. “You have to look at it from all perspectives – on how does it make your business more efficient, or how it increases time to market. All of these have to be part and parcel of the consideration process for companies who want to move to the cloud,” she advices.
Chin says that digitalisation has its difficulties, but it mainly stems from enterprises not understanding the cost of digitalisation, with many perceiving it as expensive. However, as Chin notes, the cost of digitalisation is increasingly lower, especially compared to a few years prior.
“For many cloud-based services, you don’t need to pay a large sum upfront – you just subscribe to the services that you need,” Chin notes. Essentially, the barrier of entry is now much lower.
For Chan, the actual challenge in cloud adoption isn’t cost, nor is it a trust issue. “It’s about infrastructure and connectivity. Are they stable and fast enough to support the business and to adopt more cloud services. Infrastructure plays a very critical role.”
Still, it can be said that the infrastructure in Malaysia for cloud adoption is more or less in place. If anything, Alibaba Cloud being the first international cloud player to set up their infrastructure in Malaysia is an indicator that the country has the ground work laid out. It’s also a showcase on the importance of a cloud infrastructure. According to Chan, it can be observed that Alibaba’s arrival is helping the further development of the whole e-commerce ecosystem that is heavily reliant on cloud infrastructure.
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There’s no denying that technical, infrastructure, and cost barriers are getting lower. Right now, with cloud adoption being a matter of survival, it’s best to keep calm and start on the digitalisation journey.
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