2020 marked the year for many in Hong Kong to distance their social interactions and expand their digital footprint. With more and more consumers now demanding digital services, it is clear that the enterprises that can quickly shift their business onto digital platforms are the ones that are going to thrive in challenging times and beyond.
But that is easier said than done. Enterprise-class applications are hard to build, skilled developers are scarce, and business needs are constantly changing.
Expectations are growing
“Users' expectations for quality applications are at all-time high,” said Marouen Zelleg, Regional Client Executive, Greater China and Malaysia from OutSystems. “Organizations today are faced with delivering differentiated digital systems at a very rapid pace.”
This challenge was real at Living Style Group, a furniture company owned by Fung Group and Hony Capital. Despite years of business success, Living Style did not have a consolidated product library. The lack of digital process also made tracking furniture design difficult.
“The good news is our business is growing,” said Felix Cheung, General Manager-IT. “But our systems were not ready, and IT was holding back the growth. This was a challenge we needed to overcome.”
From 18 months to three months
Determined to change the situation, Cheung introduced a new approach when Living Style Group decided to build its product lifecycle management (PLM) system.
Aiming to manage furniture design and samples development, the PLM system would have taken between 12 and 18 months using a traditional development approach. “Our business users cannot wait that long, they needed this system yesterday,” said Cheung
To speed up the process, he turned to a modern application platform from OutSystems. The visual, model-based development platform allows developers to drag-and-drop pre-written modules to reduce time from hand-coding.
Cheung added that the platform also supported an agile development approach, speeding up each iteration cycle from days to hours and empowering his team to launch the first pilot in only three months.
“At that time, many still questioned our approach. But once the pilot users started enjoying the new functionality and speed, they were very impressed,” Cheung said.
Modernization for innovation
But speed is not the only challenge. With rising cybersecurity threats and technology complexity, many Hong Kong businesses are struggling to drive innovation and standardize governance from a legacy application architecture, according to Anthony Lam, Head of Solution Architecture Hong Kong at OutSystems.
This was the challenge at integrated ICT service provider CITIC Telecom CPC. With more than 100 legacy applications, introducing standardization across the application portfolio to manage APIs, user experience, governance and security was a daunting task.
“We also have eight different types of audits every year, five ISO certifications to comply with, and a lot of other regulatory requirements,” said Daniel Kwong, Chief Information and Innovation Officer at CITIC Telecom CPC.
From silo to standardization
With a focus to drive innovation, CITIC Telecom CPC is also constantly introducing digital tools like augmented reality glasses and blockchain to their operations. Originally, the complexity of integrating these new technologies into their legacy architecture was holding back the company’s speed of innovation.
“We needed a platform that was secure, future-proof, cloud-native, and suitable for all kinds of deployment,” Kwong added.
Turning to OutSystems, Kwong and his team modernized CITIC Telecom CPC’s application portfolio and turned siloed applications into a single multi-functional production line.
“OutSystems underlying architecture also enables continuous introduction of features and capabilities, so developers can build applications that evolve as quickly as their business changes,” said Lam from OutSystems.
“Accelerating the entire application lifecycle provides a faster, more efficient way to move from design and development to integration and testing, which is ideal for driving innovation,” Kwong said.
CITIC Telecom CPC and Living Style are not the only ones taking advantage of the OutSystems modern application platform to build applications faster, more standardized and future-proof. Zelleg said IDC Asia Pacific Software Survey indicated 20% of Hong Kong and China technology leaders are also planning to adopt rapid development tools in the next 18 months.
“The OutSystems platform also helps organizations break down the walls between departments and work together as multi-functional teams - blending operations, business and IT to quickly define, develop and test their ideas,” he said. “Businesses that build applications fast, right and for the future will capture the digital opportunities ahead of their competition.”