I ran an MSP for 30 years… I went to the cliff edge and back

“There were probably three or four times when I found myself on the brink of going broke and that was purely because of how I ran my business.”

Nick Moran paused, reflected and then continued.

“In the early days, I just didn’t run the business lean enough or efficiently enough. I didn’t prepare for downturns in the market. I didn’t have enough in reserve both financially and mentally.”

Moran speaks with authenticity and authority on the issue of entrepreneurialism. This is the co-founder of Bedrock Computer Services, a Melbourne-based managed service provider (MSP) born in 1993 and later rebranded as Evolve IT.

“The GFC was big,” he recalled. “Plus an unhealthy reliance on one or two large customers. Having a balanced business model proved to be very healthy in all aspects.

“I struggle to hear owners say, ‘oh, we didn’t make much money last year because we invested in X’. Be that new employees, a new business unit or a new product.

“The challenge with doing that is if you have a down year the following year then you’re really up against it. That means you’re making decisions that will push you back even further, such as getting rid of people.”

Nick Moran (ConnectWise)

Looking back more than 30 years later, Moran emphatically came out on the right side of the road but at the time, sailing that close to the wind placed a “huge amount” of financial stress on himself individually and the broader team.

This was looking over the cliff edge stuff, starting at the abyss below with no harness or safety net.

“In the early stages of the business, I was flying solo and was continually having to put up a facade,” he shared. “Always trying to remain positive with the team which was purely out of fear. My logic was if they think that something is going wrong and if I’m not communicating that properly then they’ll all disappear and make the issues worse.”

Fighting the good fight as a solo entrepreneur might have seemed noble, but it was bad for Moran and bad for business. If it truly is lonely at the top, magnify that feeling by a thousand when times are tough.

“Once I began to surround myself with strong leaders who we developed even further, then I started to share more,” Moran advised. “They became more in-tune with the business and the financials and everything became much more of an open book.

“That’s the most rewarding aspect of being a leader, you’re helping everyone else with their personal and business lives. But they’re also doing the same for you, especially during those hard times. You have to understand that you can’t to it by yourself.”

Learning lessons, sharing knowledge

When Moran started out, the internet and mobile phones hadn’t even hit the market and Adobe was gearing up to launch the PDF format.

The year was 1993 – Paul Keating was in office, the Wallabies were world champions and Sydney won the bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games.

Moran observed a “bizarre” feeling when looking back, somewhat uneasy at the process of self-assessing three decades of blood, sweat and tears – fresh from finishing year 12.

With only six months between completing school and starting the business, this fledging founder didn’t take his pedal off the metal for the next 29 years.

“I just didn’t let up,” he noted. “But as I reflect back, I feel like there was a whole lot of wasted time during that period. If I had known then what I know today, I would have done things very differently.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m unappreciative of what was achieved, that’s not the case. It’s just a feeling that I should have asked more questions earlier.”

Hindsight is a wonderful – yet unobtainable – thing however. For Moran, advice given in 1993 is all relative to advice received in 2024, whether starting on the journey or fully immersed in it.

“I was just an 18-year-old kid,” he reflected.

“Fortunately, my dad was a fantastic mentor from a financial and numbers point of view. But I ran a very lone race back then. I don’t know if it was arrogance, ego or a lack of confidence but I didn’t seek the help of other business owners, I was very insular in my approach.”

That was when Moran joined the ConnectWise Peer Groups, designed to allow MSP owners to compare notes on the rollercoaster ride of running a business. Under the banner of IT Nationset for Sydney on 21-23 August – members are connected to a global network of peers and experts, gaining business guidance, training and resources along the way.

“I was able to share my experiences with 15 other business owners,” Moran said. “We were in the same boat and could learn from not only the successes – because everyone can learn from other people’s wins – but mainly the failures and the mistakes.

“I made a truckload of mistakes over the years and got myself into some very bad habits, very early on. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. You can really help others inside and outside of the industry by sharing those lessons.”

In January 2019, Evolve IT merged with Powernet IT Solutions before the combined entity was acquired by Virtual IT Group (VITG) in December 2022.

Could Moran have reached his end destination quicker? Possibly. But those lessons – whether up or whether down – were all part of the journey.

