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85% of Malaysian businesses need modern data culture, 44% have limited digital strategy in place

Microsoft Malaysia unveiled findings from its first Asia Data Culture study 2016, which showed that 85% of Business Decision Makers (BDMs) in Malaysia felt that it was important to drive an agile business that is data driven, yet only 44% are starting to embark or have a limited digital strategy in place.

“Digital transformation is beyond adding a layer of digitization to your business – it’s about bringing together social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies together. And data is at the centre of this – knowing your customers, recognizing new opportunities, or streamlining processes will become a staple part of business strategy,” said Dzahar Mansor, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Malaysia. “As a case in point, IDC Asia/Pacific predicted that by the end of 2017, 60% of APAC 1000 (A1000) enterprises will have digital transformation at the centre of their corporate strategy.”

(L-R) David Chmelar, CEO and co-founder of iPrice; Michal Golebiewski, Microsoft Malaysia; Takeshi Numoto, Dr. Karl Ng Kah Hou, and Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, at the media roundtable

(L-R) David Chmelar, CEO and co-founder of iPrice; Michal Golebiewski, Microsoft Malaysia; Takeshi Numoto, Dr. Karl Ng Kah Hou, and Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, at the media roundtable

The study[1], which polled 940 business leaders from medium to large companies in 13 markets in Asia, including 269 senior business leaders in Southeast Asia (comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) also revealed that even though Malaysian business leaders felt there were clear benefits to having a data culture, there are gaps that needed to be addressed before doing so.

 Some of the benefits that these Malaysian BDMs felt when driving a data culture includes:

  • Better business continuity
  • Real-time decision making
  • Efficiency in operations
  • Improved processes
  • Improved customer satisfaction and retention

Bridging the gaps

Despite the benefits of adopting a data culture, the study also notes that there are areas that need to be addressed for Southeast Asian businesses to realize their full potential as a data-driven organization.

Creating an analytical workforce

94% of Southeast Asia’s business leaders agreed that it is important to have a data-savvy workforce. However, there are skillsets and culture gaps that need to be addressed in order for organizations to fully embrace a data culture.

  • Only 39% of business leaders in Southeast Asia polled felt that they have employees who have relevant skills to combine data to help identify business outcomes
  • 42% of respondents also cited fear of change as a barrier to embarking on digital transformation

Building infrastructure for data agility

91% of respondents agreed that they need to drive an agile business that is data driven. However, they perceive their capabilities in infrastructure to be lacking.

  • Less than half (46%) of business leaders in Southeast Asia felt confident that their existing data infrastructure scales with business growth
  • Only 37% of business leaders in Malaysia said that their data is accessible across mobile devices today – a definite barrier in democratizing data access in Malaysia where mobile devices penetration is expected to reach 13.7% by 2019[2]

Data governance for collaboration

91% felt that data driven collaboration across the organization needs to be enabled.

  • However, a moderate 56% see the need for access to data to be provided to a broad spectrum of relevant roles within the organization. For the democratization of data to happen, there needs to be comprehensive data governance for security and privacy.
  • 41% of business leaders in Southeast Asia expressed that data security is a barrier to their digital strategy today.
  • Only half of the business leaders polled indicated that they have invested in tools for its workforce to help drive business insights across functions and departments.

A new data culture needs to be driven from the top

At an organization-level, data-enabled collaboration must be driven and owned by business leaders in order to drive digital transformation across functions and departments. According to the study, 85% of Malaysia’s BDMs agreed that to drive a successful data strategy, an organization should have a formalized role, of which 41% agreed that a clear direction should come from its Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

Dr Dzahar echoes this and explains, “Business leaders, especially the C-suite, have a key role in driving change within the organization. It is no surprise that the Asia Data Culture Study showed that business leaders feel that CEOs should champion the new data culture. However, speaking from our own experience at Microsoft, in order for this to stick, it is important that the values of a new data culture are driven and accepted across all levels of the organization. This starts with the democratizing of data through technology so that everyone can access and are empowered to make decisions which create value for the organization.”

Dr Dzahar’s sentiment is in line with the study’s results, which show that 50% of Malaysian BDMs believe that access to data insights and analytics should be provided to a broad spectrum of relevant roles within the organization today.

Journey to a New Data Culture

Business leaders in Malaysia seem to be open to harnessing information in new ways. The study showed that they rated data visualization, predictive analytics and cloud data storage as important data capabilities for them in the next 12 to 18 months.

“Starting with a pilot and learning from that is key to a successful, longer term journey. Customers need to think about new scenarios which will provide new insights and new opportunities. They need to ask different questions about their business, not just based on hindsight but about the future. Technology has evolved so much that this is no longer science fiction but is achievable today,” said Dr Dzahar, adding that organizations should take advantage of how Microsoft’s technologies help its customers to achieve more – with innovations such as SQL Server 2016, Azure IoT Suite, as well as the new AX and CRM Online. “Organizations are now able to embark on their digital transformation journey that brings their data from hindsight to foresight, and to empower business leaders to deliver enhanced value in this new economy.”

Reaping the benefits of embracing a digital strategy

One such organization reaping the benefits of a modern data culture is iprice, a one-stop shopping destination with products of more than 300 merchants such as Lazada and Zalora. Being a digital company focusing on e-commerce, technology and data plays a crucial part in its operations and business expansion plans.

David Chmelar, CEO and co-founder of iprice explains, “Understanding our diverse customers’ needs and wants is crucial for us, especially since we operate out of Malaysia and apart from Malaysia have presence in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Philippines. We need to understand the different profiles of our customers, down to their likes and preferences, while keeping in tune with the trends that take place in the markets that we operate in.”

“For instance, we tripled our revenues in health and beauty category when we spotted the rise of Korean beauty products in our data. Capturing this trend early allowed us to have a head start. It’s clear to see here that data is truly king,” said Chmelar. “Microsoft’s technologies such as PowerBI enables us to analyse this data in a quick, efficient, and timely manner.”

 Dr Dzahar concluded by reiterating David’s experience, “This is what a modern data culture is about. It isn’t just about deploying technology alone, it’s about changing cultures so that every organization, every team and every individual is empowered to do great things because of the data at their fingertips.”


 About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

[1] The Microsoft Asia Data Culture Study 2016 was conducted in March 2016 with 940 CxOs and business leaders from medium to large companies in 13 markets including Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. The Study was conducted by independent research consultancy Asia Insight through a series of online and face-to-face interviews.

[2] Smartphone user penetration in Malaysia as share of mobile phone users from 2014 to 2019*, Statista,

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