by Desmond Koh
Seventy-five per cent of Singapore’s business leaders want to embrace digital technologies and drive growth in a changing business climate, but only a third (34 per cent) believe they have a complete strategy to make that happen today, according to a study released today.
The Microsoft Asia Digital Transformation Study revealed digital solutions like artificial technologies, advanced data analytics, mixed reality platforms and Internet of Things-enabled (IoT) products are high on the agenda.
However, despite the possibilities, 16 per cent of business leaders interviewed have no digital strategy in place for their firms, while half of all respondents had only specific digitalisation plans for a segment of their businesses in the works.
The study surveyed 1,494 business leaders from Asia, including 118 from Singapore. All respondents were pre-qualified as being involved in shaping their organisations’ digital strategy.
The report highlighted four key areas of business activities that have to be transformed in order for firms to stay competitive in the digital age.
1. Engaging customers: Consumers are savvier than before, with access to data to help them make educated purchase decisions on products and services. To stand out, companies need to deliver deeply contextual, personalised experiences to customers, while balancing their need for security and earn their trust.
2. Empower employees: The structure of workplaces and style of communication between employees have evolved. Organisations can empower their people and help them do their jobs better with new mobility solutions. They allow employees to collaborate from anywhere, on any device, accessing the apps and data they need while mitigating security risks.
3. Optimise operations: Disruptive technologies like IoT products are accelerating the potential for businesses to optimise their operations. Firms may gather data across a wide, dispersed set of endpoints, draw insights through advanced analytics, and use the information to drive improvements on a continuous basis.
For instance, organisations in manufacturing, retail, and healthcare can shift from merely reacting to events to responding in real time, or even pre-emptively anticipating and solving issues.
4. Transform products & business models: The opportunity to embed software and technology directly into products and services is changing how companies deliver value, create new business models, and disrupting established markets.
Emerging technologies in demand
Eighty-one per cent of the respondents believed that cloud computing, basically remote servers hooked up onto the internet to store and process data, and the declining costs associated with using them have made it cheaper for firms to transform digitally.
Three quarters (76 per cent) of the business leaders interviewed would even regard cloud computing as essential in their digital transformation strategy.
Business leaders here have identified the top five technologies relevant to their digital transformation initiatives in the study:
1. Internet of Things (IoT): Network of sensors embedded in devices able to collect data or be remotely controlled. They include smart buildings, cars and home devices.
2. Artificial intelligence: Intelligent machines or software able to learn and perform tasks independently. Examples include robots, chatbots and self-driving cars.
3. Wearable technologies: Advanced computing and electronic technologies embedded into clothing, devices or bodies. Examples include smart watches and fitness trackers.
4. Virtual/augmented/mixed reality: Technologies enabling the merging of real and virtual worlds into new and immersive experiences.
5. Quantum computing: Next-generation computers using different computation systems to solve data equations much more quickly than traditional computers could.
Barriers to digital transformation remain
According to the respondents, digital transformation in Singapore remains slow because of (1) cyber threats and security concerns; (2) lack of a digitally skilled workforce; (3) lack of leadership by Board of Directors; and (4) lack of organisation leadership skills to come up with ideas, plan and execute such strategies.
While the increase in security threats within today’s digital economies is real and cannot be ignored, the report notes advances are being made in the cloud on security and privacy.
It adds that a recent Microsoft Asia Pacific survey of 1,200 IT leaders showed 78 per cent of IT leaders in Singapore believe that in the longer term, the cloud will be safer.