“At the end of the day, I was very fortunate to be able to exit the business still with my health, my family, my marriage and to be able to move forward,” Moran added. “The advice I tend to share with business owners is that you don’t have to immerse yourself that much. Find that balance.”

During the final 10 years of Moran’s entrepreneurial journey, such a balance was found. This was prompted by surrounding himself with “like-minded individuals” and other business owners via the ConnectWise forums.

“I smile and look back every single day at the people who have worked with me, I’ve had hundreds of employees that have gone on to achieve such amazing things,” he shared. “I feel fantastic to have played a small part in that because a lot started their career with me, some are still at my old MSP today.”

Such reflection is somewhat ironic given this wasn’t part of Moran’s repertoire as an entrepreneur. In fact, there wasn’t a moment during the running of Evolve IT in which he reflected on anything.

It was only in the six months after finishing up that time was afforded to sit down and look back – essentially coming back down to earth following 30 years of entrepreneurial orbiting.

“Honestly, I felt like I slept for the first two months,” recalled Moran, outlining the days and weeks after exiting stage left. “It was just 30 years draining out of me. It’s hard to explain because you go from being non-stop mentally drained to suddenly turning everything off overnight.”

Those daily thoughts of keeping the business afloat, keeping everyone employed and keeping up appearances.

“Leaving is a relief and a curse at the same time,” he said. “It probably took about 6-9 months, even a year, to switch off.

“For a period of time you wake up and walk around in circles – it’s a very weird scenario not having anything to worry about. That was the reality of running an MSP, it was all-consuming at times.”

The trouble with too many tools

In January 2024, Moran was appointed as Evangelism Director across Asia Pacific at ConnectWise, tasked with playing a “pivotal role” in driving regional growth and engagement with ecosystem partners.

Moran was recruited by Jason Magee – CEO of ConnectWise – and holds responsibility for actively engaging MSPs in peer-to-peer collaboration while also advocating for market-leading technologies and programs to drive future growth.

“Being appointed personally by Jason was attractive,” Moran said. “It’s a great commitment by ConnectWise to the region as we help MSPs evolve and grow.”

Moran’s legacy goes beyond simply founding and selling solutions, it lies in the wealth of tradesmanship and wisdom he has acquired as a purpose builder at every stage, from start-ups to achieving balance, and creating value.

“Part of the challenge facing MSPs today is that most are over-tooled and therefore inefficient in how they show up in market,” Moran highlighted.

“Most solve a problem by putting in another tool and before long, 20-25 products are running in the business with data everywhere. It then becomes difficult to create a data or workflow layer to receive the required information to become efficient.”

Equating the approach to MSP whack-a-mole, Moran advised businesses to “take a step back” and instead embark on a strategic self-assessment to reduce the number of solutions and systems running internally.

Granted, that takes significant planning but to transition out of such a complex environment, MSPs must be ready to go deep with a specific platform.

“Stop looking at tools individually,” Moran cautioned. “Everyone’s running different races with multiple contractual obligations and disparate systems – nothing talks to each other and instead of improving your business, you’re complicating it. It becomes worse the bigger you get and is even harder to unwind.”

Referencing the ConnectWise Asio Platform, Moran advocated the benefits of MSPs embracing one IT management software offering to maximise a consolidated set of solutions, capturing the potential of hyper automation in the process.

“Minimise your toolsets and go deep instead,” he claimed. “Previously, MSPs were very focused on the capability of a particular tool, whereas now is about selecting the right platform.

“Tools are table stakes to a degree and the focus should be on the data layer to understand how to build on top without creating complexities in the business.

“There’s a huge opportunity in the market for MSPs today but to capitalise and remain competitive, you have to run your business very efficiently – otherwise you’re not improving or growing.”

The jury is out on how best to approach day one as a new CEO – academic literature is mixed, educated guidance is contradictory and action plan numbers often fluctuate.

Some suggest the first 90 days are critical, others argue it’s now 90 hours. Yet a few claim that the first 1000 days are based on the first 100.

Is this a time for all guns blazing? Or will a listen and learn approach suffice?

Regardless of timing and tact, there’s a strong school of thought that day one starts when you accept the job, not when you walk into the office building.

