COVID-19 sees marked rise in digital transformation amongst businesses

This comes as businesses need to survive and thrive during the pandemic.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been pronounced in 2020 amidst travel restrictions and economic downturn. Businesses have been forced to adapt to the changing times to keep themselves running, and they have mainly relied on recent technologies for the job.

Whilst Singapore businesses have embraced digital transformation way before the pandemic, it has rapidly accelerated as businesses have to survive and thrive, according to SwissCham Singapore Digital Transformation Awards chair Andreas Enderlin.

This is marked by the adoption of different digital platforms and technologies, such as robotics, virtual reality experiences, e-commerce platforms, amongst others.

“COVID-19 has changed the velocity of digital transformation and will certainly continue to do so in 2021. Organizations will need to put a higher priority at their digital strategy and rethink their competitive advantages in the market,” Enderlin said.

He noted that organisations should step out of their comfort zones and ask how their businesses can stand alone and earn if cases went high again and strict measures were put into place.

“This question would quickly help organizations to think strategically on the relevance of those trends to the nature of their businesses. Organizations may then realize the necessity to set up a new digital business model or look for the best technologies to replace existing practices,” Enderlin said.

Leaders must also be digitally conscious and consider if suitable technology can create new long-term value propositions and business models. “It became critical not only to develop an understanding of digital opportunities, but also about their limitations taking into account political, social, technical, legal and organisational factors,” he added.

Fundamental changes in operations

With the adoption of digital transformation, the way enterprises operate, as well as customer expectations, have changed. Organisations would now have to consider their size, investors, and resources upon undertaking digitalisation efforts.

Enderlin observed that during the run of the Digital Transformation Award 2020, which was organised by SwissCham Singapore in collaboration with Deloitte, small companies with low budgets would preferably focus on the digitalisation of critical processes to create the most sustainable impact.

Such digital pivot would continue to drive digital transformation and improve digital maturity.

“Companies who are having a hard time catching up with the digital transformation can bring in external expertise in digital transformation by appointing board members with digital skills, hire the right talent directly into the organization, reach out and interact with their ecosystem to learn or engage advisory firms for a limited time period,” he said.

The award has enabled 43 companies to showcase their digital transformation and digital initiatives by a variety of enabling technologies. Companies were able to pitch in front of a panel of jury members as representatives of the industry ecosystems, as well as to a broader audience coming from various companies and industries.

“The award process facilitated best practice exchange, gave access to unique expertise and a network of experts in the field of digitalisation. On top of that, one of the main objectives of the DX Award was to drive the innovation spirit amongst Singapore companies,” he explained.

‘A unique hub for innovation’

Singapore’s actions towards containing the virus have been remarkably successful, as businesses have gradually adapted and are slowly reopening.

The country being a preeminent destination to pursue business opportunities across the ASEAN region has also helped. According to UNCTAD's World Investment Report for 2020, foreign direct investment inflows rose to US$92b in 2019.

“Singapore is a unique hub for innovation and transformation with skilled talent, solid government support and advanced IT infrastructure. Singapore positioned itself as a place for innovation, research and development and is the third highest adopter of AI across Southeast Asia,” Enderlin said.

With this progress, Enderlin described opportunities that could further drive technological innovation in Singapore. “We see lots of opportunities for Singapore to connect to the world; by opening new frontiers to investors and co-creating for the next thrive in the post-COVID world.”

He emphasised innovation and people are critical to strategy success. Whilst leaders continue to allow their organisations to transform, they should also invest in human capital, stay close to the ecosystem to know the right talent pool, and cultivate a workplace culture that encourages innovation.

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