Skills gap a 'key hurdle for Asia-Pac firms'

Companies in the Asia-Pacific intend to expand their suite of digital offerings in the coming years but a shortage of skills is a key hurdle, according to a new survey from PwC.

Asia-Pacific companies said they expect to invest 6 per cent of revenue on digitisation over the next five years, results from the PwC Global Industry 4.0 Survey showed.

The poll, conducted between November last year and January, surveyed more than 2,000 senior executives from industrial products companies in 26 countries across Europe, the Americas, the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

Nine in 10 Asia-Pacific respondents said they plan to expand their offerings of digital products and services over the next five years.

Over 80 per cent of those polled globally, and 82 per cent in the Asia-Pacific, expect data analytics will have a significant influence on decision-making processes in five years' time. But respondents said the absence of a digital culture and the right skills are major hurdles to making operations more digital.

For example, almost 40 per cent of the companies surveyed globally and 29 per cent in the Asia-Pacific rely on the analytics expertise of individual employees, but do not have dedicated data analytics departments, the survey found.

The Asia-Pacific region, in particular, appears to be lagging behind - survey results showed that only 19 per cent of respondents consider their business to be advanced in data analytics, with 51 per cent assuming an intermediate level of development and 19 per cent seeing distinct shortcomings.

"Companies in the Asia-Pacific tend to be in less mature stages of their life cycle.

"This gives them the opportunity to overtake firms in more mature markets as they can implement new digital solutions with less concern for legacy systems," said Mr Ong Whee Teck, technology consulting partner at PwC South East Asian Consulting.

PwC Singapore's digital business leader Greg Unsworth added that local companies "have not fully adopted a digital culture and are unclear of the benefits (it) can provide".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Skills gap a 'key hurdle for Asia-Pac firms''. Subscribe