For Cassandra Ashworth, methods are subjective. What is indisputable however is that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

“It’s true,” Ashworth said. “You can create all the strategies and 90-page documents in the world but if you don’t have an amazing culture where people want to come to work and perform then you’re not going to be successful. That’s my approach, always people first.”

Cassandra Ashworth (Rapid Circle)

This famous quote from Peter Drucker – which is also the well-publicised mantra of Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft – is the bedrock upon which Ashworth has built an executive career spanning more than 25 years.

“I approach my first 30 days based on 4-5 key pillars which I believe are important,” outlined Ashworth, fresh from joining Rapid Circle as new Managing Director and CEO across Australia and New Zealand (A/NZ), effective 1 July.

This is best summarised as:

  • Listen
  • Analyse
  • Collaborate
  • Energise
  • Celebrate

“Listening and gathering insights from people in the team is crucial,” Ashworth said. “Your business is nothing without the people that work for your organisation.

“To support this, data driven insights are incredibly important in shaping my early understanding of what’s working and what’s not working – examining the trends, data and P&L.”

Context is everything and once established, collaboration is key.

“Always bring people together,” Ashworth added. “I’m not a new leader coming in and saying, ‘okay, we’re going to head in this direction’. That doesn’t work. Instead, let’s run agile workshops and create a vision with alignment and buy-in from the start.

“Once we have buy-in, it’s time to energise everyone so they can play a key role in accelerating towards the goal – supported by a strong governance model. Then, we celebrate our successes.”

Speaking after putting the final touches to an updated ‘Meet Cassandra’ presentation, Melbourne-based Ashworth acknowledged with a smile that this approach is based on personal preference and experience.

If the pillars shape the first 30 days of engagement, then core values bring this blueprint to life. Understanding the ‘why’ of each team member – and what gets them out of bed each morning – is crucial.

“I introduce my core values from as a child that define who I am as a person,” Ashworth. “This is all about trust, community, achievement and fun – that’s what I love.”

The final core value is equality.

“I was the only female football player back in the early 1980s, at a time when girls didn’t play Aussie Rules,” Ashworth recalled.

“But I played and my parents taught me the value of equality when I was younger. I remember that my father really encouraged equality and made a stand for me to be able to play with my local football club.”

As a champion for equality, Ashworth is passionate about elevating women of all ages – serving on the board for Business in Heels during the past five years and leading many industry initiatives, such as the Gender Equity Awards.

“Absolutely, I’ve experienced the boys club and it can be very lonely for a female executive to be the only female in a boardroom,” Ashworth noted.

“But the more we talk about equality, the more it’ll have a voice and we’ll start to see change. And it’s getting better compared to when I started in the industry in 1996. There’s a huge difference and businesses have policies that focus on gender equality, diversity and indexes.”

Equality expands beyond gender diversity however, also incorporating ethnicity, age and culture among many others.

Cassandra Ashworth (Rapid Circle)

“When everyone in a team looks the same, that doesn’t create diverse thinking and equality,” Ashworth added.

“What attracted me to Rapid Circle was the culture. The founder is still heavily involved in the business and the tenure of our high-performing team is long – on average, more than five years – which speaks volumes.”

Path to growth starts here

Founded in 2008 and headquartered in the Netherlands, Rapid Circle is the brainchild of Harold Punter, Wilco Turnhout and Daniel McPherson. The solution provider goes to market as an award-winning Microsoft partner possessing global reach and scale.

Since setting up shop in Australia in late 2009, the business has built strong pedigree on both sides of the Tasman – operating out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland and Wellington.

The serving of more than 200 customers has been enhanced with the local acquisitions of Microsoft partners vNEXT (2023), Seven Sigma (2022), Adopt & Embrace (2021) and Insync Technology (2021).

As CEO, Punter cited the appointment of Ashworth as pivotal in leading the A/NZ business to the next phase of growth, in alignment with the “exciting innovation” taking place across the market in relation to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

“Our expansion is booming, with recent acquisitions like vNEXT and the demands we are seeing from customers to deliver Microsoft-based AI and cloud solutions to advance productivity and improve business outcomes,” Punter said.

“Therefore, we needed to bring in experienced leadership who excels at customer solutions, delivering business transformation and critical outcomes in today’s current economic climate.”

As a member of the global leadership team, Punter said Ashworth brings “deep experience” in enterprise sales and solutions built with leading technology providers, backed by a “strong track record” helping organisations achieve “what’s next” with Microsoft technologies.

