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Digitalising businesses from inside out

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Singapore understands the need to embrace change, with a Smart Nation strategy outlining how the city should have a mindset that is open to experimentation and new ideas that will allow its people and businesses to take manageable risks.

FOR businesses looking to thrive in today's digital age, new and transformational technologies should run in parallel with a change in operation and mindset. However, that's easier said than done.

According to the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking, published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) business school, Singapore trails the region in terms of future-readiness, coming in at 15th place.

Future-readiness measures how well an economy is prepared to digitalise based on the way its society responds to and incorporates new technologies on a daily basis, as well as the adaptiveness of businesses to integrate these technologies into their operations.

While Indonesia only ranks 62nd for future-readiness, its artificial intelligence (AI) adoption rates for organisations are twice that in Singapore - showing how Indonesia is using technology to strategically develop future economic areas.

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Countries that adapt to new technology with agility and speed could easily claim ownership in the region if they are able to incorporate this mindset sector-wide. Therefore, it is important for Singapore to foster a transformative mentality alongside changing digital processes.

Furthermore, Asean small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), on average, account for more than half of a country's gross domestic product (GDP) and approximately 30 per cent of its exports in the region. There is a huge incentive for countries to help them embrace a forward-thinking digital mindset and adopt new technologies, to ensure they continue to grow and support the economy.

In Singapore, the development and adoption of AI technology has been beneficial to talent, start-ups and investments from various industries around the world. With up to S$150 million invested over five years in research, AI is being explored by the city to solve societal and industry challenges.

These intelligent systems can help growing businesses overcome workforce or physical constraints through automating and augmenting physical and cognitive abilities. By enabling personalisation and anticipatory services, AI can enhance productivity and efficiency from within.

Cloud adoption can also help businesses significantly reduce cost, increase productivity, mitigate risks and expand their options to scale nationally and regionally. Businesses that invest in cloud solutions are future-proof as innovation is built-in, with updates being automatic and seamless. Such platforms provide solutions for the business as a whole, be it office functions or back-end support. A unified platform will piece together disparate systems and boost a business' tech-savviness.

Businesses that are not embracing cloud-based technology or are delaying their digital transformation alongside the speed of change risk being disrupted or losing out altogether. To prevent this, a strong digital mindset should be fostered alongside commitment by the public sector towards the digitisation efforts of growing businesses and their workforce.

This change in mentality should also come with digital initiatives that will help them seize new opportunities, as well as promoting, incentivising and integrating a digital-savvy and skilled workforce into various industries. Among the 1,200 SMEs polled in an EY survey across Asean, four in five value government support that offers access to finance, digital enhancements, subsidies or tax incentives as well as cross-border assistance.

Singapore understands the need to embrace change, with a Smart Nation strategy outlining how the city should have a mindset that is open to experimentation and new ideas that will allow its people and businesses to take manageable risks. Plans are also underway by the city to attract talent and develop manpower policies that will help develop deep technology capabilities in Singapore.

However, flexibility in resource allocation for technology projects and public sector innovation should come alongside proactiveness by growing businesses to invest in new technologies and processes that will future-proof their business.

Ultimately, digital transformation is about digitalising business from the inside out. Businesses can start by implementing sandboxes and testbeds to support innovation and digital growth, giving talents time to better understand and harness the potential of these new technologies alongside innovation processes.

Only when these concerns on the onslaught of new technologies have been addressed will businesses be more open to upskill and relearn their ways of working. Growing businesses can be guided towards the right direction, but the onus still lies with the public, society and communities to foster a collaborative and forward-thinking mindset to stay relevant in a fast-paced technological landscape.

  • The writer is the general manager for Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Oracle NetSuite.