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Cloud, analytics key to Asian biz recovery

update Region's businesses need to tap disruptive forces such as cloud computing, to gear themselves for demands of economic upturn, says analyst.

update SINGAPORE--The business landscape in 2010 will be significantly different from that in the last two years and enterprises need to tap disruptive forces such as cloud computing, or risk being left behind in the global economic recovery, urges an analyst.

Speaking at the Fuji Xerox Docuworld conference here Tuesday, Suchitra Narayan, services research manager at IDC Asia-Pacific, noted that Asian markets are showing signs of rapid recovery, though ICT spending has not returned to pre-crisis levels.

While cost management and business process improvements continue to be key, businesses need to look outward of their organizations and step up customer retention and acquisition.

Narayan said: "If we continue to do business like we did in 2008 or 2009, we'd probably fall off the rails."

She noted that 2010 is not only a year of recovery, but one where businesses need to balance Capex (capital expenditure) and Opex (operating expenditure) more than ever, manage both internal and external developments, as well as focus on value-add to the organization.

In terms of balancing Capex and Opex, the analyst singled out cloud computing as a key element in shaping the ICT industry, in the same way that India's US$2,500 Tata Nano vehicle had disrupted the global automobile market.

Significant cost savings through the elimination of Opex is often touted as a business benefit that cloud computing can provide.

Citing the University of New South Wales' adoption of Gmail services, Narayan said the switch allowed the university to provide e-mail services at just US$3 a year for each student. Similarly, the New Zealand Post is anticipating US$1.5 million in savings over three years from its implementation of Google Apps.

Transiting from 2009 where it was "all about survival", companies this year should step up their emphasis on growth and balance this with cost pressures, she added.

To be able to make relevant and timely decisions to grow the business or achieve other aims such as compliance, intelligence in business processes will prove to be an important element.

To this end, businesses such as fast food chain Wendy's, have tapped analytics tools to sift intelligence from available data. Using a real-time predictive model for each store that is dependent on 17 variables such as day, time, location and sales history, Wendy's is now able to cut the waiting time for its baked potato product from its previous one hour to immediate serving, Narayan said.

In the area of value add, information and document management appear to be gaining enterprise buy-in, she noted. An IDC Asia-Pacific survey conducted last year found that the top reasons for organizations adopting document management were cost savings, improvement of workflow processes and document security, or meeting compliance regulations. Across the region, managed print services were among the top document management tools businesses were likely to implement.

Plan, assess before deploying information management
Organizations looking to embark on an information management program must first conduct a readiness analysis and establish a proper policy, according to Vikram Mengi, partner of information management practice at research and consulting firm Latize.

Touching on the findings of a recent study of information management in the Singapore government, Mengi told conference participants that a substantial number of respondents indicated there was no information management policy in their organization, or are unsure what the policy requires of them, despite having some form of content management system in place. A total of 170 public sector employees from about 70 organizations were surveyed.

The most important aspect of information management implementation, he said, was the system's intuitiveness or the ability to "connect the user to the information".

Knowledge workers, he noted, typically spend 25 percent of their time searching for information, although their time is better spent on analysis. A system that is able to join the dots and present relevant information to the seeker would therefore boost productivity, Mengi said.