IT in the workplace in japan and its surprises

IT in the workplace in japan
IT in the workplace in japan

IT in the workplace : Japan is a high-tech country

Nobody doubts about it!!
Meanwhile, you would be amazed to find that it is sometimes still very ANALOG or RETRO.
Few examples:
  • Most of orders from customers are still sent by FAX. (yes we are in 2016 now!)
  • Of course Order confirmation are sent back by FAX.
  • Order dispatch requests to the warehouse are again sent by FAX and the warehouse staff confirms by FAX.
  • So you get a lot of papers.

Another example of the specificities of Japan is the use of EXCEL!

IT in the workplace in Japapan can be surprising.
Many companies, even nowadays are still using Microsoft EXCEL as a word processing tool.
They would prepare their form on Excel, prepare sales calls reports on Excel and so on.
I still could not find what was the reason not to use WORD. I suspected at some time that the license fee for Excel was cheaper than Word but this is just a guess.

Now, if we talk about IT packages

It could be ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Resource Management), or other trendy 3 letters packages, we see a unique pattern in the Japanese IT landscape.
Most packages are developed for Japan and for Japan only.
You will get softwares which work only on Japanese OS, working only in Japanese language and being totally customized for Japanese business needs.
Whenever a gaishikei wants to unify their IT system worldwide and for example implement SAP or another enterprise system it will face a lot of hurdles:
  • How to migrate data from the Japanese system
  • How to understand first what is inside the Japanese system
  • How to deal with potentially expensive interface development (to migrate data from the domestic system to the corporate system

Now, let’s have a look at the Systems integrators

Most of hardware companies in Japan (it can be Fujitsu, Canon, Epson or any other major brand) moved from hardware-pure business to system integration, offering also software, software development and all services around IT infrastructure. (same as IBM in the eighties)
We have also in Japan pure OA (Office Automation) players, such as Otsuka Shokai . They deal with all issues regarding IT in the workplace.
This company started few decades ago and is now a one-stop shopping regarding all office needs.
It offers hardware, software, consulting.
You can even buy from them all which could be needed in an office, ranging from all range of stationaries to pet bottles, helmets (in case of earthquake) and so on…


  • if you find a good IT vendor, stick with this company. They might reduce the hassle to deal with several vendors and might give you good discount. Nevertheless ask always a quotation from other vendor in order to get a more competitive offer.

  • If you start your business in Japan or are in a foreign company, stick to worldwide standards in terms of software. It will helps to respect corporate guidelines in terms of IT.

  • If you need to use Japanese only software, be sure to plan ahead. You might have in the future to integrate corporate systems like ERP.

  • Restrict to the minimum “in-house” development. I am talking about complicate macro in Excel or Access developed by one of your staff. If this person leaves it will be very hard to maintain. Or at least make him/her develop a manual.

Finally, to respect the principles of TOC (theory of constraints) please make sure that your processes are adapted to your new IT infrastructure. (if you have a system to manage stock, run your report more frequently than when you had only hands and excel to do it)
About gaishikeiman 33 Articles
French citizen in his forties living in Japan. Almost 20 years working for foreign companies in Japan. I have an engineering background with an extensive sales experience in highly regulated industries. I am currently the representative director and managing director for an European company's subsidiary in Japan. I have seen all the lows and highs of foreign companies in Japan since late 90ties. Feel free to contact me wether you are looking for opportunities in Japan.

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Meetings in Japan : Let's discuss about it? Run! - Direction Japan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.