Time to Transform

by Anton D. Javier
Photos courtesy of NTT Ltd.
05 Oct 2021

What makes NTT Ltd. the best partner for a company’s digital transformation? Its CEO for Asia Pacific, John Lombard, tells all.

NTT Ltd., a purpose-led global technology company, enables enterprises to benefit from a full-stack integrated ICT service offering. It boasts an overall global revenue of around $11 billion and the company delivers a comprehensive portfolio of technology and consulting services that helps clients with their digital transformation. NTT also delivers real business transformation by enabling clients to leverage the latest developments in cloud computing, networking, and cybersecurity.

Leading the company in the region is John Lombard, CEO, Asia Pacific, NTT Ltd, who joined the company in May 2016. Of his role, Lombard says, “As CEO, I manage the end-to-end go-to-market, service delivery, and business operations across 16 countries in the Asia Pacific region. My responsibility is to ensure that we are transforming the business, providing all the capabilities and services that our clients need – by understanding the latest trends, making sure that we are setting the right strategies, and have the right teams in place to support our clients.”

What role does Singapore play in the company’s development? Can you also share with us plans and key focus areas for NTT in APAC?
Singapore is the regional hub for NTT Ltd. in Asia Pacific and plays a key role in our operations. We employ approximately 1,100 people here to ensure that we are fully supporting our clients across the region.

NTT offers a full range of services to help our clients through their entire digital transformation journey. Many of our clients, as they navigate through the pandemic and as they think about the world post-pandemic, have realized that they need to engage with their employees and customers very differently.

We are also seeing a huge increase in the number of devices at the edge that need to be connected to corporate networks and corporate applications. NTT provides the secure software-based connectivity that connects the edge to these cloud-based hybrid applications in a secure way.

The world has been struggling with Covid-19 for almost two years now, and if there’s anything it has taught us, it’s that digital is the way forward. Can you share your views on effective digital transformation for companies, particularly since the start of the pandemic?
It’s evident that the current global pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation journey for all businesses. At NTT, we believe that innovation and continuous transformation is critical for growth, and that it’s a multi-level approach on both global and regional levels.

Successful digital transformation of an organization firstly involves understanding its employees and customers, and how they want to interact with them as a company. We noticed that for organizations to engage with its key stakeholders, they first need to listen to their employees.

The success of businesses and transformation is built on a shared belief in the company’s vision. At NTT, we have implemented practices and workshops to help 40,000 employees across 57 countries understand our vision to deliver a secure and connected future through technology and innovation.

In my opinion, the younger generation can demonstrate the latest ideas around collaboration. They are collaborative in their approach and are extensive users of digital platforms that can often bring some great ideas to the table on how to engage and work differently.

While companies need to ensure that they have some people who are skilled internally for digital transformation, seeking external support from providers like NTT can also make a significant impact on their business. This is important because there are specialized skills that are difficult to find and then retain, and it’s often easier to engage with an external provider for that additional support.

How do you apply your leadership skills and leadership style in a company with such impressive numbers — a $4 billion systems integrator and cloud services business with subsidiaries in 16 countries with over 12,000 employees.
I really believe that prioritising our mental and physical health is incredibly important for anyone wanting a long and positive career. I have always managed my career more like a marathon than a sprint. With the continuous changes in the technology industry, think about your career as a long-term journey where you must pace yourself appropriately.

I believe in having a diverse leadership team to bring different ideas to the table. When you are in a position of authority and hiring people, you should always hire people who are smarter than you. Bringing in talented, capable and diverse people into the organization ensures diverse perspectives for better decision making.

Another critical aspect would include having a strong change management system and effective communication as well that helps in achieving productivity and maintaining strong working relationships at all levels.

What are your long-term plans for the company and what are some interesting industry insights/forecasts that you are able share with us?
Our long-term plan is for us to become even more relevant to our clients by offering a full range of managed service offerings. One of the areas we are keeping an eye on is 5G. As data and mobility become more critical to business operations, we believe 5G technology will enable enterprises to reinvent business operations. With faster speeds and more data, 5G has the potential to facilitate advances in artificial intelligence, automation, and IoT.

NTT recently launched our Private 5G platform (P5G), which is the first globally available private LTE/5G Network-as-a-Service platform. With a complete end-to-end stack of services that goes beyond the network, Chief Information Officers and Chief Digital Officers leverage the benefits of private 5G to solve business problems and innovate to keep pace with the future of enterprise.

With the continuous changes in the technology industry, think about your career as a long-term journey where you must pace yourself appropriately.

Beyond NTT, you also devote your time to #HeforShe for LeanIn Asia, as well as Very Special Arts Singapore. Why did you choose to focus on these two organizations?
The IT industry has traditionally been a male dominated industry with limited gender diversity. I believe that women bring a very different perspective to problem solving, and by combining that with other people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, we can achieve much better outcomes. Thankfully, there is more gender diversity in the industry today, but I still think that we have a lot of room for improvement, and that’s why I’m involved in #HeForShe.

Our aim is to help people understand unconscious bias, how to deal with it, and simply to be aware that we all have it, with the way our brains are wired. The host workshops that bring together men and women to discuss different workplace scenarios and solutions, with the aim of creating a more equal playing field for women in the workplace.

Meanwhile, Very Special Arts is a Singapore-based charity that supports people with disabilities to develop a career in visual or performing arts. I was very impressed with how VSA empowers people with disabilities to earn a living through the arts, whether that's performing arts or visual arts. With my strong interest in paintings, this is something I am really proud and excited to be involved in, and something that NTT Ltd. plays an important role in sponsoring as well.