“I look forward to leading and growing our award-winning team in A/NZ, working closely with Microsoft and our joint clients to unlock business value,” Ashworth added. “My appointment is about the growth and next evolution of Rapid Circle and I’m definitely that type of change leader.”

Rapid Circle houses more than 150 skilled employees in A/NZ and is supported by an offshore delivery centre in India. Customers span enterprise, mid-market and small to medium-sized business (SMB) segments with expertise across all industry verticals – notably financial services, education, manufacturing, utilities and natural resources.

Having been present in the local market for 15 years, this isn’t a boots-on-the-ground type assignment for Ashworth – who previously held senior executive roles at Wipro, DXC Technology and NEXTDC among others – rather a mandate to deliver the next level of growth.

“Growth is focusing on our current customers as we have a huge install base already,” Ashworth explained.

“The CIOs I talk to all share the same challenges, meeting growing expectations of the business, addressing the risk that comes with legacy technology, technology debt, delivering with tight budgets and navigating the potential of AI. This is while looking for more specialised partners with strong local capabilities to deliver material results.”

According to Moxie Research – which surveyed 251 IT decision-makers in Australia during February 2024 – 57% of organisations will remove reliance on “outdated or obsolete” technology environments during the next 6-12 months.

This will anchor accelerated plans to implement widespread technology modernisation initiatives (53%) as companies seek to clear the decks to create a “breeding ground” for disruptive technologies (47%).

For many CIOs, getting the house in order is paramount to future innovation efforts with modernisation agendas outlined in order of priority:

  1. Improving operational excellence
  2. Modernising legacy technology stack / reducing technical debt
  3. Redesigning business processes
  4. Prioritising cost control / expense management
  5. Implementing new systems and architecture

“Businesses are incredibly challenged at the moment,” Ashworth noted. “CIOs are dealing with the pressure of internal stakeholders demanding that IT starts to uplift employee experience, as well as leveraging automation to do more with less. For many, they don’t know where to start.”

Cassandra Ashworth (Rapid Circle)

Such market conditions are playing out in the numbers with 74% of CIOs in Australia now engaging more directly and frequently with key business stakeholders, amid requirements to present innovative technology roadmaps to the board (65%).

In most cases, AI sits at the heart of these roadmaps. According to Moxie Research, this ranks as the leading solution deployment priority for Australian organisations in FY25, ahead of cyber security (no.2) and cloud management (no.3).

CIOs consider the positive impact of AI to be profound, with the biggest company benefits expected to be found via enhanced:

  • Profitability: 76%
  • Customer satisfaction: 67%
  • Employee productivity: 65%
  • Revenue: 64%
  • Market share: 58%

“AI appetite is high but adoption remains mixed depending on the vendor and the solution provider,” Ashworth highlighted. “We have AI built into almost every platform and solution but currently, most businesses don’t know where to start and find this stage very confusing.”

Supporting this observation, 56% of businesses will increase collaboration with specialist third-party IT vendors and partners to maximise the potential of AI during the next 6-12 months.

“Some businesses are starting to adopt specific use cases, typically around productivity gains which is easy to achieve through Microsoft Copilot,” Ashworth said. “But then expanding that across multiple use cases and different business segments is when real value will be demonstrated.

“It’s slow steps and organisations haven’t gone wall-to-wall AI at this stage but individual use cases are emerging. It’s early days.”

Building a business on Microsoft

In looking ahead, Ashworth said the company’s strengths as a leading Microsoft partner are “uniquely positioned” in a market increasing demand for AI, cloud and modern workplace expertise.

“I’m excited about the Microsoft innovation and how this is accelerating the transformations of our customers,” Ashworth added.

“Some of the larger providers are expensive and slower to respond in market. But we’re boutique and provide highly specialised onshore services – being quick, nimble and working closely with Microsoft to transform customer environments together is where we can make a difference.”

Rapid Circle’s heritage in delivering on the potential of the Microsoft stack is deep-rooted. This was the first cloud partner to roll out Office 365 on a large scale in Europe, earning recognition as Microsoft Global Partner of the Year (Health) in 2015.

