“It Makes no Sense to Separate East From West in Economics”

Siow Wee Loong
Siow Wee Loong

Mr. Loong, which SAP solutions are particularly in demand among your customers in the ASEAN countries?

Loong: SAP NetWeaver is popular for all industries while SAP Manufacturing appeals more to the manufacturing sector. mySAP ERP seems to be growing phenomenally in Thailand and Indonesia where customers have a real need for these solutions.

Who are your customers, what do they expect?

Loong: Most of our SAP customers are global and multinational companies. But Asian customers are also realizing the importance of investing in a technology solution. The main focus of interest currently is on application management, SAP NetWeaver and the implementation and enhancement of technology needs across multiple countries.

What differences in business practice need to be considered in the Asian countries?

Loong: Generally, it is important to have a local partner to lead the bids because this person will have intimate knowledge of the customers and a better feeling for their requirements. We also found that especially for local companies in Thailand, contract and price sensitive negotiations are usually done directly with the owners of the companies. Also, in most ASEAN countries – with the exception of Singapore – having a good relationship with the customer is often critical in securing the business.

So, in Asia, is it more common for bosses to talk business to each other. Do sales officers, for example, have fewer responsibilities during IT projects?

Loong: A critical success factor for any project is the involvement of staff at all levels. The bosses should always set the direction and define the purpose of IT projects based on the business needs. When it comes to implementation and execution, all staff the system “touches” should be involved to ensure that the resulting solution supports their work processes and they are proficient in using the system.

In what respects is Singapore similar to a bridge in Asia?

Loong: Singapore is certainly a key hub in Asia where many multi-national companies locate their regional headquarters. Within this relatively small island, many businesses are done and decisions made. Singapore is also well respected and is able to act as a bridge not just for Asian countries but also with the US and Europe including Japan.

How will your company contribute to the success of the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing?

Loong: Atos Origin is currently the worldwide Olympic partner for information technology and the primary systems integrator of the Olympic Games. This endeavour includes the design, development, testing and deployment of all the software applications relevant to managing Olympic Games operations and delivering information about the games, the athletes and the events. The International Olympic Committee strives to control the cost, size and complexity of the games. One of the systems implementation objectives is to achieve minimal cost with minimal risk. With the help of massive re-use, systematic knowledge capture, and the integration practices of best-of-breed systems, Atos Origin was able to reach this goal. The on-site involvement for the Beijing Games began in 2003, five years ahead of time. So, Atos Origin, the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and the rest of the sponsors had sufficient time for testing and rehearsals. To give you an example how thoroughly we are testing, just look at our rehearsal program for the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. On November seventh 2005, Atos Origin completed the first of two technical rehearsals covering IT, communications, sports and security systems. Almost 292 different scenarios were tested in one week, around 200 IT professionals, led by the Torino 2006 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and by Atos Origin, operated in real game time conditions.

How many resources approximately will you need for the Beijing Games?

Loong: By 2008, we will have approximately 350 Atos Origin staff and 3,000 IT volunteers working on Beijing Games.

Where will your company be in ten years?

Loong: Atos Origin holds the vision to become Europe’s largest consulting and IT services company. Especially, we see strong growth potential in India and China. We are looking towards doubling or tripling our activities in both countries.

When will the Asia Pacific region be the world’s number one in terms of technology adoption and economic development?

Loong: It’s not a question of when the Far East or the Asia Pacific (APA) region will lead the rest of the world, but rather how soon the entire global economy will cause people to become integrated – as the world has definitely become “smaller” with advancement in information and communication technologies.

The APA region is already growing very fast in terms of technology and economic development out-pacing the average global growth rate. However increasingly, work processes span both East and West and economies of neighboring countries are inter-related and inter-dependant. An idea which originates from one part of the world may get developed collaboratively between the best of minds across multiple countries, transformed into a product in the most cost effective country, then launched and tested in a more mature country, and finally introduced to the world at large. Hence, it does not make sense anymore to separate the East from the West and define who leads who in terms of technology and economic development.