14 June 2019

It is possible to attract and retain tech talent: Robert Walters

Seven in ten hiring managers spent at least 3 months to fill a tech position, and admit that the tech talent shortage had reduced their speed of product development. These are results from a survey by Robert Walters, which  has revealed that the tech talent shortage is causing increasing strain on resources as well as productivity.

According to the survey, sentiments in Southeast Asia are that hiring tech talent is difficult, time-consuming, but critical to business success. In response to this trend, specialist professional recruitment firm Robert Walters has issued a guidebook, 5 Lessons in Tackling the Tech Talent Shortage.

Combining insights from business leaders, HR experts, hiring managers and tech professionals, the guidebook shares key learnings on attracting and retaining tech talent – from creating innovative recruitment and retention strategies, providing learning and growth opportunities within the organisation, to zooming in on the instrumental role of tech leaders.

Based on a survey conducted in April 2019 by Robert Walters with nearly 400 technology professionals and hiring managers across Southeast Asia, 68% of respondents who were hiring managers took three months or more to fill an open tech position on their team. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest, tech hiring managers rated the difficulty level of hiring talent on an average score of 7. Business productivity and innovation took a hit as seven in 10 hiring managers interviewed shared that the shortage of tech talent negatively affected their speed of product development.

Nandita Nandakumar, Associate Director of IT Commerce at Robert Walters Singapore said: “The development of skillsets has not quite kept pace with the breakneck speed of technology. Singapore, which has traditionally focused on skillsets for areas such as engineering and finance, is faced with the challenge of finding and having the tech talent required.

"The guidebook sheds insights on how companies can overcome the hurdle, and can apply to all companies that seek highly sought-after talent. Forward-thinking companies who move fast to embrace the mindset change in talent management by investing, training and supporting talent will be better positioned to secure and retain them.”

Strategy reboot

Companies are advised to review their recruitment strategy – be more proactive, discard conventional notions, and refresh the recruitment process. They are urged to begin early to reach out to and educate potential candidates through increasing the awareness of their employers’ brand and ensure a ready pipeline of quality and motivated talent.

To complement existing sourcing methods, companies can consider non-traditional avenues such as seeking overseas talent or tech talent in other industries to reach out to untapped pools of talent. A review of the recruitment process, such as shortening it or investing effort in engaging the candidates, can help jobseekers feel more valued and appreciated, Robert Walters advises.

Incorporating more flexibility in the benefits package, based on individual preferences, can be an effective tool to attract and retain tech talent. The survey showed that more than half (57%) of tech professionals interviewed would agree to a smaller increment if offered the right benefits. The top three benefits favoured by respondents when choosing a company are flexible hours (58%), family insurance (49%) and remote working options (46%).

A learning culture

Identifying high potential candidates and developing a strong learning culture are beneficial in helping talent shine. Companies are urged to consider candidates who show high potential, such as a good aptitude for learning quickly and working in teams, being comfortable in using technology to create solutions, and having experiences or skills useful to the team.

Setting aside resources and opportunities to help tech talent grow in their roles will help keep them motivated, learn about the different areas of tech, and pick up on skills that they are less familiar with. Tech professionals surveyed cited training workshops on technical and soft skills, cross-functional project involvement, and job rotation opportunities as among the training opportunities that interest them most.

“A strong learning culture where talent are encouraged to learn by sharing and teaching provides an energising environment where employees feel recognised and appreciated, while they benefit from the additional exposure,” observed Nandakumar.

Source: Robert Walters website. Cover for the research report.
Source: Robert Walters website.
Spark change from the top

To enable change, leaders need to walk the talk to attract, motivate and retain tech talent. Business leaders who believe in the value of technology in accelerating the business, and incorporate it into the culture and direction of the company will set the tone. In hiring management candidates to lead the team, companies are encouraged to look beyond technical abilities, for one who has a good understanding of the current technology landscape and strong stakeholder management skills.

