Digitalization in Southeast Asia (SEA) is hampered by a shortage of talent and a skills gap, according to a market intelligence provider for technology vendors and investors.

“Just because we have automation doesn’t mean you don’t invest in talent,” said James Sivalingam, senior program manager at International Data Corporation (IDC) Asia/Pacific, at a cybersecurity webinar on Oct. 27. “Talent is ultimately your critical differentiator.”  

While talent shortage is a global problem, it is “more pronounced” in SEA, he added.

“A lot of deals are closed based on the kind of analysts and consultants you bring to the table,” he added. “This is probably the most expensive investment you make in the company.” 

He advised creating a consistent learning platform and providing a career pathway for employees.

In 2021, investments in cybersecurity (services, software, and appliance) for SEA organizations reached $3.2 billion. This figure is expected to increase at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% to reach $6.1 billion by 2026. 

Organizations want more control of the technology that runs their operations and now prefer local or national vendors because of digital sovereignty concerns, Mr. Sivalingam said. They have also moved away from implementing controls for compliance’s sake and are looking to manage security holistically. 

According to IDC Asia/Pacific’s Security Sourcing Survey 2022, organizations believe that the top three cyberthreats they are most vulnerable to are data loss and privacy, the cloud environment, and network security. This, Mr. Sivalingam noted, correlates with the top three areas of security spending in 2022: information and data security, network security, and cloud security operations. 

To become the preferred security provider among clients, Mr. Sivalingam told vendors to nurture their thought leaders by providing guidance and sharing expertise; templatize their workflows to help speed up the time to onboard new technologies and applications; showcase their human talent and make them the face of the company; and contextualize marketing campaigns to the end-user. 

“A lot of vendors miss this,” he said, on the fourth point. “Sometimes it’s not contextualized to SEA, or to the size of the business they’re going for. … Not everyone understands technical language.” — Patricia B. Mirasol