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Jan-Willem Middelburg

MALAYSIA - Telecoms & IT

All in the Data

Regional Director for the Asia Pacific division, Pink Elephant


Jan-Willem Middelburg is the Regional Director for the Asia Pacific division of Pink Elephant, and based in Kuala Lumpur. He has been responsible for Pink Elephant’s regional strategy and operations in Asia since January 2016. Prior this appointment, he was responsible for restarting the office of Pink Elephant in the Netherlands. In 2016, Jan-Willem published the Service Automation Framework for the design and delivery of automated services, which is internationally considered the leading publication on service automation. As author of the book, he is a frequent keynote speaker and moderator at universities and technology conferences around the world. Jan-Willem holds a degree in industrial engineering and a master’s in supply chain management from the Rotterdam School of Management.

"For most Malaysians, their mobile phone is their primary interface with the world."

What is the defining expertise of your firm, and could you elaborate on the types of training you provide?

Pink Elephant is a premier provider of training on a broad range of IT skills. Technology changes the way organizations operate at a speed much faster than most people imagine. In five to 10 years, IT will be the most strategic asset of almost every organization. Technology-oriented and data-driven organizations are the business leaders of tomorrow because they are able to make faster and better decisions than their competitors. Pink Elephant provides the next generation IT leaders with the knowledge and skills to successfully lead digital transformation in their organizations, using globally accepted standards and best practices in IT. In order to keep up with the rapid advancements and technologies that change the ways in which businesses operate, organizations need to keep their skills up to date. A prime example would be how the adequate use of big data helps businesses develop a competitive advantage. Although big data is supported by relatively new technologies, only a few companies currently use this strategically to obtain new customers or launch new products and services. Pink Elephant teaches IT leaders how concepts like big data can have an impact on their organization and how they can make use of these technologies in their companies. With our programs, we aim to translate the knowledge of new technologies and methods into tangible results.

Are Malaysians typically early adopters of new technologies and how do you adapt to the specifics of the Malaysian market?

The Malaysian market is more oriented toward mobile technology and solutions in comparison with other Asian countries. For most Malaysians, their mobile phone is their primary interface with the world. Mobile technology greatly enhances the adoption of technology into corporation. Whereas most consumers primarily used technology privately, they now hold the same expectations from their employers, requesting innovative solutions in their workplace as well. Malaysia has become increasingly more tech savvy in the last five years. Additionally, the government plays a positive role in actively encouraging Malaysian companies to further develop the knowledge and skills of their IT staff. The Human Resource Development Fund (HRDF) actively encourages companies to send their employees for training every year, regardless of the economic climate and quarterly results. Other countries in the region could take Malaysia as an example of how to successfully drive economic empowerment by increasing the skills of the population.

FinTech is often mentioned as the main challenge to the status quo in financial infrastructure. Does this reflect in the services you provide?

Whether it is FinTech, BioTech, or smart citis, the main point is that new data-driven technologies are rapidly changing existing business models and reshaping the world. All these “disruptive” companies have one thing in common; they are completely driven by data and make the data-driven decision to outperform existing competitors. In the services Pink Elephant provides, we aim to show the possibilities that technology and IT best practices provide to gain a competitive advantage. Even though most of our clients are traditional multinationals in finance and oil and gas, they certainly see the need to innovate in order to remain in their leading positions. Big data, agile development, and service automation methods all contribute to fostering an innovative culture.

How would you assess the climate of innovation in Malaysia? Is there a strong willingness to adopt new technologies?

It is my strong belief that innovation—driven by knowledge and data—is the main driver for the advancement of countries. Especially for emerging economies, new technologies and innovative solutions help to improve quality of life. Not surprisingly, almost all new innovations are based on technologies and have a strong IT component. As we work with a great number of clients to improve their services, we see first hand the ambition of Malaysian organizations to deliver new and innovative solutions. Even though the current economic climate is challenging, most Malaysian companies are increasing their IT spending because they feel the need to innovate. The will to invest in IT solutions is strong, as companies realize they can gain a competitive advantage in the future there. The future belongs to those organizations that can successfully execute a digital transformation.

What do you envision with your satellite offices in Hong Kong and Singapore? Are you eyeing further expansion in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific?

We are always seeking to expand into other parts of the world, but only if we have a strong sense that we can contribute something meaningful to organizations and companies in that specific market. Because of the nature of our business, organizations need to have a basic level of IT maturity before we can add value. There is no point in launching big data or service automation projects in organizations that have basic infrastructural problems. Because of this, we started in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur as these all have advanced financial sectors, and now look to expand to Indonesia and the Philippines. In Jakarta, we see high growth numbers and a strong will to professionalize the country’s IT sector.

What are your ambitions and objectives for the years ahead?

Our ambition is to become the leading brand for innovative IT education in Asia. We should be “top of mind” for organizations aspiring to obtain a competitive advantage through the use of IT technology. It is my personal ambition to ensure that every IT professional in Asia has a Pink Elephant certificate on their wall, showcasing that they are one of Asia’s next-generation IT leaders.



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