The five lessons mentioned in the report are:

- Go the extra mile in your recruitment process

- Bring the meaning back in benefits by ensuring they work for your employees

- Remember: the whole is greater than the sum so think about your team holistically

- Think 360° learning and develop your talented in a well-rounded manner

- Start from the top and lead change by setting the right example

Robert Walters is a leading specialist professional recruitment consultancy and focuses on placing high-calibre professionals into permanent, contract and temporary positions at all levels of seniority. The Singapore office specialises in placing candidates on a permanent or contract basis in the following disciplines and industries: accountancy & finance, banking & financial services, legal, human resources, information technology, sales & marketing, secretarial & business support, supply chain, procurement & logistics as well as technical healthcare. Established in 1985, the group has built a global presence spanning 28 countries and regions.


Get more information on the e-guidebook

13 June 2019

Dropbox platform revamp aims to make users even more productive

Dropbox, the global collaboration platform, has unveiled a new integrated workspace. With updates to the Dropbox desktop experience, dropbox.com, and the mobile app, users get a single workspace designed to bring files, fragmented work tools, and teams together. The update includes early access to a new desktop app designed to provide a convenient new access point to the workspace.

"Work has become scattered—files are spread across devices, in the cloud, and on our hard drives. We're working across multiple apps that don't talk to each other, and teams are struggling to keep up,” said Drew Houston, CEO, Dropbox.

"We're focused on removing the friction from that experience, pulling everything together in a way that nobody has done before. The new Dropbox helps you quiet the noise and find focus at work.”

The new Dropbox brings web-based files into the Dropbox file system to provide one central location for all content, including:

Cloud-based content like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, which users can now create, access, and share within Dropbox. Users can also open Microsoft Office files in Office Online or Google Docs.Users can also create and store web shortcuts alongside traditional content in Dropbox, including links to productivity tools like Trello boards, wiki pages, and news articles.

The Dropbox icon that sits in the Windows system tray and macOS menu bar has been updated to make it easier for users to keep track of what's happening with shared content, quickly access their most important work, and create new content within Dropbox. Users can also now access a team activity feed for updates on shared files.

The new Dropbox brings together the tools people want to use the most so they can spend less time switching between apps and more time getting work done. Last year, the company announced Dropbox Extensions, a series of integrations that let users start and finish workflows—like signing contracts and annotating videos—on the Dropbox platform. Users can also:

- Start Slack conversations and send files to Slack channels directly from Dropbox, and easily share Dropbox files within Slack conversations

- Join or add Zoom Meetings directly from Dropbox, and present files directly from Dropbox in Zoom. 
Source: Dropbox. The new Dropbox app.
Source: Dropbox. The new Dropbox app.

- See Slack and Zoom sharing activities right next to files in Dropbox. The company has also formed a strategic partnership with Atlassian, the makers of Trello and a software provider focused on improving software development, project management, collaboration and code quality. In the coming months, the companies will integrate the Dropbox and Atlassian platforms to create a better way for teams to organise, co-ordinate and run projects.

Available via early access with the new desktop app, folders now have improved capabilities across desktop, mobile, and web, providing a rich workspace for teams. Users can:

- Pin files to the top of a folder to give anyone with access to the folder quick access to important content.

- Add folder descriptions to give everyone context on the files they see.

- Create to-dos at the top of a folder.

- @mention teammates to draw attention to folder descriptions or to-dos.

- Get updates on file activity, including content shared in Slack and Zoom from any device.

- See who has viewed files with the viewer info feature now available on desktop.

- Comment on shared content across desktop, mobile, and web.

"The proliferation of cloud files and work apps is staggering, and can make work feel scattered and overwhelming,” said IDC analyst Marci Maddox, Research Manager, Enterprise Content Strategies.

"The new Dropbox experience offers a modernised central workspace where users can access all of their files-including web-based and traditional files, seamlessly integrate popular tools, and better coordinate with team members. It's the first time anyone has natively integrated these new modes of work in one place.”

Dropbox has more than 500 million registered users across more than 180 countries, and 12 offices around the world.


All Dropbox users can opt in to the new desktop app through the Dropbox early access programme. Admins can opt their teams in via the admin console. All other features are either already generally available to all users or will be rolling out over the next few weeks.

10 June 2019

Avani+ Samui guests can enjoy a free longtail boat experience

Source: Minor Hotels. Avani+ Samui Resort beachfront villa.
Source: Minor Hotels. Avani+Samui Resort beachfront villa.
Experience Koh Samui on the free Avani+ Samui longtail fishing boat, which brings guests to the island of Koh Madsum.

