Looking into 2023: Eight predictions on tech and businesses in ASEAN

As companies double down on their digital transformation journeys, here are some trends that we expect to see in 2023.

The current economic uncertainty has cast a dark long shadow over companies’ business outlook for the year ahead, with economists revising down their 2023 growth forecasts for the ASEAN region. Amid a heightened emphasis to “do more with less”, agendas in the boardroom have shifted from growth to efficiency. Yet while 74% of CEOs expect economic conditions to worsen in the short term, 83% of CEOs express confidence in the resilience of their companies to withstand economic jolts.

This confidence may have stemmed from their trust in their technology investments. Just like how automation and cloud technology has helped them to pivot quickly and come out stronger during the pandemic, they are applying the same lessons to this new phase of global uncertainty. These times of change have afforded new opportunities for companies to transform their industry and the investments they make now will determine their success now and into the future.

As companies double down on their digital transformation journeys, here are some trends that we expect to see in 2023.

Sujith Abraham, Senior Vice President and General Manager, ASEAN, Salesforce
  • Personalisation will be the solution to success now

In this digital-first world, every business needs the capability to reach the right customer at the right time. This is becoming all the more difficult as the amount of data created, captured, replicated, and consumed each year is expected to more than double by 2026. As companies race to increase revenue and drive efficiency across their business, personalisation will be the solution for success now. With a seamless hyperscale real-time data management platform, connecting, ingesting, and harmonising data from any source – physical and nonphysical, and across locations – engagements will enable companies to continuously adapt to changing customer information and needs in real time. Whether patient data for healthcare, telemetry data for manufacturing, or shopper data for retail, personalisation will be imperative to producing the most compelling customer experiences and accelerating time to value from data while reducing complexity across the business.

  • Companies will invest in total experience strategies that focus on both customer and employee experience

The pandemic has revealed the great disconnect between employers and employees. Organisations are under pressure to deliver growth, revenues amidst external headwinds while employees are craving flexibility, clear goals, purpose and connection. For much of 2022, leaders have expressed concern over the rise of “quiet quitting” due to its negative effects on performance and productivity. However, the popularity of the term points towards wider issues of employee burnout. Digital tools that focus on communication and culture will continue to play a key role in driving productivity and long-term employee retention. In 2023, organisations will combine customer and employee experience initiatives to increase revenue and retain scarce talent so they can deliver more agile and resilient business outcomes. With a focus on integration, leaders will seek to connect the systems and processes that support these experiences across the organisation.

  • Digital transformation will remain at the heart of ASEAN’s growth

With the economic headwinds we are facing, maintaining a durable, resilient business that can drive success now is increasingly challenging. Whilst we cannot predict everything that lies ahead in 2023, one thing is certain – digital transformation will remain at the heart of ASEAN’s growth. According to IDC, one in three companies in Southeast Asia will generate more than 15% of their revenue from digital products and services, compared to one in six in 2020. We expect more businesses here to aspire towards becoming data-driven organisations, deploying more digital services to drive efficiency, profitability and a competitive advantage.

  • Investment in automation will surge as companies aim to do more with less

Amidst rising economic uncertainty, enterprises will increasingly move beyond isolated use cases of automation to accelerate digital transformation, drive growth, and achieve cost-savings to better navigate the disruption. The benefits of automation are evident, with Salesforce’s suite of automation technologies saving organisations over 100 billion hours every month, as an example. Low- and no-code automation tools also allow organisations to drastically condense their digital transformation timelines by empowering employees from non-traditional tech roles to automate processes and create new services through drag-and-drop digital capabilities without prior coding knowledge. In 2023, we expect to see more business technologists take up such tools to save valuable time and circumvent bottlenecks. The ability for anyone to contribute towards digital transformation initiatives, regardless of background, provides a strong upside for businesses to remain agile in these changing times.

  • Companies will prioritise vendor consolidation and rethink their approach to efficiency

Currently, the average company uses nearly 1,000 applications to run its business and store customer data. This isn’t efficient, effective, or affordable. What’s worse is that it makes the work environment more complex when the goal of technology should be to simplify things. In 2023 we can expect to see companies prioritising vendor consolidation and reducing the complexity of their technology stack to give a simple 360-degree view of each customer. They will also rethink what it means to be efficient at every level, in every department. Companies will need to commit to continuous innovation to solve customers’ problems, ensure seamless service from anywhere, and adapt to customers’ changing priorities. This in turn will provide opportunities for success in the long term.

  • Managers will be the greatest connectors between employees and the company

As we continue going through one of the biggest workplace experiments of the century – moving from physical offices to hybrid arrangements powered by digital headquarters – the role of the manager has fundamentally changed. They are no longer just responsible for driving results and productivity – they are also supporting employees’ emotional and psychological well-being. With companies grappling with a new reality of work, cultivating great managers will be critical. They will be the connectors within the organisation to ensure that the needs of employees are heard, so companies can continue to adapt policies in accordance with employees’ needs. When managers listen and make their employees feel heard, this brings out the best in employees.

  • Customers’ preference for sustainable options will drive business decisions

Over the last two years, new expectations have increased in importance to consumers – trust and impact. Salesforce research has found that 88% of consumers now expect brands and retailers to clearly state their values. 64% say they will stop doing business with a company if corporate values don’t align with their own. This is especially true when it comes to the environment. With the growing impact of sustainability on purchase decisions, companies can no longer afford to see sustainability as just a reporting need. They will need to start making sustainability a core value in their organisation and integrate it in their product roadmap. Over the coming year, they will also increasingly realise that data-driven insights and improved integration across supply chains will help deliver more efficient and sustainable ways of working. Through investing in digital tools to track emissions, companies will adapt quickly to drive change, supporting the global effort to become net zero.

  • Companies will invest their training for green and digital roles

As companies across Asia work with their local governments to double down on Net Zero targets, a severe sustainability talent crunch is emerging, in addition to digital skills. Salesforce’s digital skills index found that while nearly half of all respondents view digital sustainability skills as important now and in the next five years, only 16% say they have “advanced” digital skills for operating technology that promotes sustainable business activities like tracing, measuring, and analysing climate data within an organisation. The silver lining for skills in these domains is that they enjoy high transferability. As businesses recalibrate themselves in a post-COVID world, we expect more calls for talent to upskill themselves via various government or company-led initiatives. An example of that for the Salesforce ecosystem would be our free learning platform, Trailhead. Increasingly, a formal college degree will not be needed to solve enterprise problems.