Fast forward to 2024 and the business was recently honoured as Microsoft Global Partner of the Year (Employee Experience), a fifth acknowledgment on the worldwide stage.

“Our aim is to be Australia Partner of the Year in 2025 – we’re happy to put that marker down in public,” Ashworth confirmed.

“With the power and innovation of Microsoft, we want to drive business outcomes and business value that the market desperately needs right now. We know competition is strong within the partner ecosystem but we have adopted an international strategy and have a very talented and skilled team to deliver locally.”

The appointment of Ashworth follows the recent departure of Stewart Bairstow, who headed up the local business for more than five years.

Vietnam’s business economy is currently experiencing robust growth, driven by strategic reforms, foreign investment and strong trade exports.

With a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate projected to have expanded by 6.93% during the second quarter of 2024, the government’s focus on digital transformation and green energy initiatives is paying dividends through the attraction of on-the-ground investment from global technology giants and sustainable enterprises.

Most recently, Cisco unveiled plans to pilot projects to accelerate digital transformation in Vietnam’s National Infrastructure, Public Sector and Business Ecosystem under its Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) program.

Beyond technology, trade agreements and infrastructural advancements continue to further solidify Vietnam’s position as a critical manufacturing hub, hosting factories from titans of industry such as Samsung, Intel, LG, Nike, Adidas, Ford, Toyota and Honda among others.

Today, the country stands tall as a beacon of technology innovation and economic resilience in Southeast Asia.

“Business and end-user appetite for innovation in Vietnam is growing rapidly,” said Cuong Nguyen, Managing Director of NashTech Vietnam.

Cuong Nguyen (NashTech Vietnam)

“Vietnam has been experiencing strong economic growth in recent years and is predicted to achieve high growth rates in the coming years. The government has been actively promoting innovation and entrepreneurship as a key driver of this growth.”

Within that context, Nguyen reported a “significant increase” in the number of start-ups and technology companies emerging from and entering Vietnam, particularly in the fields of e-commerce, fintech and logistics. The country has been attracting increasing amounts of foreign investment in such areas.

“At the same time, there is also a growing demand for innovative products and services among Vietnamese consumers, particularly within the young and tech-savvy population,” Nguyen added. “The use of mobile devices and social media is widespread, and there is a strong interest in new technologies and innovative business models.

“Overall, the appetite for innovation in Vietnam is strong and there is a lot of potential for growth in this area. However, there are still challenges to overcome, including issues around intellectual property [IP] protection, access to funding and a lack of skilled talent in some areas.”

Based on customer interaction and market engagement, Nguyen said organisations today are seeking to solve a variety of business challenges with technology. Specially, key agenda items include:

  • Digital transformation: Many organisations are focused on transforming operations and processes to become more digital and data driven. This involves adopting new technologies and tools, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), to streamline operations and improve efficiency.
  • Cyber security: With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks, businesses are investing heavily in cyber security technologies to protect sensitive data and IP. This includes tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems and encryption.
  • Customer engagement: Companies are using technology to improve customer engagement and enhance customer experience levels. This involves using tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, chatbots and personalised marketing to better understand and meet end-user needs.
  • Data analytics: Data is a critical asset for many organisations amid investment in data analytics to gain insights that can help them make better decisions. Specifically, business intelligence (BI) platforms, predictive analytics and machine learning (ML) algorithms.
  • Collaboration: As remote and distributed work becomes more common in Vietnam, businesses are turning to collaboration technologies such as video conferencing, project management software and team messaging platforms to keep employees connected and productive.

“Overall, technology is seen as a key enabler of business growth and competitiveness, and organisations are investing in a wide range of solutions to solve these and other business challenges,” Nguyen added.

Taking a tech roadmap to Vietnam

Since launching the business in 2000 – kick-started by the opening of a first delivery centre in Hanoi – NashTech has expanded at speed and scale across Vietnam and into international markets.

Fast forward to 2024 and the solution provider has 21 offices and nine delivery centres spanning 15 countries and housing more than 2300 qualified engineers.

Operating as part of Nash Squared – a global digital services consultancy headquartered in the UK – NashTech deploys technology offerings and services to customers globally, while sister businesses specialise in talent recruitment.

Fuelling this level of expansion is a technology roadmap aligned to the core pillars of data, AI, cloud, cyber security, robotic process automation (RPA) and blockchain.