Open to Avani+ Samui guests, the itinerary begins with a departure at 10 am daily for Koh Madsum. A 1 pm return ensures everyone is back in time for lunch at the Essence restaurant. Additional longtail boat trips can be arranged for a full day of island-hopping and snorkelling.

The Avani+ Samui resort sits on Phang Ka Beach, and offers beachfront villas and private pools. Mangrove forests are just a minutes’ kayak away, while the forests surrounding Na Muang Waterfall can be hiked.

Avani Hotels & Resorts is a contemporary brand that focuses on good sleep, effective social spaces, locally-sourced sustenance and genuine service. In APME, there are Avani properties in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, the UAE, Australia, New Zealand and Laos.


Book a stay at Avani+ Samui Resort online, contact reservations by phone on +66 2365 9110 or email at reserveavani at avanihotels.com.

7 June 2019

Get advice, then buy your own life insurance online via NTUC Income

NTUC Income has launched Online Life and askSage, its life insurance portal and digital adviser for life insurance respectively.

Peter Tay, Income’s COO, heads the company’s Digital Transformation Office. He said, “The integrated proposition of Online Life and askSage is powerful because, for the first time, consumers are supported with digital assets that enable self-service of life insurance seamlessly online from fact-finding, financial review and needs analysis to direct product identification, comparison and purchase.”

“For digital natives who primarily prefer online engagements, the integrated digital proposition is timely in extending their access to life insurance and closing their protection gap. This is significant as traditional outreach by financial advisers to this segment of the community has proven to be challenging,” Tay added.

While integrated, Online Life and askSage can be accessed separately. Online Life opens up life insurance options for direct purchase beyond the current slew of direct purchase insurance (DPI) options from Income. Income has made available on Online Life 18 savings and protection plans, of which six are riders (editor's note: add-ons to a basic plan), for direct purchase. This is the most comprehensive suite of digital life insurance products by an insurer in Singapore to date, the company said.

The life insurance portal helps consumers discover what best suits their financial needs at different life stages with product comparisons. Consumers can also customise premiums, the sum assured and policy duration on the portal. Depending on the type of life insurance plan and underwriting requirements, it will take about 15 minutes to complete the application and purchase journey on Online Life.

Digital adviser askSage is designed to help consumers make informed decisions and empowers self-service financial planning. The platform offers online financial reviews, after which consumers are offered a list of relevant products. Currently, askSage offers 25 Income savings and protection plans, which include six riders. To purchase life insurance, consumers can either purchase the products directly on Online Life or go through an Income financial adviser.

Consumers can address queries via live chat on both platforms. They can also leave their contact details so that an adviser can call them.

To further enhance consumer engagement, Income will be introducing a Personalised Adviser Store to its financial advisers in phases, starting in Q319. The store will allow advisers to build their online profiles and extend their outreach to consumers with selected product links, promotions and value-added information such as blog articles.

Tay said, “We understand that purchasing life insurance is a long-term commitment and requires careful consideration. It helps that Income is sensitive to consumers’ painpoints and are set to bring life insurance closer to them by offering not just product diversity but also flexibility with our touch-points to offer them seamless online-to-offline customer support when needed.

"As we build our digital capability to stay relevant in today’s digital age, we are also integrating our distribution channel in our digital propositions to strengthen our offering as a multichannel insurer. This is essential in offering our policyholders an unparalleled customer experience with insurance.”


Online Life and askSage

3 June 2019

Alibaba Cloud to help companies fast-track China market entry

Alibaba Cloud has launched a China Gateway Program with eight local partners: the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), Enterprise Singapore, DBS SME Banking, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI), SMU Academy, SGTech, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and TechNode.
Alibaba Cloud has launched a China Gateway Program with eight local partners: the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), Enterprise Singapore, DBS SME Banking, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI), SMU Academy, SGTech, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and TechNode.

Alibaba Cloud, the data intelligence backbone of the Alibaba Group, has held its 2nd Alibaba Cloud APAC Summit in Singapore last week, where it showed how it is squarely in Asia for Asia.

The company unveiled of a China Gateway Program at the event, with the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), Enterprise Singapore, DBS SME Banking, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI), SMU Academy, SGTech, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and TechNode. The programme supports local businesses of all sizes in their growth beyond Singapore, especially into China.

