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How Singapore is winning at digital transformation

Daniel Tan
Daniel TanExecutive Director, Global Accounts
Daniel leads Global 500 clientele data centre group business for Asia Pacific Japan and China. His responsibility includes customer satisfaction, development, deployment of end to end and efficient go-to-market model. Daniel is a technology industry veteran who has served two stints each at enterprise IT giants Lenovo and IBM over 20 years, Daniel brings with him vast sales and operations expertise and extensive networks across Asia. He has managed successful relationships with customers and channel partners in diverse industry verticals such as Manufacturing, Retail, Financial Services, Government, Research, Media and Telecommunications. Prior to his current role, Daniel led strategic alliances for Lenovo’s enterprise business in Asia Pacific, and used to manage relationship with key alliance partners like SAP, Nutanix, Red Hat and VMware to maximise joint opportunities with these fellow IT giants. Daniel served as the ASEAN leader for Lenovo’s enterprise business where he was responsible for the overall management of Lenovo’s x86 business in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. He joined Lenovo in October 2014 upon Lenovo’s acquisition of IBM’s x86 business.

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By digitising a traditionally analog business model or process, we’re effectively turning it into bits and atoms and enabling an infinite variety of possibilities.—Nicholas D. Evans, Mastering Digital Business

Digital transformation is sweeping across the world. It has changed the way we shop. It has changed the way products are delivered to us. It has changed the way we interact with businesses. Digitisation has affected every sector from government and education to medicine and retail. It effects everyone from the individual consumer to the small business to large manufacturers to government. This is why countries that successfully undergo digital transformation are seeing significant benefits at every level. In Asia, Singapore is outshining every other country when it comes to creating a strong and stable digital infrastructure. In fact, they are ranked first on the Asian Digital Transformation Index.


The Digital Transformation That Singapore’s Businesses Are Relying On

Across every form of digital transformation, businesses in Singapore are leading the way. As previously mentioned, when it comes to overall digital transformation, Singapore is ranked number one in Asia. More specifically, they are ranked number one in digital infrastructure, fourth in human capital, and second in industry connectivity. Roughly half of the businesses in the country rely on analytics tools and nearly half have utilised IoT in some way. Cloud usage is up to a third of businesses in Singapore, 45% of companies are involved in at least five digital partnerships, and more than half of the businesses in the country are actively working in open innovation communities that help them develop new ideas.


Digital Transformation In Singapore’s Small Businesses

The reason that Singapore is leading the way in digitisation is because it is not just the giants of each industry that are investing in technology. Medium and even small businesses in the country have felt the benefits that a digital transformation can bring. This can be seen in a few local restaurants. Sushi Tei is one chain restaurant in Singapore that has taken the plunge. They have done away with a significant portion of their paperwork by utilising a cloud-based ordering system with their suppliers. Another restaurant in the area, Koon Bak Kut Teh, has streamlined systems for their employees by introducing tablets with an app that helps servers to take orders electronically and automatically send the order back to the kitchen.

How Singapore is winning at digital transformation

These small businesses are not on their own. Over the past few year, the government in Singapore has been closely working with individuals and businesses of all sizes to speed up the adoption of digitisation. In the beginning of 2015, they worked with over 100 food service companies in the country to identify ways that technology could advance their services and implement them. These changes are working. A recent survey found that over two-thirds of the respondents believed that the government’s investments in digital transformation are already generating value.

But it is not just government that is making efforts to help small businesses digitally transform, larger businesses and schools are also lending a hand. One example can be seen through the collaboration of TIBCO Software and Nanyang Polytechnic. This partnership has a very specific goal of making data analytics more accessible in Singapore. TIBCO started on this journey when they saw the lack of IT talent that exists in Singapore. Small businesses in the country, due to a lack of experienced personnel, are not able to utilise the data that they have and gain analytics from it. To address this issue, TIBCO is offering mentorships and training courses for Nanyang Polytechnic students and staff. But to create additional impact, TIBCO is going to offer workshops, master classes, competitions, training, and guest lectures to the Nanyang Polytechnic community at large, in order to encourage continuing education and increased competency in the speciality of data analytics.


Digital Transformation In Singapore’s Enterprises

Few sectors effect an economy more than banking. Every other industry is impacted by financial decisions and banks in Singapore are choosing to make those decisions more digitally based. Singapore’s biggest bank, DBS Bank, is doing just that by putting its employees through a five-year training program that will teach them about Fintech and other digital banking methods. This program is estimated to cost them U.S. $20 million and will help to accomplish the government’s goal of remaking Singapore into a smart nation. The program will offer scholarships and grants so that DBS Bank employees can utilise around-the-clock e-learning that is infused with artificial technology, alongside various seminars, hackathons, and other events that will take place in some of the most advanced learning centres.

But DBS Bank is not alone. OCBC Bank is developing a similar program that will be targeted at its older employees and United Overseas Bank has been encouraging employees to play a more participatory role by submitting potential technology moves that the bank could make.

Singapore’s banks are not in this alone. Outside partners are popping up to help the industry move along. Datapipe is one organisation that is guiding banks and others in Singapore’s financial industry to understand cloud computing and what benefits they can gain from implementing it in their systems and processes. A recent white paper that Datapipe released, along with its accompanying workbook, addresses one of the biggest problems companies in Singapore’s financial sector face when trying to implement cloud computing: The long list of regulations and compliance guidelines that they must adhere to.

When it comes to digital transformation in big business, banking in Singapore is in good company. Other large industries are also quickly climbing aboard the digital transformation train. Another, very different sector, that is rapidly making digital transformations across the board is health care. The industry has a goal of creating a more efficient and effective method of exchanging patient information between health care providers. They are accomplishing this through Singapore’s National Electronic Health Record. Its vision is, “One Singaporean, One Health Record.” Its digital platform does just that, allowing doctor’s diagnoses and patient’s medication history to be quickly transferred from one hospital to another.


Digital Transformation In Singapore’s Government

As previously stated, digital transformation is being utilised by everyone, from the smallest businesses to the biggest organisations, including the government. In fact, the government is so set on creating a smart nation that their 2017 budget was significantly adjusted for it. An additional U.S. $1.73 billion has been planned specifically for digital transformation in the country. And most of this money will be invested in local tenders that will bring more IoT sensors and data analytics. Proof of this heavy local investment can be seen in the fact that 2016 saw almost two-thirds of the digital transformation budget go to ICT contracts with local small businesses. For 2017, though, digital transformation plans are fairly specific. The government wants to see more cashless payments and a national digital identity, as well as increased cybersecurity measures and a drive for more robotics integration in the country.

Digital transformation is difficult, whether you are attempting it as an individual, a business, or an entire country. Singapore has the right idea, though. With the right amount of resources and care, an entire nation can become digitally transformed.

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