“Our mission is to create the best solutions powered by excellence in our people and technology with the vision to unlock value for our customers,” Nguyen highlighted. “We have a unique strength where our people, business and technology meets,

“We can provide a full spectrum of talent and technology services to our customers. It’s a one-stop-shop that provides total solutions for our customers.”

As a global player supported by a main delivery hub in Vietnam, navigating market conditions across the world is commonplace.

With three developments centres located in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, a top priority for Nguyen and his team is to continually develop technology talent in Vietnam.

“We help technology talent in Vietnam work in a good environment to advance their career aligned to international standards,” Nguyen added.

Yet Nguyen accepted that competition for talent ranks as the most pressing challenge facing NashTech in the local market today.

Vietnam is highly-regarded as one of the fastest-growing locations for software engineers to excel meaning the country is now a hunting ground for quality expertise.

“Ensuring the Vietnamese IT labour market grows more sustainably and for the long-term is our top challenge,” Nguyen said. “This is as well as ensuring talents in Vietnam have better career development support to avoid ruining their careers with short-term job opportunities.”

Whether on talent or technology, Nguyen places strong emphasis on the sharing of best practices and expertise that NashTech has acquired from many years of serving customers in Vietnam and international markets.

“This helps to fast track and solve business problems thorough the excellence of our people and technology,” he added.

In the current market climate – whether locally, regionally or globally – a high proportion of technology providers have embarked on scaling down initiatives in an attempt to reduce financial pressure and weather the economic storm.

“Many companies are shrinking down,” Nguyen confirmed. “But we see this as a good opportunity to acquire businesses and expand our footprint.”

Recently, the business acquired Knoldus to expand capabilities in North America, supported by a solid delivery team in India – “this is the kind of opportunity that we want to capitalise on in the short-term.”

As the cornerstone of long-term success in the technology industry, the value of intellectual property (IP) cannot be overstated in the Philippines.

For any company harbouring ambitions to innovate, compete and thrive in a global market, building and maximising unique IP is a mission-critical endeavour.

Whether through competitive differentiation, revenue generation or strategic partnerships, this is now viewed as a vital asset that Filipino businesses must cultivate and protect to ensure sustainable growth and market leadership.

Hence a sharp rise in independent software vendors (ISVs) emerging on a path to build profitable and scalable solutions from the ground up, shifting away from service revenue in the process.

“The revenue growth of service businesses is directly tied to the growth in headcount,” outlined Arup Maity, President and CEO of BlastAsia.

Arup Maity (BlastAsia)

“But this is becoming harder with the new realities of the market – cost of talent is going up due to competition and the new work-from-anywhere economy is also extending talent access beyond geographic boundaries.

“Plus, corporations that were non-tech based are now competing for the same talent to drive in-house digital transformation efforts.”

As a serial technology entrepreneur and software specialist, Manila-based Maity recommended that software start-ups leverage IP as a core business strategy to enable rapid growth in revenue without the added commitment of increased headcount.

“This also increases retention in talent and provides higher value to clients,” he added.

In short, the most common benefits realised by Filipino companies building IP-based revenue rank as:

  • Scalability: IP-based revenue models allow for greater scalability. Once developed, a product can be sold to multiple clients without the need for a proportional increase in staff.
  • Higher margins: IP-based products often have higher profit margins compared to services. After the initial development costs, the cost of replication is relatively low.
  • Asset creation: Developing IP creates valuable assets that can be leveraged for multiple revenue streams, including licensing, subscriptions and sales.
  • Market differentiation: Unique IP can provide a competitive advantage and differentiate a company in the marketplace, attracting higher-value clients.
  • Global reach: IP-based products can be marketed and sold globally, expanding the potential customer base beyond local or regional markets.

Despite the lucrative rewards on offer, Maity cautioned that developing an IP or product-based business model is not as simple as creating the software – risks exist and are aplenty.

“There’s many components that are required to make the product work and reach product-market fit status, such as a whole new set of talents and different skills that traditionally, service companies don’t have,” Maity noted.

Equally, developing and marketing IP-based products requires different expertise compared to service delivery, including product development, marketing and sales expertise.

“When it comes to talent – there is ample supply and experience in the Philippines,” Maity shared.

