Building Strong Digital Capabilities in the Future Economy of Singapore
By Darric Hor, ASEAN Regional Director, BMC Software
The Committee on the Future Economy’s emphasised the need for Singapore to maintain an open economy, prioritise innovation, reskill its talents, especially in terms of supporting new and emerging industries/sectors. This reflects the conversation world leaders had at the World Economic Forum last year in Davos, which centred on how technology will bring about a fundamental shift in how we live our lives, how our economies operate, and how our businesses will run in the future. Singapore leads the region in terms of its ability to supports businesses in their digital transformation efforts. The nation ranks top in the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Asia Digital Transformation Index, which assesses the overall environment for digital transformation in organisations across three pillars: infocomm technology infrastructure, human capital and industry connectedness. Clearly, the government has already laid the foundation for businesses to reinvent themselves for the future. Is Singapore Inc. ready to step forward in the bold new world?
Role of SMEs
One recurring call is for small and medium-sized enterprises to automate for productivity gains. Although Singapore is home to many large multi-national enterprises, SMEs form 99 percent of companies here and account for 70 percent of its workforce. For Singapore to continue enjoying the economic stature it now holds, SMEs must be on board the digital transformation train. In addition, the Singapore government has introduced a slew of initiatives to help SMEs at various stages of the digital transformation journey – from SME Centres and Digital Hub to the new SMEs Go Digital Programme. The schemes sent a strong message of commitment and determination to make digital transformation a reality for Singapore businesses. It is time for Singapore SMEs to get serious about transforming their businesses – from the inside out.
People – a critical ingredient
One critical factor for success in any digital transformation project is its people. While businesses revamp processes, networks, and systems in their digital transformation journey, people remain the critical factor that will move the digital transformation needle. For digital transformation to come to fruition, businesses must empower their employees to crowd-source collaboration and continuously refine what they are working on at any time, no matter where they are. This can come in the form of mobile-first applications that are intuitive and intelligent. Employee productivity and efficiency improve greatly if given access to the information that they need, in real time, to serve their clients more effectively. Employees need tools that enable them to perform their tasks anytime and from anywhere, through self-service capabilities that make their jobs easier, faster, and more seamless across processes. Take Sichuan Rural Credit Union as an example. By enabling their 40,000 employees in 5,000 branches, through self-service capabilities, they have been able to reduce service calls by nearly 90 percent.
Digital is about speed
Speed is the essence of digital. Technology pillars such as social media, cloud, mobile and real-time analytics are giving rise to an unprecedented pace of business and innovation. The rise of start-ups and digital native enterprises are testament to this. Large corporations have the backing of strong branding, cash flows and global R&D teams. Despite this, many are feeling the heat from smaller, more agile start-ups, with their iterative innovation, fail-fast culture and flat organisation structure. Business at the speed of digital means the ability to innovate and deliver what customers want at an incredible speed. While this sounds like an age-old business adage, the challenge today is in the
speed that customers want change. Harnessing technology is the antidote to that. One speed bump that is holding businesses back is the difficulty in connecting legacy products and infrastructure to newer technologies. The role of the business leaders is going to grow as he or she will be charged with making everything work, from the in-house mainframe to newer cloud services. Business leaders have to form an IT management team for solutions that becomes accelerators for innovation rather than a detriment that favours the status quo. One example that SMEs can consider emulating is the American company General Electric, an industrial superpower that has been around for a very long time and is one of the world's largest corporations. However, CEO Jeff Immelt is driving a strategy to turn General Electric into an information company, a company that's powered by digital. GE has grown from zero in revenues from digital to nearly 6 billion this year, on a path to becoming a $20-billion information company in the very near future. This is a company that's embracing digital technologies to create these new frontiers of value.
Digital transformation is not just about disruption - this is about the creation of incredible opportunities for our societies, our economies, and our businesses, as we access what the World Economic Forum has identified as up to a $100 trillion-opportunity for businesses and economies moving forward. This reservoir of value can only be accessed by those enterprises that embrace information and digital business as the enabler of growth through our economies.