By Datuk Tan Seng Kit, Group Managing Director, Strateq Group
It’s strange to think that the phrase new norm was coined nearly a year and a half ago. So ready were we as a nation and planet to adapt that we jumped at the opportunity to classify and categorise this new phase of life without even truly coming to grips with what it truly meant and how to genuinely thrive in this hostile atmosphere.
Surely, no one was keen for the new norm to be businesses struggling and shuttering or people losing jobs and livelihoods. But that was the undeniable reality of our economic landscape for quite some time. Reports even indicated that more than half a million businesses faced the risk of permanent closure due to the challenges of the pandemic.
Now more than two years removed from the onset of the pandemic, we can finally breathe a sigh of relief. With more than 85% of Malaysians vaccinated and SOPs mostly lifted, businesses are finally ready to bounce back. This I believe, is what we can truly classify with confidence as the new norm. A present and future, where people and businesses are aware, ready and able to face the dynamic new demands and challenges of a post-pandemic world.
From a business perspective, being ready and able to face this daunting landscape means having the tools, processes and solutions in place to navigate the choppy waters of the present.
One thing the pandemic has done to the benefit of businesses is that it has significantly accelerated the rate of digitalisation. Before the pandemic, many businesses were hesitant to go digital for a myriad of reasons – whether it be unfamiliarity with the process, concerns over how it might disrupt their business, lack of understanding around its functionality and benefits, or even cost concerns.
With brick-and-mortar businesses shuttered during the pandemic, many were forced to overcome these hurdles and transition into a digital ecosystem. But what many still need to work on is ensuring this digital ecosystem is integrated and functioning at optimum capacity to not only safeguard their business but to lay the right foundations to take it to the next level.
With the mad rush to digitalise, many businesses may have dived into the deep end unprepared and are now left with haphazard digital implementations. In the majority of circumstances, this has occurred because the decision-maker may not have truly grasped the digitalisation concept or perhaps not fully considered the various options available to them.
In either scenario, as someone who has been in the enterprise tech industry for several decades now, I can say with confidence, that it is never too late to reassess and reconsider. So with that in mind, let us delve into what it takes to build a successful, high-functioning and optimised digital ecosystem that is capable of improving business efficiencies and driving growth.
The first and most important step is to truly and thoroughly understand your business. Spend the time to really understand each department and process of the organisation as well as their respective needs. Analyse their performance and output and then consider how these efforts can be improved upon.
This will give you a good sense of the pain points and where you want to be at the end of the day. With the problems and objectives in mind, this will help guide your thought process and decision-making in terms of the digital tools to incorporate into your organisation.
It is at this stage where I have found employing a professional always helps. While with today’s access and information, it is perfectly achievable and to a certain extent commendable for an organisation to be able to digitalise on their own – speaking from experience this is where many businesses flounder. The depth and technicality of digitalisation is still vast, there are many solutions with even more minute nuances that can make successful implementation difficult for novices.
There often tends to be gaps in the implementation – perhaps the right digital tool was not selected or maybe only parts of the process get digitalised due to the lack of insight on tools that are able to cater to the full spectrum of digital needs. Bringing in a professional ensures you are getting all the info you need in terms of solutions available to you and from there it guarantees that the tools you have selected are then integrated fully into your organisation and processes.
For a digital ecosystem to succeed, organisational silos need to be unified. It is vital that the business and its people embrace the new technologies and tools and learn to collaborate at a deeper level to fully utilise the power of digital tools. This means spending time and effort on building awareness and educating staff. It is not enough to merely have fancy new technology as the technology is ultimately driven by people and without the buy-in and understanding of the people, the technology would be directionless.
Once this is accomplished, you can be confident that your digital ecosystem is on the right pathway to success. You have taken the time to understand your business – its gaps, needs, and goals. You have then sought specialist help to ensure you have incorporated the suitable tools and in the right manner. Finally, you have invested time and resources to ensure the people using the tools understand and appreciate them.
But even with all of this, one final stage which must be done is unfortunately often neglected and it can lead to businesses becoming outdated and inefficient in the long run. This is the audit and update process.
Businesses must understand that just like any other technique or methodology, technology too is often and rapidly evolving. A system that was optimal 5 years ago, may now be the very reason for slumping performances. Thus, it is important that businesses commit to thoroughly auditing their systems at regular internals and set aside the funds for upgrades every 3 to 5 years.
With these guidelines, it is my sincere hope that more Malaysian businesses will be able to successfully transition to digital in a more complete, holistic and integrated manner. Through this, I believe businesses will be in a more strategically advantageous position and be better able to not only weather any incoming storms but successfully sail the high waters of this bold new frontier to achieve even greater business success.