For as long as I’ve been working in or for Japanese companies (25 years…) I’ve been surprised by how behind they are in using IT, considering how much Japanese people love the latest technology, much of it developed by Japanese companies themselves. Like so many paradoxes of Japanese corporate culture, the roots may lie in the post war system of life time employment, generalist track careers and seniority based promotion.
The Nikkei Business magazine cites one example of how, as it puts it, Japanese companies are not just one but three steps behind their Western counterparts. Most Western banks (Barclays, HSBC, RBS, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, Societe Generale in Europe) are adopting the highly cost effective blockchain system for settling payments. MUFG is the only Japanese bank to use the system.
The Nikkei recommends 4 countermeasures Japanese companies need to take:
1. Keep replacing top executives
According to an IDC Japan survey, only 15.7% of Japanese presidents and other CXOs think investment in IT is “very important” compared to 75.3% of US executives. Alternatively, as the Nikkei says, if you don’t understand IT, make sure you appoint executives who do.
2. Bring in an external CIO
According to a Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry survey, whereas in the US over 70% of IT specialists can be found working in-house in US companies, in Japan, 75% of IT specialists are working at IT vendors.
3. Make your IT systems department a key function
Staff in Japan’s IT departments are ageing. 56.9% of companies in a 2015 survey said the majority of staff in their IT departments were over 40.
4. Use people from outside Japan
Japan’s Recruit Holdings has just started to recruit non-Japanese data scientists by starting up competitions on Kaggle, a data scientist network of over 350,00 people from over 100 countries, in order to make the Recruit brand name better known.
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