INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Staff Reporter, Singapore

What lessons can Singapore learn from the Dutch to improve the transport system?

TIBCO shares insights on how Holland embraces data to optimise train services and maintenance scheduling.

Harnessing the potential of big data to lower the incidence of breakdown and address overcrowding during peak periods has been proven effective in Holland. Will it work in Singapore too?

In the face of increasing demand for better transport service, the government has broadly shown itself to be tech-savvy, and open to the solutions to multiple issues offered by big data. One of the solutions the government can tap on is the the use of predictive maintenance with the help of data analytics. Singapore Business Review caught up with Erich Gerber, TIBCO Software’s general manager for Asia Pacific and Japan, to talk about this possibility as they look into how the Dutch Railway system leverage on big data to improve its service.

Gerber also discussed how TIBCO can help the government and private enterprises become digitally smarter.

SBR: How can the government leverage on big data to create a great citizen experience, e.g transport

One of the solutions is by using predictive maintenance with the help of data analytics. Predictive maintenance can be scheduled to minimise vehicle breakdowns, the great bugbear of commuters. Data feeds on the areas and timings of regular traffic congestion can allow for the planning of more efficient bus routes as well as managing peak-period congestion at bus stops with more frequent services for popular routes.

An example embracing data in the transport sector is Holland. Dutch Railways is the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands, providing rail services on the Dutch main-rail network and international services to other European destinations. Running these vast networks gives Dutch Railways access to huge amounts of data, collected through intelligent train technology, ticketing systems, travel information real-time monitoring and services for maintenance and control unit staff.

Until now, train suppliers delivered all this IT, so each type of train had its own IT environment – making it difficult to work together and maintain each system. Dutch Railways had a vision to integrate all these information to deliver more reliable and better serves to customers. Using streaming analytics, in-memory computing, integration and messaging software, Dutch Railways is now able to provide real-time information about train services and maintenance scheduling. Commuters are also able to use a travel planner application to ensure a seamless and prompt commute.

SBR: How can business use actionable big data analytics to understand and improve customer experience?

Modern visualization, statistics, and machine learning tools provide a wealth of methods for analysing customer data. TIBCO provides the ability to build out a wide variety of tools for analysing customer behaviour and acting on those insights. It is imperative that marketers are able to turn customer data into actionable insights. By building a customer analytics capability, companies can make better decisions impacting all aspects of customer experience.

Identifying the potential for digital improvement in customer service, Indonesian telco XL Axiata leverages TIBCO technology to predict customer desires, provide value-added services and upsell according to customer needs. Today, XL has the ability to analyse and understand when a customer is moving products, and are able to provide recommendations or value-added services, vastly improving the customer experience.

In Hong Kong, CargoSmart uses advanced analytics to provide unprecedented visibility to ocean carriers so they can plan ahead in case of disruption, reduce fuel consumption and be more responsive to customer needs. The high throughput and low cost to scale, as well as the time-to-market has helped them to increase the number of vessels they monitor by four times over the past year and a half.

SBR: What are the challenges of big data adoption in Singapore (how can SMEs adopt big data with limited resources)?

SMEs are the backbone of Singapore economy, making up 99 percent of all Singapore companies. In the age of digital disruption, SMEs must adapt. However, most SMEs do not have the resources such as talent or cash flow to embrace big data in order to remain competitive.

Unlike larger companies, SMEs tend to have a greater focus in customer empowerment, and look towards adopting cloud, open source and social media analysis. With limited resources, it is important for SMEs to find a vendor that offers scalability in their products. For example we have the Mashery Professional which is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environment that serves as an ideal launchpad for SMEs to get started with API initiatives quickly and cost-effectively.

SBR: How has TIBCO been helping enterprises to become digitally smarter?

TIBCO helps businesses reach their digital destinations. We fuel digital business by enabling better decisions through our Connected Intelligence Cloud. With our technology we interconnect everything from APIs, systems, devices and people in order to capture data in real time wherever it is, and augment the intelligence of your business through analytical insights.

