By Phang Wai Yin, Chief Technology Officer of SRKK Group
Digital Transformation (DX) among businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak was a watershed moment, as it required businesses to relocate to online platforms in order to stay viable. Over the last two years, it was reported that over 94% of Singaporean businesses have adopted DX, but there is still a percentage of businesses that are truly hesitant to adopt it.
In my opinion, the main issue lies in the interpretation of digitalization for first-time users of technology. Business owners who are used to traditional methods of operating would be greatly affected as they do not know where to start, leading to a sense of hesitancy even in exploring the possibility of digital adoption. Therefore, we have to be able to make digitization more understandable by breaking it down into smaller, more digestible pieces that will eventually help them overcome their fear of technology.
In working with multiple businesses over the last 10 years, I believe that painting an accurate picture of the benefits that the adoption of digital tools will result in is the most effective way of convincing business owners who are reluctant to explore these innovative changes. Understanding that clear, realistic returns on investment (ROI) and noticeable added value are what business owners prioritize, I think that it is crucial that technology consultants like SRKK take the time to give them a step-by-step guide on how the digitalization journey will unfold for their individual companies. At the same time, making sure that they adhere to preparing, planning, prioritizing, and executing the key pillars of digital transformation so their digital transformation journey meets their business objectives.
Leadership mindset and alignment
The first pillar is maintaining a leadership mindset and alignment because a DX journey begins with a robust mindset at a leadership level. This ecosystem of leaders needs to collectively agree that digital transformation will reap benefits for them, and is feasible while being worth the time, money, and effort spent. Very often, leadership teams can be either aware or unaware of their internal problems. Leaders who are unaware tend to view digital transformation as an impossible feat, and mostly subscribe to the mindset of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” This can be remedied, as a start, by attending tech vendor workshops, webinars, and events to build confidence in digitally transforming their businesses.
Team leaders who are aware of their organization’s problems believe in DX and are taking baby steps to solve urgent and important problems with technology, although they don’t yet have a clear picture and roadmap. This can be overcome by using an Impact/Effort matrix to prioritize and get the easy wins that continue to fuel the DX journey. Impact/Effort matrices help companies course-correct fast, align team priorities, and identify the best solutions to a problem while saving time and effort.
Once the organizational problems are identified, leadership teams should adopt a solution-aware mindset to build robust digital transformation roadmaps with sufficient resources to support well-thought-out initiatives to ensure sustainable, long-term growth.
Business-led technology roadmap
Once a company’s leadership mindset has been fixed and they have a better understanding of the benefits of digitalization, they would need to build a successful business roadmap. When creating this guide, I believe that simplicity is best for beginners and the simplest way to a robust, actionable roadmap is to divide it into two main categories: Business Value Drivers and Environment, Infrastructure, and Governance. These parameters ensure that the company leaders know what they are trying to digitalize, what the economic impact will be, how they can reach their goal, and which area to prioritize.
Currently, the SRKK team has created a templated roadmap that has been leveraged by our consultants when they speak to different customers. It has helped us to engage the customers’ pain points better and we realized that more than 70% of businesses in Singapore and Malaysia benefited from the clearly defined SRKK DX Framework and started their DX journey.
For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of our regional clients who focuses on palm oil plantation, farming, and livestock businesses embarked on their DX journey that included adopting Microsoft 365 for hybrid work. As we have customized the different phases to help improve the customer’s business processes including their cybersecurity, when the customer decided to improve email security for their 744 information workers, the IT team reported a significantly lower number of support calls related to malware, phishing, and spam emails. We believe that by having a curated DX methodology that suits the customers, they can keep progressing on their DX journey at a speedy pace yet at a lower cost.
Appointing talents to drive the digitalization effort
To complement having the right leadership mindset and a robust roadmap are essential to power this transformation process. Firstly, a technology-literate business leader with an in-depth understanding of the company’s overall strategy and roadmap is needed to prioritize and sponsor projects throughout the DX journey. Moreover, this role will involve ensuring that implementations are value-driven. Next, a passionate change champion who is articulate, persuasive, and persistent is necessary to motivate change across departments, convincing their team members to embrace new challenges.
Furthermore, it goes without saying that having an excellent IT manager to coordinate and facilitate the tech selection process, and assist in pilots and implementations, while relating to their IT environment is a key role to have. Last but not least, whether in-house or outsourced, Technical Resources are required to implement digital transformation decisions.
A common misunderstanding is that DX is completed when a company upgrades its technology. However, digital transformation is not about software or technology; it is about organizational agility. In an agile environment, employees are not penalized for “failing fast, and learning,” boldness is encouraged over caution, and there is more action and less planning.
Agility allows your company to respond quickly to changing market conditions brought on by DX while also allowing leadership teams to focus on strategic decision-making. It is important for companies to start practicing a DX-friendly culture as it challenges the status quo and is unafraid of change. This would eventually create a safe space for employees to try their strengths and discover their weaknesses, further fueling innovation.
Delivery and adoption
Finally, whether your company’s digital adoption is successful depends on whether the implementations have improved the company’s performance.
To get a good idea of this, two-way communication between technologists and end-users is very much needed so that feedback is constantly communicated, thus leading to better adoption rates. A more convenient way to implement this method of communication is through a Scrum and Agile framework where ‘scrum’ is a framework of rules, roles, or events that are used to implement “agile” projects efficiently. This framework should be considered during implementations to ensure that cross-functional teams are communicating regularly, aligned on priorities, closing the feedback loop, and delivering value rapidly.
Hence, I hope business owners have gained a few ideas on how they can have productive conversations and effectively brainstorm around the pillars mentioned here, and better prepare, plan, prioritize, and pull off their DX journey. With the reopening of borders and more businesses starting to bounce back, I hope that more traditional businesses use this opportunity to start digitalizing their businesses with the help of these pillars as I’m confident that it will make a huge impact on our country’s economy.
SRKK is a consulting firm that accelerates organizational change through digital transformation. We focus on security, productivity, and the modern workplace.