by PHANG WAI YIN
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, there has been an increase of DX among SMEs (small and medium enterprises), 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 digitalisation 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 digitisation 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 and noticeable added value are what business owners prioritise, I think that it is crucial that technology consultants like SRKK to take the time to give them a step-by-step guide on how the digitalisation journey will unfold for their individual companies. At the same time, making sure that they adhere to prepare, plan, prioritise and execute the five key pillars of digital transformation, so that 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 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 broke, 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.
Team leaders who are aware of their organisation’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 prioritise 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 organisational 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 digitalisation, 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 digitalise, what the economic impact will be, how can they reach their goal and which area to prioritise.
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 realised that more than 70% of businesses benefitted from the clearly defined SRKK DX Framework and started their DX journey.
For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, a Malaysian government-linked company (GLC) focusing on palm oil plantation, farming and livestock businesses embarked on their DX journey that included adopting Microsoft 365 for hybrid work. As we have customised 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 Digitalisation Effort
To complement having the right leadership mindset and a robust roadmap are strong key talents 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 prioritise 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 in embracing new challenges.
Furthermore, it goes without saying that having an excellent IT manager to coordinate and facilitate the tech selection process, 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 organisational agility. In an agile environment, employees are not penalised 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 practising 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 fuelling l 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 five pillars mentioned here, and better Prepare, Plan, Prioritise 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 digitalising their businesses with the help of these five pillars as I’m confident that it will make a huge impact on our country’s economy.
Phang Wai Yin is the CTO of SRKK Group, a leading end-to-end digital transformation consultancy firm with an established presence in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and the UK.
The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.