“As the largest public cloud provider in Asia Pacific and our role as the data intelligence backbone of all business units in the Alibaba ecosystem from e-commerce to payments, logistics and supply chain management means we have the proven expertise and experience to help businesses grow. With the support of our partners here, we are confident of supporting local businesses of all sizes and from all backgrounds to grow beyond Singapore, especially into China’s market.” said Selina Yuan, President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence International.

Yuan said Alibaba Cloud will help fast-track customers' entry into China on a fully-protected security platform with the sharing of resources, best practices and knowledge of local law and regulations. "Our mission is to make it easy to do business everywhere, especially for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)," she said.

Guest of honour Chee Hong Tat, Singapore Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Education, said in a speech: "While digital technologies can create new opportunities, the successful implementation of new ideas often requires close collaboration with partners. Digital
solution providers offer a diverse suite of solutions from supply chain management to traffic incident response, across various industries, which businesses can take advantage of to strengthen their capabilities and grow our local ecosystem. To this end, I am heartened that Alibaba Cloud is committed to work with Singapore-based MNCs* and SMEs on this effort. Beyond digital transformation, Alibaba Cloud’s China Gateway Program can also be a valuable channel for Singapore SMEs to access China as they think about internationalisation."

"Overseas expansion continues to be a priority for DBS SME customers. However, many lack on-ground market knowledge and understanding of business requirements. To navigate these new markets, it is crucial that they work with the right partners and advisors to give their business a head-start. DBS is honoured to be the banking partner for Alibaba’s Cloud’s China Gateway initiative, and look forward to helping our customers capture new growth opportunities in the Greater China region. Our customers can leverage our global network, on-ground expertise and partners to fast-track their growth plans," said Tan Su Shan, Group Head of Institutional Banking, DBS Bank.

The program leverages the knowhow and experience of Alibaba Cloud, which has powered Alibaba Group’s growth to help local businesses capture and capitalise on growth opportunities in Asia and China. Through the local partners in Singapore and around the region, Alibaba Cloud will provide firms of all sizes with an in-depth immersion programme on doing business in China, connecting them to Chinese companies and consumers via the Alibaba ecosystem.

At the summit, Yan emphasised that Alibaba Cloud is in Asia for Asia, and not in China for China.
At the summit, Yuan emphasised that Alibaba Cloud is in Asia for Asia, and not in China for China. According to Yuan, "Alibaba Cloud is positioned as cloud for data intelligence for the future makers of Asia Pacific".

Alibaba Cloud separately announced a partnership with WeWork, the platform for creators that provides the space, community and services to help people make a life not just a living, and SoftBank Telecom China, the consultancy of enterprise-grade solutions, as part of the China Gateway programme.

The partnership offers a one-stop platform, from cloud-based technology solutions, enterprise services, flexible working space, events to business consulting – for business of all sizes looking to enter China or scale up their presence in the market.

Businesses can benefit from the cloud and data intelligence technologies, cross-border IT infrastructure, as well as enterprise solutions tailored for different sectors offered by Alibaba Cloud, the largest cloud service provider in the Asia Pacific region (APAC). In addition, programme participants can enjoy flexible collaborative space (­private, shared or customised), networking events, as well as accessibility and connections to target customers, business partners and the broader ecosystem from WeWork in China. Professional IT consulting services provided by Softbank Telecom China are also part of the programme benefits, along with go-to-market support, access to local tech communities and other business support from all three partners. The programme aims to empower global companies to create and expand business opportunities into the Chinese market.

“It is a first of its kind opportunity for any businesses focusing on the China market, as they can benefit from the local expertise, vertical-focused experience and innovation from three of the most-visionary companies in the world in one package. Together we are committed to supporting global enterprises to connect with digitally-savvy Chinese customers,” said Lancelot Guo, VP of Alibaba Group and GM of Strategy and Marketing for Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

“With Alibaba Cloud’s innovative technologies and Alibaba’s ecosystem support, we hope to help tackle some common challenges faced by multinational companies entering or growing in China, enabling them to explore more opportunities in the market and stay competitive.”