In addition, this is a market that’s growing at pace from a gross domestic product (GDP) standpoint and remains fixated on driving digitisation across public and private sectors which in turn, is creating new opportunities for specialised ISVs.

“There is a potential for products built locally to grow into regional and global markets, because both language and business practices are at par with global standards,” Maity added.

“We’re also finding that global players are entering the Philippine market – mainly to tap into the technology talent and sell solutions locally. There’s huge untapped potential for both local and global ISVs to build their business out of the Philippines.”

Offering a word of caution however, Maity accepted that developing IP – especially software products – requires significant upfront investment in research and development (R&D), which can be risky and capital-intensive.

“It’s a high-risk and high-investment endeavour which requires external funding that is not easy to find in the Philippine setting,” he said. “Especially if the business is mixed between services and products, this makes it harder for venture capitalists to invest.”

According to Maity, achieving product-market fit can also be challenging and time-consuming. There is no guarantee that a product will be successful meaning the return on investment (ROI) can take longer to realise compared to service revenue, which can then impact cash flow in the short-term.

“While access to capital and credit is limited, service businesses can utilise their own margins and unused resources to invest in developing their own products and then build brands out of it,” Maity advised.

“Once a demonstrable traction is achieved, spinning it off as a separate entity and getting venture funding for growth is a common direction that technology companies take.”

Another notable roadblock is the protection of IP from infringement and piracy, especially in markets with weak IP laws and enforcement.

Putting faith in the Philippines

In drawing a map of the outsourced software development industry across Asia, India continues to rank as the outright destination for businesses. This is followed by the Philippines – a distant second yet still a lead player in the market.

New challenges from Bangladesh and Vietnam are emerging following significant in-country growth, in addition to select African nations gaining attention. But new success also comes with challenges.

“Some of our customers are moving out of Bangladesh and transferring their business to the Philippines,” Maity observed.

“It’s the typical growth problem of team leads and seniors being pirated from one company to another – resulting in product owners looking for more stable markets to outsource with a better track record of talent retention.”

Maity noted that outsourcing will always be anchored on “cost and talent” with market destinations expected to keep shifting as newer players emerge.

“At least for the lower-end skills and requirements,” he added. “The outsourcing leaders like India and Philippines need to move up the value chain – through higher-end services and developing their own IP-based businesses to remain competitive.”

Within that context, a handful of industry leaders have attempted to either develop in-house products from scratch or build solutions on top of existing platforms. Most remain a work-in-progress.

Meanwhile, others providers have gained momentum through domain-specific business process outsourcing (BPO) and IT outsourcing (ITO) projects in industries such as health and insurance. This is in addition to early growth in the B2B software start-up ecosystem across the Philippines.

For entrepreneurs seeking to enter the ISV market, Maity emphasised the importance of first initiating a “paradigm shift” at the board and executive management levels. Why? Because the skills and strategies that led to success in service provision will not necessarily lead to success in product development.

“Stakeholder management with key employees and the need for a change in direction has to be laid out for everyone to ensure the full buy-in during the challenging journey of transitioning to a product business,” he detailed.

“This shift requires clear communication and alignment across the organisation to navigate the complexities.”

Commitment in this space comes as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) takes centre stage across the Philippines, building on business interest and curiosity which first started more than five years ago.

“Several local products already utilise some AI and ML capabilities,” Maity added. “This has been boosted by the success of ChatGPT which has prompted new questions from clients asking how they can maximise the benefits.”

Established in 2001, BlastAsia was built to become a global digital provider for companies outsourcing to the Philippines.

Going to market as a leading Microsoft partner – with notable expertise in cloud-based application integration and development – full-stack software development services include DevOps, user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design, solution architecting plus testing and quality assurance.

Technical practices span web and mobile applications, microservices, AI and ML as well as the Internet of Things (IoT).

In reflecting on the journey of BlastAsia, Maity cited his most profound achievement as steering the company through major global events, such as the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, the global financial crisis in 2007 and COVID-19 in 2020.

“Our biggest achievements are yet to happen once we turn our own products – Steer and Xamun – into global successes,” he says. “This resilience and adaptability underscores the importance of staying relevant and responsive to market changes.”

