Despite 2020 being a challenging year for businesses, the Singapore Business Federation recently reported that many companies are confident about sustaining their business in 2021. The positive outlook stems from the fact that 8 in 10 businesses have accelerated their digital transformation by an average of 2 years, due to the pandemic.
When it comes to digital transformation, speed is a key factor that will determine a company’s ability to overcome the impact of the pandemic and ensure business continuity in another year facing COVID-19. Hence, we’ve asked over 500 SME business leaders about their experiences incorporating new technologies at work throughout the pandemic.
The results revealed that most Singapore SMEs have been successful in integrating digital tools into their business last year and they are keen on doing more in 2021 to optimise their IT strategies.
Online meeting software and e-commerce software most purchased by Singapore SMEs since the beginning of COVID-19
Meanwhile, the next most popular purchase (47%) was website software, which could be a result of brands seeking to establish their digital presence and provide customers with better virtual experience. The same number of businesses (47%) also invested project management software for project planning to improve time management, resource allocation and progress tracking.
84% of Singapore businesses reported a positive impact from their software investments during 2020
Digital technology has been a critical tool to help businesses respond to the coronavirus crisis. When we asked business leaders which tools were most important in their digital acceleration, more than half (58%) said online meeting software was the most important tool, followed by collaboration software (38%) and VPN software (38%).
Fortunately, majority of the businesses (84%) reported positive impact from their software purchases that enabled them to adapt and survive in the current business climate. One-third (30%) indicated very positive impact from technology, meanwhile 54% reported that the impact has been somewhat positive.
When asked about satisfaction with the overall performance, 91% are satisfied with their software purchases – 35% indicated “very satisfied” while 56% indicated “somewhat satisfied”.
In a deeper dive into the benefits of technology investments, the survey revealed that businesses have had a broad impact across various operations that achieved a wide range of commercial goals:
37% of Singapore’s SMEs plan to eliminate VPN software this year
While the results from the digital investments have been promising, many business leaders believe more work needs to be done before their IT operations are considered optimised. In fact, a significant number of respondents have expressed interest to replace or eliminate at least one software within the next 12 months.
As many as 41% of organisations are planning to replace software due to legacy systems that fails to keep up with business needs. More than a quarter (27%) intend to eliminate outdated software that no longer suits their evolving business model, while 24% will replace their software for the same reason.
In 2021, businesses will continue to improve operations and explore areas to digitise. Leaders have ranked sales and promotion as the top priority (65%), followed by logistics and supply chain (55%) and data mining and analytics (51%).
Emerging technologies that will change the future of Singapore SMEs
Beyond the pandemic, digital transformation will continue to be a key driver of change for businesses across different sectors. Organisations are already thinking about transformational technologies and the value it can bring to business:
Leaders in Singapore are becoming more aware of the value of data; big data analytics help organisations harness their available data to identify new opportunities that could result in improved operations, better customer experiences and larger profits in the long run.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already transforming the world we live in, whereby OCBC recently announced the company’s plan to deploy AI-powered analytics to improve compliance, customer experience and sales performance. This is in-line with the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy’s vision to turn Singapore into a leader in developing and deploying AI solutions by 2030.
Keeping up with emerging technologies may not be simplest of task, but it could be the key to help organisations rethink their business models and make impactful changes that will result into increased productivity, new opportunities, and long-term success.
Data for this study was collected in December 2020 from an online survey of 538 respondents that live in Singapore.
To participate on the survey, respondents had to be:
- Employed full-time in one of the following roles:
- Owner, founder or other head of an organisation
- C-Suite executive e.g. CEO, CIO
- President of Vice-president
- Working for a company of up to 250 people
- Working at the organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic