INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Contributed Content, Singapore
Andrew Tan

Preparing for a digital future


Worldwide spending on digital transformation will amount to nearly US$2t in 2022 as organisations spend on technologies and services to effectively compete in the new economy. In Singapore, digital transformation (DX) is expected to contribute US$10b to the nation’s GDP by 2021, with a 40% increase in benefits such as productivity, revenue and cost reduction.

To encourage this, the Singapore government has invested heavily to help companies on their DX journeys. For instance, the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore have recently announced initiatives such as Start Digital with costs waived for six months to help SMEs get a headstart in going digital with some of their business processes.

In the recent Budget 2019 announcement, $4.6b was earmarked to help companies transform and employees upskill . With the backing of the government, it would seem like a no brainer for organisations to jump on the transformation bandwagon. Change, however, is never easy, and many companies will face headwinds in their bid to transform. So what are some factors for success in preparing for a digital future?

Companies that will thrive in this period of transformation are not going to be the ones with the largest workforces or the deepest pockets, it’s the companies that truly believe in the power of digital transformation, with a management and staff committed to constant innovation and receptive to change.

DX is an ongoing journey, and there is a misconception that a large budget will be required for DX efforts. In truth, businesses will be able to reap great results building off a series of small incremental steps, starting with creating a digital work environment. This can be achieved through:

• Empowering real-time teamwork through the use of collaborative technologies that allow for co-creation
• Enabling productivity from every corner by blending physical workspaces with virtual ones that allow for seamless interactivity
• Leveraging the power of data to garner insights that can be used for business improvements

In addition to implementing solutions to achieve these initiatives, the journey is not one that can be undertaken alone. Experts in the DX field are also paramount – an experienced partner will be able to assist by managing business transformations and identifying obstacles. They can work with different business units and the executive leadership to ensure a smooth DX journey.

Some obstacles that may hinder the DX process include the way a company is structured. Siloes within the company can disrupt the transformation process, causing fragmentation across different segments of the company. Management will need to guide the way, empowering experts to assist in identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to DX efforts and to get buy-in across the organization. KPIs such as driving revenue growth and improving customer experience could be goals that everyone can work towards.

These will be key to ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to embarking on the organization’s DX journey. In short, people, process and technology need to work hand in hand from the top down to the last line of work in order for the DX process to succeed.

Additionally, the workspace of the future needs to be intuitive, flexible, contemporary and secure, to support future changes and operating models, with a mix of physical and virtual spaces. However, this also means that maintaining security and compliance is of utmost importance.

Security and compliance are key considerations in today’s business world, given the ever volatile cyber threat landscape, with a global spotlight on online privacy issues and enforcement measures such as GDPR. In fact, security is a main factor for companies wishing to transform digitally, so working with the right partner to implement the right security solution for its needs is of critical importance.

Another factor affecting the transformation process is job security. With the introduction of automation, increased mobility, collaboration, and data management and analytics in the workspace, the DX journey may involve changes within the organisation as people with different skills will be needed.

Staff may be resistant to change in fear of being made redundant during the DX process. Companies need to assure their staff that the adoption of technology will provide new opportunities for them. Organizations can take advantage of government incentives to upskill their staff to be able to plan for and implement technological initiatives. For instance, much has been said about Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how it could potentially replace jobs in Singapore, and across the region .

However, that is not the case. The rise of AI will in fact, take over the mundane, repetitive tasks such as pattern finding and number crunching. This frees up employees to pursue tasks that require higher levels of cognition and bring greater value to the organisation.

As millennials enter the workforce, work cultures will become the defining characteristic that companies will use to compete for millennial talent. They need to be able to cater to the needs of millennial employees, by changing workplace cultures. They will also need to reinforce the behaviours they want their employees to exhibit, such as a collaborative spirit or innovation.

Work cultures are becoming more transparent and efficient, and are adapting to the larger role technology will play at the workplace, along with the disruptions technology will bring. Given that millennials will comprise of the bulk of the workforce in the near future, organisations should look into how they can make their existing workspaces an accommodating one for them.

Bearing all these in mind, businesses must be committed in working towards their goals, with the top management leading the way. Short-term goals should be constantly re-evaluated as the organisation works towards the final goal. It is also important to engage stakeholders across all levels, ensuring employee contribution and understanding during the transformation period. With the right strategies in place, organisations will be well-equipped to become companies of the future. 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Andrew Tan

Andrew Tan

As the Managing Director of JOS Singapore, Andrew Tan spearheads JOS business and operations in Singapore, leading the company’s transformation and growth. He took up this position in 2016, bringing with him more than two decades of business experience in the technology field, blending his technology expertise with his strong business acumen.

Prior to JOS, Mr. Tan held several Senior Sales and Business Management roles in multi-national companies including NEC, IBM and Cisco. He has a proven record of bringing excellent results and values to businesses through innovation and strategic alliance. Andrew has also been successful in leading teams through organisational change initiatives.

Mr. Tan holds a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Computer Science with Management from The Open University in the UK.

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