Asia's enterprise software challenge

Implementing and managing business applications is the No. 2 IT priority for businesses in Asia-Pacific, but new software challenges are emerging.
Written by Isabelle Chan, Contributor
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Business applications grabbed the second top spot in ZDNet Asia's latest survey on the region's most important IT priorities.

According to the study, which attracted more than 2,300 respondents across the Asia-Pacific region, 11.4 percent of respondents said business applications were currently a priority, while a slight increase (11.8 percent) said they will be a priority in the next 12 months. Business applications that fall under this category include enterprise resource planning (ERP), business intelligence (BI), accounting and Internet banking.


The findings come as little surprise since business applications are usually the lifeblood of any IT operation. However, respondents also indicated that they were grappling with collaboration and content management issues, reflecting new software requirements and challenges.


There was little difference in the responses between SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) and large enterprises. The same number of respondents (11.5 percent) in both groups regarded business applications as an IT priority now, although more large-business respondents (12.6 percent) said business applications would be a priority in 12 months' time, compared to 11.3 percent of those who worked in SMBs.

"It will be another five to 10 years before we witness the real move toward the information-centric approach, but it is coming."
-- John Brand, Hydrasight

More respondents in India (13.1 percent), Singapore (11.5 percent) and the Philippines (10.8 percent) regarded business applications as a priority, compared to Malaysia (9.6 percent), Indonesia (9.9 percent) and Hong Kong (9.6 percent). The two countries that had the lowest percentages were Australia/New Zealand (9.1 percent) and Thailand (8.3 percent).

John Brand, director of analyst firm Hydrasight, said that while business applications today are "a more familiar construct" for decision makers, there is a gradual move away from business applications as the primary purchase decision toward business services supported by software and augmented by services.

Brand added: "It will be another five to 10 years before we witness the real move toward the information-centric approach, but it is coming.

"The fact that organizations are indicating that they are grappling with these content, communications and collaboration issues, reflects the growing importance of this type of information in their business."

Elaborating on today's software challenges, the Hydrasight analyst said: "Basically, organizations have a great deal of difficulty getting their heads around managing 'unstructured' information, while business applications give them a structured context for managing critical information assets.

"While this approach has been entirely appropriate in the past, new technologies are showing us that focusing specifically on structured information may not always make the most sense, or be the most beneficial," he added.

Indeed, software priorities will shift as more businesses adopt Internet services such as those offered by Google.

Brand explained: "Google as an online search service is seen by many companies as a high-value business application for mining competitive intelligence, and for the investigation or evaluation of new and innovative approaches to everyday business challenges.

"Even though its content is loosely structured, it generally has a greater value perception than say the online Yellow Pages," he said. "If you then compare the effort of having to manage all the structured data in the online Yellow Pages as the value that is derived from it, particularly compared to Google, you can see that we are making some fairly brash assumptions about business applications."

Greg Dixon, Cisco Systems' IT director for Asia-Pacific and Japan, also acknowledged a gradual shift in the enterprise application challenge.

"Over time, collaboration and knowledge will increasingly be built into the very fabric of these applications," Dixon said. "For example, even the best of business processes can only be designed to address or enhance a known set of conditions for that given process. Incorporating collaboration within the elements of the process itself, increases its adaptability and reduces the frequency of costly process reviews."

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