“The partnership is significant to WeWork because we ourselves have been through the journey of setting up and scaling our business in China. When we began our journey here in China back in 2016, we had to adopt a very localised approach to navigate in this very unique business environment,” said Christian Lee, Vice Chairman, WeWork Asia.

“We are grateful that we have developed a successful strategy and build the largest workplace platform in China. Leveraging our own experience and our partnership with Alibaba Cloud, we are confident to support and empower companies to enter and scale in China – through our holistic offering of space, community, employee experience, as well as accessibility to meaningful business connections and partnerships with the most innovative companies in China.”

The platform also offers exclusive pricing rates for other offerings from Alibaba Cloud and WeWork. On top of traditional offerings, programme participants can also enjoy other privileges such as exclusive Alibaba Cloud-hosted technology workshops, marketing opportunities with Alibaba Cloud, discounts on products and services including business registration, business travel booking on WeWork Services Store, as well as training and events organised by WeWork, Alibaba Cloud, SoftBank Telecom China and other programme partners to deepen their understanding on the business environment in China.

The summit was also the launchpad for more than 10 new products and features, including a new accelerator programme connecting technology partners with the Alibaba ecosystem. Many of these products and features were only launched in March in China, and were introduced outside of China for the first time in Singapore.

“As the largest public cloud provider in Asia Pacific, Alibaba Cloud is speeding up digital transformation in this region by building a world-class cloud infrastructure and we have also been at the forefront of the rapid development of data intelligence. Today, Alibaba Cloud not only provides infrastructure that underpins the entire Alibaba economy from e-commerce and payment, to logistics and supply chain management, but also ensures inclusiveness, so that our cloud technologies can be accessed by companies of all sizes,” said Yuan.

The new products and features that are available globally for the first time outside of China include an SaaS Accelerator, which enables ecosystem partners, such as enterprises in the e-commerce, lodging, and travel industries, to quickly reach their customers on Alibaba platforms.

The accelerator enables technology partners to easily build and launch software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and leverage proven business and technology knowhow in the Alibaba Economy. SaaS providers can quickly deploy and test their applications on the cloud, shorten the implementation lifecycle, and accelerate time-to-market. According to Dr Derek Wang, GM of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence in Singapore, apps can be created in just five days. 

In line with its commitment to champion small businesses, Alibaba Cloud also launched an upgraded service support campaign designed for SMEs. SME customers will now be able to benefit from greater access to resources and support from Alibaba Cloud. Key benefits of the enhanced support and service include dedicated one-on-one presale consultations, 24x7 technical support, a doubling of complimentary tech support tickets as well as swifter after-sales support.

Alibaba Cloud has the largest infrastructure footprint in the Asia Pacific region, with 15 availability zones outside mainland China, covering the Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Japan markets. International headquarters for Alibaba Cloud were set up in Singapore in August 2015, the same month a Singapore cloud data centre was established. There are currently three availability zones in Singapore. It is also the only global cloud provider with local data centres in Indonesia and Malaysia. Its first cloud-based Anti-DDos Scrubbing Center was opened in Malaysia last year as an additional layer of protection for customers.

*Multinational corporations.

31 May 2019

UAE relaxes rules on foreign residency

The UAE government has announced a new residency programme, the Golden Card visa, for foreign nationals in the UAE. In May 2018, five- and 10-year visas were announced for expats investing AED5 and AED10 million respectively, real estate included.

Other criteria for the visa have yet to be revealed but it is confirmed that permanent residency status will include the spouse and children of the visa holder.

Previously, foreign nationals could only stay two to three years at a time on employer-linked visas. Foreign nationals comprise roughly 90% of residents living in the UAE, the second-largest economy in the Arab world.

“This is a shining example of visionary leadership striving to create a big opportunity for everyone aspiring to work and invest in the UAE. Dubai, besides being a business friendly and tax-free environment, is also a vibrant property market offering high quality real estate, stable rental yields and continuous planned expansions.

“It is also a great initiative for real estate investors who have been here for long. It is a big security to know that you can remain,” said Kanika Gupta Shori, founder and COO of leading proptech firm, Square Yards. Square Yards has been helping non-resident Indians as well as other foreign nationals navigate UAE’s primary residential markets.

“Overall, I feel this will encourage expats to invest more in this country and to give back even more through their businesses, professional services and social work,” Shori said.