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Keys to unlocking successful digital transformation initiatives

Keys to unlocking successful digital transformation initiatives


by Marjet Andriesse, Telstra’s Head of South Asia and Country Managing Director for Singapore & Malaysia

You might not be considering digital transformation when you are getting in your car to go to the office in the morning. But perhaps you should be.

While it seems like a mundane, manual task, in fact it is being digitally disrupted.

From buying a car and registering it to finding out where traffic is the lightest with real-time imagery, the Singapore Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) new digital experience makes everything to do with motoring available online and on mobile.

The success of the One Motoring website is indicative of a wider focus in the country to keep up with digital disruption – and use it to thrive. As part of that desire, local governments in Singapore launched the Smart Nation initiative in 2014 to incorporate technology in the way its citizens live, work and play.

But, while those initiatives – and success stories like GrabTaxi or Sea – show what’s possible at the forefront of the digital revolution, there is still work to do.

Telstra’s recent research, explored in more detail below, reveals that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of Singapore-based organisations stated that they are not close to beginning their digital transformation journey.

So, how can Singaporean organisations realise the benefits of successful digital transformation?

Disruptive decision-making in Singapore

The success of digital transformations in organisations around the world is contingent on making good digital transformation decisions.

We wanted to understand how business leaders around the world make those decisions – what contributes to good transformation decision-making. That is why we surveyed more than 3,800 senior executives in 14 countries around the world to find out how organisations rated their digital transformation decisions.

The resulting Disruptive Decision-Making report found that only 18 per cent of organisations in Singapore believe they make digital transformation decisions extremely well – below the global average of 23 per cent.

To find out why, the report identifies four key factors (People, Processes, Technology Understanding and Partnerships) inherent in digital decision-making, and measures organisational ability across those areas.

What we found was stunning.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, organisations in Singapore could be hindering their digital transformation success by placing too much focus on technology.

Respondents in Singapore rated their digital decision-making ability in ‘technology understanding’ as the highest by far, with their abilities in processes and people lagging far behind.

That is significant because the research also finds that digitally-mature organisations place a greater focus on their people than technology as an enabler.

People, not technology, is the key to successful digital transformation. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for an organisation to consider its employees as a digital transformation asset – and investing in them appropriately.

Company-wide approach needed

The research also showed that a company-wide approach to digital transformation is significantly more likely to result in success.

Yet, 66 per cent of organisations in Singapore are using individual departments to drive digital initiatives – a siloed approach that may result in a fragmented transformation process.

We also found that organisations in Singapore struggled most in digital transformation implementation – ranking ‘having access to the right information and support’ and feeling ‘empowered to design and implement it’ as the lowest stages of the digital transformation process.

We believe this shows that digital transformation requires a clear vision and consistent, all of company strategy.

For successful implementations, that entails a holistic approach where decision-makers break down internal silos and integrate processes more deeply throughout the organisation.

The opportunity to improve

The impact of these approaches is clear.

The research found that there is a significant gap between digital transformation priorities and performance.

Organisations in Singapore rated their top digital transformation priorities as optimising technology to move faster, protecting digital assets from cyber threats, optimising security investments to reduce time and resource management.

Yet, the results suggest that Singapore’s highest priorities are the ones they are struggling most to deliver on. It is notable that decision-making performance around ‘protecting digital assets from cyber threats’ was ranked lowest of all priorities – 17th out of 17.

That lack of alignment is having real effects on the bottom-line.

The research found that Singaporean organisations find it hard to show the financial impact of their digital transformations, rating ‘improving profit margins’ as the lowest of all benefits of digital transformation.

Looking ahead

Understanding the functions, capabilities and role of technology is an integral and vital component to success in digital transformation for organisations in Singapore.

But research has shown that merely focusing on technology does not guarantee success in an organisation’s digital transformation journey. It is only through a comprehensive strategy that incorporates people and processes alongside technology where organisations can truly thrive in their journey of digital transformation.

There are huge opportunities for those who get this right, as we can reflect upon when we get in our cars and check the traffic cameras on the LTA site.

While the path to success is clear, it is not an easy one – it is one that needs to be underpinned by competent decision-making.

About the Author

Marjet Andriesse is a seasoned leader, with more than 25 years’ experience in driving customer satisfaction, sales and revenue growth as well as organisational management for technology and professional services firms across Europe and Asia.

As the Head of South Asia for Telstra, she is responsible for leading and driving the growth strategy for Telstra’s Enterprise and Wholesale business in the region, overseeing relationships with customers across the South Asia region, based in Singapore. She is also responsible for building capability and scale for Telstra’s International Digital Customer Hub, to increase customer engagement and service