Singapore’s fast track in digitalisation
Singapore businesses are riding on the digital transformation fast track. The city is ahead of many in the region in digitalisation, with 98% of the organisations in the midst of their digital transformation journey while only 7% in Asia Pacific region can be classified as leaders.
This is the finding from a study conducted last year by IDC Asia/Pacific and sponsored by Microsoft. The study also stated that by 2021, digital transformation is expected to contribute US$10 billion to Singapore’s GDP, in which 60% of them contributed by digital products or services.
The reason Singapore is ahead of the curve is largely due to government’s encouragement. Its vision of developing Singapore as a Smart Nation has digitalised different public services. One of these initiatives is Form.sg, a platform for building digital forms for public agencies.
For the private sector, the government is also encouraging organisations to kickstart digitalisation with funding and support, like SMEs Go Digital and Scale-up SG.
On top of these initiatives, the government also created different push factors. One of them is to reduce the maximum permitted ratio of foreign workers to 35% by 2021. The tightening of foreign worker quota is not only bringing more jobs for Singaporeans, but also encouraging organisations to promote a more digitalised and productive work environment.
Driven by these internal factors in Singapore—together with other external factors, like the emergence of technologies and increasing competition from globalisation—it is no surprise that Singapore is on the fast track in digital transformation.
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Stuck in the DX journey
Nevertheless, this journey is far from a smooth sail. According to IDC, 60% of organisations in Asia Pacific that kickstarted digital transformation (DX) remain stuck in their journey. They struggled to achieve an enterprise-wide transformation or to become a digital native organisation.
The way out from being stagnant, according to Fred Giron, VP and Research Director, Forrester, is to look inwards. He said most digitalisation initiatives started with transforming external customer experiences. But as the journey matures, enterprises are starting to conduct transformation from within.
“Firms will shift their innovation focus to reducing the cost to serve customers through greater operational efficiency,” said Giron.
Holistic transformation starts from within
To bring sustainable and holistic digital transformation, organisations are turning inwards to build a digital workplace.
A study about digital workplace showed that 75% of Asia Pacific companies have started investing in digital workplace tools. Many of these investments are also welcomed by the employees.
The study stated that 71% of Asia Pacific employees would welcome a fully automated workplace in the next five to ten years. Many of them (70%) also believed that their companies would fall behind the competition if new technologies were not implemented.
“Having a productive and effective workplace does not only bring job satisfaction to employees, but also allow the organisation to better prepare for the future,” said Roger Loh, Head of Business Solutions Group, JOS Singapore.
Three dimensions in future workplace
To help realise the benefit of building a future workplace, Loh said business leaders should bring transformation in three major pillars.
- 1) Empower real-time teamwork
- 2) Productivity from every corner
- 3) Leveraging power of data
Driving digital transformation via these three pillars will allow organisations to embrace the future of work by introducing changes to people, process and technology.
Empower real-time teamwork
Traditional unified communication tools are the foundation to drive collaboration. But they are no longer enough to serve the rise of virtual teams and ad-hoc projects, which demand process-based collaboration capabilities.
“Empowering teamwork requires streamlined business processes with centralised process management to drive efficient team engagement,” said Eugene Wong, Head of Enterprise Applications, JOS Singapore.
He added that new productivity tools like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are great tools to drive efficiency and automation. But RPA can only bring real value when the business processes are managed and updated.
Wong said the lack of collaborative process management is costing organisations with siloed data, impeded innovative ideas and unbalanced resource allocation—all these are major challenges when embarking on a successful and sustainable digital transformation journey.
With an effective collaborative process management strategy, organisations can centralise process management and manage outdated processes to bring more efficient team engagement and automation.
Productivity from every corner
On top of process management and automation, enabling a future workplace also requires promoting productivity in every corner—both physical and virtual workplace.
Many future workplace initiatives focus on the physical features like fancy gadgets, biometric access control and lavish TV monitors for video conferencing. But Loh noted that enterprises should bring the same attention in the virtual workplace.
“Enabling an IT environment with mobility, cloud, virtualisation and security, are the very foundation to bring productivity in the virtual workplace,” he said.
Among these technologies, Loh added cloud computing is a crucial component. With a cloud infrastructure, organisations can simplify implementation and reduce the time-to-market, accelerating the benefits of transforming a virtual workplace.
But he added that a swift user experiences in the virtual working environment must be balanced with security.
“Regardless of the solution, it is crucial to have the concept of ‘Secured by Design”, where security is being considered right at the start,” said Loh.
Leverage the power of data
Gone were the days when business decisions were made purely top down and based on the experiences of the leading executives. As businesses turn towards digitalisation, they are generating more data. This data is bringing insights not only to enhance customers’ experiences, but also to empower productivity.
“Data is the foundation of future workplace,” said Loh. Data can provide business operation patterns, like the travel spending of employees or monthly mobile data spend . Analysing these patterns can derive insights that help to monitor business processes, determine business priorities and speed up decision-making.
“With the availability of data and the use of analytics, business executives can focus on developing the organisations’ digital vision,” said Loh.
Focusing on these three pillars help enterprises to develop a strategy towards digitalising the workplace. But Loh warned that enterprises still need to manage a few challenges to ensure that the future workplace transformation is sustainable.
One common technical challenge is dealing with legacy systems, particularly among the established organisations. Loh said these legacy systems often pose complications like incompatibility and interoperability issues during and after implementation.
“Different IT systems require professional skill sets during system or application cutover,” he said. “But technical challenges can be managed easily with the help of experienced technical partners.”
Wong added that one of the biggest challenges often relate to people—employees’ resistance towards workplace transformation. Even though most tech-savvy millennials embrace the use of automation, others in the workforce remain concerned about technology making their jobs obsolete. He highlighted that cultivating a corporate culture that embraces digitalisation and empowering employees with new skills will make workplace transformation easier.
“Digitalisation is an ongoing journey,” said Wong. “People should continue to upskill themselves – while technology can help in certain aspects, we still need people to ensure that things are moving smoothly.”
Bearing all these in mind, top management should also be committed to their goals. Though business leaders are eager to realise the benefits in future workplace, balancing their dedication with the team’s acceptance is equally important. Introducing aggressive changes often bring confusion and resistance.
“Starting with small steps and focusing on supporting people is the only way to achieve desirable results and sustainable transformation,” Loh concluded.
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