Digital Transformation of Myanmar: Too Much Too Soon?
Ashish Trivedi
August , 2018

The title may suggest there is a wave of digital transformation happening in Myanmar. Those familiar with the landscape may be scratching their heads trying to look for evidence of this in their daily lives.

It’s not. Not even close. Too much too soon is the exuberance we IT minds exhibit as soon as we see people sitting in offices with pen and paper with layers and layers of files (not file icons!) stacked behind them. You know who you are and you know what I am talking about. Neurons become hyper active with imagination as you start to build world class architectures and systems to remove all that clutter in your heads. All that opportunity for the taking!

Digital transformation of Myanmar is inevitable. But there is a long road ahead between the accelerated timelines in our heads and the ground reality. This is a country that is waking up groggy trying to find its footing while dealing with wanted and unwanted advances from the outside world. There is hangover, from the deliberate and controlled military style management mixed with some withdrawal symptoms due to lack of structured agenda that was supposed to take away the jitters. This confusion means any kind of business automation is usually a footnote in a larger business transformation discussion.

We, the IT champions, have to curb our enthusiasm, for now, and take a more practical approach to Myanmar. If the holy grail or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is E-Government projects, then we need to tread that path with focused problem solving and local nuance driven approach. The need of the hour is a radial approach to implement solutions, to keep the torch burning till the IT revolution sets in, which at least one IT advisory company, Nuzay, is focusing on.

Solve a Problem: M y a n m a r businesses need help at all levels. Most businesses use Gmail as their official emails, including most of the government entities. Using Gmail is a symptom of a bigger problem. There is a lot of talk about security and privacy but cost continues to drive decisions and that is the real problem. Focus on helping companies understand the importance of data breach and the need for investing in a long term IT strategy. Return on Investment needs to be clearly articulated and solution implementation should be a phased approach. It’s easy for customers to get confused and overwhelmed if the solution proposed requires complete overhaul of the processes and staff.

Solve a solvable Problem: It does not make much sense to propose always the latest and greatest for the Myanmar market. Too often the issues lie with training, re-training and adapting the solution for the existing resources and staff. Most resources have never worked on a computer let alone run complicated ERP processes. It is important to focus  on solutions that allow quick adoption and agreement from the resources than to create the most efficient and future proof solution. Find a champion, pick an end to end process within a bigger challenge and work on getting the team familiar with using it, before moving to the next, and so on.

Be “Local” while solving a problem: Language continues to be a barrier in Myanmar. Both for communications as well as computer literacy. It does not do much good to implement solutions with foreign talent, provide minimum training and then turn your back on your customers. A systematic immersion program and implementation is required for success. Not only should you have local resources implementing and training at the customer site but you should also be investing in hiring and training local graduates for continuity. Myanmar’s young professionals are in serious need for some work ethics training. Motivation and enthusiasm are both scarce in young graduates while there are too many easy options for the ones that have some experience. Plant your feet, catch them young and see them grow. Invest in fresh graduates and build a local team for the local market. Avoid resurgence of the problem: Local nuances, language challenges, and limited and reluctant buy-in will always lead to longer completion times. Whatever your experience is in different markets, your Myanmar implementation will take at least 50% to 100% longer. Attrition, fatigue or flat out refusal to learn something new is very common and is often the main roadblock. Customers are eager to retain their employees and have to keep them happy. You will need to walk the delicate balance of managing expectations, re-train and still maintain your project timelines. Being proactive to manage these roadblocks will allow you to suppress these issues before they become project impacting.

Don’t become the problem: It’s easy to get sucked into the success you derive from implementing quick solutions (Solve a problem!) and lose sight of what you are leaving behind. Only thing worse than having no automation for customers is to have point solutions implemented as and when needed without any overall strategy. By plucking the low hanging fruit you might be digging a hole for yourself and it will become increasingly difficult to navigate the roadmap for the longer term. It’s important to constantly remind our Myanmar customers that point solutions will leave them with more issues as they grow and that there needs to be a sound strategy and well thought through long term IT vision.

So my fellow IT enthusiasts, let’s stay the course, spread the word and let’s change that footnote into the headlines.

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