In looking ahead, Maity said the future of technology in the Philippines is dependent on the nation’s ability to innovate and adapt, turning local products into global successes and solidifying its position as a leader in a highly competitive software outsourcing market.

In the high-stakes world of corporate life, burnout is the silent saboteur – eroding productivity and damaging well-being.

That perfect storm of long hours, relentless deadlines and the ceaseless pressure to perform continues to leave employees drained and disengaged.

Yes, public awareness has improved and yes, executive acknowledgement now exists. But the cascade of physical and mental health problems generated by such a pervasive issue is showing no signs of going away.

As the modern workplace evolves, the urgency to address burnout has never been greater.

“Inclusion doesn’t end at recruitment,” observed Gabrielle Novacek, Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). “It requires listening to workers on an ongoing basis and addressing their pain points. It must address both the employee offer and the daily experience of employees with their managers.”

Gabrielle Novacek (BCG)

According to new research by BCG, on average, 48% of workers are currently grappling with burnout.

The report – Four Keys to Boosting Inclusion and Beating Burnout – is based on a large-scale survey of 11,000 desk-based and frontline workers in eight countries, spanning Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, UK and US.

Root cause analysis from Novacek – who is a co-author of the report – revealed that when employees feel included at work, burnout is halved. In other words, burnout is highly correlated with low feelings of inclusion.

Considered “central” to building and maintaining a successful group of employees, Novacek said inclusion in the workplace means that people feel “valued, respected, supported, and like they belong”.

The knock-on impact is workers experiencing higher inclusion are also more likely to stay in their jobs, decreasing turnover costs for businesses.

To support this research, BCG quantified inclusion as a score of how inclusive an employee finds the workplace to be – using the company’s BLISS Index, a tool that identifies the factors that most strongly influence feelings of inclusion in the workplace.

The four sentiments that have the greatest impact on employees’ overall sense of feeling included:

  1. Good access to resources
  2. Senior managerial support
  3. Psychological safety with direct manager
  4. Fair and equal opportunity for success

According to findings, these signal how much, or how little, people are experiencing inclusion in the workplace. When employees feel that these sentiments are positively addressed in their workplace, they feel more included and less burned out.

Four Keys to Boosting Inclusion and Beating Burnout (BCG)

Unfortunately, these most important sentiments are also the ones where survey respondents indicated the lowest levels of satisfaction.

“By focusing on the four key areas and diagnosing where they may be falling short in their current efforts to meet their employees’ needs, companies will be able to identify where to invest and innovate to improve feelings of inclusion and reduce burnout,” Novacek added.

“Establishing programs to meet these needs will help employers avoid the costs associated with burnout, be able to attract talent, and reap the benefits of a thriving workforce.”

Four Keys to Boosting Inclusion and Beating Burnout (BCG)

While burnout is prevalent across all employee types, it’s far higher for certain subgroups.

Women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and desk-less workers experienced up to 26% higher burnout. Moreover, these employee groups reported lower inclusion than employees who were in majority groups or were desk-based.

Feeling included means many different things to many different people, however.

Novacek acknowledged that building inclusion can be “daunting” for organisations but focusing on these four most important sentiments gives employers a “clear starting point” to ask workers the right questions and focus their efforts to understand the employee experience.

With hybrid work now a constant in corporate life, organisations are building new strategies to increase protection and productivity levels in equal measure.

This is the business balancing act of 2024 as IT executives address evolving boardroom and employee demands across Australia.

On the one hand, securing company data through enhanced networking and infrastructure technologies, supported by modernised consumption models. On the other, embracing modern work that is now location-less to supercharge growth and differentiation.

Executive Roundtable in association with Moxie Insights, Cisco Meraki and Murdoch Webster Technology Group

To achieve this, forward-thinking CIOs and CISOs are reassessing technology and business priorities at speed and scale.

This Executive Roundtable – in association with Moxie Insights, Cisco Meraki and Murdoch Webster Technology Group – outlined how organisations can create cyber-secure workplaces by embracing market-leading best practices.

Key discussion points included:

  • Assessing evolving business priorities specific to cyber security
  • Tackling ongoing cyber security challenges facing organisations
  • Balancing corporate protection with workplace productivity
  • Examples of market success and industry use cases
  • Tangible action points to secure modern workplaces

View Moxie Insights – Executive Roundtable in photos:

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