The Business Times

Digitalisation the only way forward for businesses to thrive: panellists

Published Thu, Mar 11, 2021 · 06:56 PM

COMPANIES have to be both judicious and purposeful in selecting the right technological solutions, said Singapore Business Federation chairman Lim Ming Yan at a panel discussion on Thursday.

Micro businesses will need solutions that have already been pre-selected to fulfil backend functions, while larger companies have to rethink their business models to find out how best to automate their processes, he said.

Businesses have no choice but to embrace digitalisation, especially since the pandemic has accelerated digitalisation all over the world, he added.

Mr Lim made these points at the dialogue during the launch of Smart Nation & U 2021, an event organised by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and the National Trades Union Congress.

He also cited the SBF's Industry 4.0 Human Capital Initiative, a programme that equips companies with people management and job redesign skills that are needed for a successful Industry 4.0 transformation.

Some 47 companies have joined the scheme to date, and they have seen an average improvement in productivity by approximately 30 per cent, with over a thousand jobs redesigned along the way.

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"Because there is improvement in productivity, there is a lot of potential for compensation, salary, and all that to be adjusted for the staff," said Mr Lim.

Also on the panel was Infocomm Media Development Authority chief executive Lew Chuen Hong and labour chief Ng Chee Meng.

Mr Lew said that digitalisation is a critical tool for companies to stay competitive, which will ultimately benefit both the company and the workers.

"In the physical world, we view ourselves sometimes as a little red dot. But in the digital world, Singapore has the potential and ambition to become a much bigger red dot if we can pull our companies and workers to be competitive digitally," he said.

According to Mr Ng, moving towards digitalisation is a way to keep costs down, and to enhance back-end productivity. He added that the digitalisation is not only dependent on the hardware and the software, but very much on the people involved too.

"It is the employer's willingness to move because it involves capital costs, and it is also the worker's willingness to move," he said.

However, the panellists also noted the reasons why some workers are hesitant about jumping onto the reskilling bandwagon. Mr Ng attributed this to inertia and the inability to see the tangible benefits for themselves in the future, such as better wages, work prospects and relevance.

Above all, Mr Lim made the point that the digitalisation journey can only succeed if there is sufficient buy-in from the company's management.

"In any transformation within a company, you need to carry the troops along. You need to make sure that the people who are involved embrace it, and are able to retrain, reskill, learn new things. (They should) also accept changes in terms of organisation, and in terms of their own role within the organisation," he said.

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