Johan Uittenbogaard, Managing Partner of Odgers Berndtson Japan, presented the initial findings from a forthcoming technology white paper at an APAC networking event in Singapore earlier this month. The white paper will analyse how western technology companies have navigated the commercial terrain of the Japanese tech industry and analysing the lessons they have learned in the process.


Hosted by Andie Rees, attendees at the event included the President Asia Pacific & Japan Region of Symantec Sanjay Rohatgi, SVP DP van Leeuwen of Red Hat, and Sameer Dingra, Global Domain Leader at Hewlett-Packard, amongst many others.


Johan explained that the white paper is compiled with the analysis of a few dozen western technology companies with offices in Japan. Approximately half of all of the companies have been interviewed when the event took place.


Johan commented that major challenges in the Japanese economy are particularly with the declining population and tight workforce. As a result of this, Japanese businesses understand they have to be more flexible in how they supplement their teams, and several initiatives are launched.
Johan spoke about how companies in Japan need to be more agile and to increase their investment in IT, which is due to increased exposure to global markets and competition.


Johan went on to say that the role of the CIO is more important than ever, and that appointments increasingly are being made from outside the own company, where CIO would be experts in IT matters instead of corporate generalists. He added that average CEO is now younger than in the past, are more digitally savvy and provided an interesting statistic based on his wider research to complement this observation:

  • 80% of those companies where the CEO is over 70 years of age are running at a loss
  • Where the CEO is aged between 40-50 years of age, only 20% of those companies are in a similar financial position.
    One of the biggest changes that are happening in the IT industry in Japan is that the dominant role of the large System Integrators and Distributors is under significant pressure. Younger companies, who are more agile, are starting to be seen as acceptable alternatives to the traditional companies like NEC, Fujitsu, NTT Data and others.

 

The floor was then opened for questions. The first queried whether the role of a CDO was still vital in Japan. Johan explained that this was not a role that arises in many search requests and the position itself is still not a high priority in many companies in Japan.


The questions moved onto the topic of diversity in the technology sector. Johan commented that Japan is making a determined effort to help women get back into the workforce, specifically in assisting improving access to day-care facilities and observed that it was extremely difficult for women to juggle the dual responsibilities of family and work in Japan. Johan commented that Japanese companies are slowly becoming more flexible in their approach to this challenge.
Johan went on to explain that there are signs that women are making great strides in the Japanese technology industry with the number of female leaders at c-suite level far higher than it was some ten years ago.


The final question was focused on the number of foreign leaders in Japanese companies and Johan replied that there are not that many success cases of successful non-Japanese executives. There is a slow but steady uptick in the number of foreign board members and managers in Japanese companies but board members still tend to be ex-employees with the most non-traditional worker in the Japanese workplace being one that is female and foreign.


The white paper will be released by the end of September 2017

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