There might be both internal and external challenges for Japan, but our survey reveals that growth forecasts are certainly high for IT companies that read the signs, tailor their offering and adapt.

Our survey

We interviewed twenty-one country heads at Western IT companies with established operations in Japan. They operated businesses of every size, from five or six employees to over 1000. Sectors spanned cybersecurity, cloud and on-premise services, infrastructure software and hardware, storage, and IT services.

Our aim was to understand how IT leaders see the status, trends and challenges of the IT sector in this unique market.

Big picture

Our survey first explored the larger socio-economic trends affecting Japan and their implications for economic growth. An ageing population, shrinking workforce, coupled with the emerging might of China might be very much top of mind, but this has, in its own way, opened up new opportunities.

“Socio-economic challenges have forced government and companies to come up with innovative solutions, creating new opportunities.”

Like no-where else

In almost every respect, the Japanese IT market is one of a kind. Western companies ignore this at their peril. The challenge is to understand, for example, the role of systems integrators and the influence of the Japanese business culture. We point out what to be aware of and how to navigate a landscape where what works in the UK or US is likely to get little or no traction on Japanese soil.

“About zero of what comes from HQ is relevant for Japan. We need to do a complete rethink of all product and solution marketing initiatives. Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with the marketing team at HQ!”

Change is coming, slowly

Japanese companies tend to follow trends when it comes to IT. Very few have an IT strategy that is innovative or ground-breaking. The Japanese early adopters are almost always the same handful of companies.

However, there are important trends emerging, like Cloud adoption, greater professionalism and status within IT departments, changing business models and a shift away from the typically Japanese concern with the perfection of product in favour of speed of roll-out.

Our survey identifies the four major lessons to be learned in order to make the most of these trends.

“There is a lot more acceptance of product that might technically not be perfect, a big departure from the traditional focus on perfection.”

Feel good futures

How do our interviewers feel about the future? The uniformly positive response we received right across every IT sector makes the end prize even more tempting, but only if the challenges we have identified can be overcome.

Read the full report

Our survey concluded that, despite challenges, the mood in IT is certainly upbeat. There are new products and services on the way, new tools for big data analysis are shaping intriguing business models, and other developments are constantly renewing the industry.

Growth forecasts are encouragingly high, as long as Western IT companies are smart enough to respect their environment, tailor their offerings accordingly and always be prepared to adapt.

Find out more in the full Odgers Berndtson report

To discuss any issues raised or if you have any questions, please contact Johan Uittenbogaard, Managing Partner, Japan.

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Johan Uittenbogaard

Johan is the Managing Partner of Odgers Berndtson in Tokyo. He has an extensive track-record recruiting executives in key leadership roles for the local Japan operations of mainly US and European c...

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