We work with our customers to open up their existing technologies and real-time information, empowering them to innovate much faster across their ecosystem. With our technology, TIBCO customers deliver new channels, new products and services, and improve the customer experience in weeks, not months or years.

We also help companies to optimize their business performance by leveraging real-time information. Gaining better visibility into their business with data visualizations and getting the right information into the hands of the right people with reporting and dashboards is one part of that. The more important part that often isn’t being addressed, though, is to automate actions with streaming analytics to improve operational efficiency and business outcomes from increasing cross-selling and up-selling to improving the customer experience.

SBR: How do your products and services differ from others in the market?

What brings everything together and distinguishes TIBCO from our competitors is that we empower customers to harness better data, enabling businesses to understand, anticipate, and act upon opportunities and threats in real time. TIBCO’s products function as part of a platform, not just a menu-based portfolio that has little symmetry. TIBCO succeeds because our products work together—no other company delivers a complete portfolio of loosely coupled yet tightly integrated digital business tools that both seamlessly integrate with existing infrastructures and stand up on their own, and TIBCO wins when customers realize the value that TIBCO’s broader platform can provide.

We have traditionally been vendor agnostic, kind of a “Switzerland of technology”. We are confident that our platform integrates with any other, allowing our customers design once and leverage their work anywhere. Our customers adopt their preferred platform today, knowing they are future-proofed for tomorrow.

SBR: What do you consider your biggest milestones so far? Please tell us a bit about your success story.

One of the most meaningful measures of success in our business, are happy customers. Meeting their requirements as a consequence of a strategic initiative, e.g. by empowering a customer to leverage what it means to be digital is a satisfying moment. Two of the more recent examples in Asia are KB Card in Seoul and Cargo Smart in Hong Kong. Using our technology to fuel data as a basis of making their business smarter and enhancing their customers experience, put forward their connected products.

Another way to measure our customers’ success is through the endorsement of industry analysts who have been consistently recognising us for delivering superior technology. Most recently, Gartner recognized TIBCO as leaders in its annual Magic Quadrant for Master Data Management solutions in both customer and product data.

On a more personal basis, I would consider building a highly passionate and committed team in our Asia Pacific and Japan operations that makes me enjoy my work every single day.

SBR: What were the major challenges you had to face and how did you overcome them?

I’ve been with TIBCO for a while, starting out holding key roles in TIBCO’s EMEA operations and then working out of TIBCO’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California. Having spoken to hundreds of our customers about their pain points in becoming a digital business and how critical the usage of TIBCO’s technology is each organisation, we have learnt that today most buying decisions are made before a prospect even talks to a vendor. When they tap into the market, they start by trying to understand the success stories of different vendors. So, what we need to do when customers and prospects eventually access our field force, is to reassure them that these success stories are replicable.

Having the privilege to know a lot about these use cases helped me to transition to my current position in Asia Pacific and Japan. Despite not working in Asia before, the transition was pretty smooth and records show that we have had great success in this region. I was also lucky of having a solid basis of a very capable employees with an in-depth understand of each country’s market and customs.

So, the only thing I really had to do, is to prioritize our Go-To-Market approach in Asia Pacific and Japan. The upside is that there are so many exciting trends happening in this place. But the downside is that you can easily get distracted by them. So, we need to fight the battles that we can win with the army that we have.

SBR: What are your plans for the next 3-5 years?

It is obvious that the macroeconomics are shifting and that the Asia Pacific and Japan markets will only continue its upward trajectory. As a number of Southeast Asian governments set the foundation for every citizen to be able to access high-speed internet, we will see more people connecting with mobile devices and more services becoming available online. The region’s surging digitisation holds great potential for businesses, who will need new ways to connect with consumers.

The technologies that TIBCO offers are not only key to increase enterprise’s operational efficiency but elementary to increase customer experience. With that in mind, Asia Pacific and Japan is the most exciting market for me and it certainly represents the biggest growth potential for TIBCO in the next few years.

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