Survey: Mixed views but more are positive on digital changes

The survey, part of a larger study involving senior finance executives in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, found that one in five of the Singapore respondents said their teams are not prepared for digital transformation.
The survey, part of a larger study involving senior finance executives in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, found that one in five of the Singapore respondents said their teams are not prepared for digital transformation.ST FILE PHOTO

Among respondents from large firms, 21% see no difference, 6.5% report negative results

While over three in five senior finance executives of large companies in Singapore said their teams have adopted digital transformation initiatives in the past year or so, about a quarter of them said there was no positive change from efforts they had been a part of.

These were findings from a survey by software vendor Workday involving more than 100 senior finance professionals here from firms with 1,500 or more employees.

The results being released today showed that most firms which adopted digital transformation initiatives in the past year or so saw positive results. But 21 per cent said the efforts brought about no change and 6.5 per cent felt it resulted in negative changes.

The nature of the change was not specified in the report based on a survey in February to March.

Respondents included about 30 per cent from the manufacturing sector and 20 per cent from financial services, such as banking. The others were from sectors such as logistics and tourism.

The survey was part of a larger study involving more than 300 senior finance executives from enterprises in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Patrick Tay, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said some firms might not see positive effects from digital transformation due to legacy systems, which the organisations may still have to operate in. There is therefore a period when these systems may need to interface with new digital changes.

Transformation efforts may not be organisation-wide yet as well, resulting in a time-lag for positive results, he added, and companies can adopt proactive communication to help workers embrace the changes.

The survey also found that one in five of the Singapore respondents said their finance teams are not prepared for digital transformation.

Workday's regional finance lead for Asia, Mr Tan Lee Thong, told The Straits Times this was a "worrying" sign, adding that challenges lie in reskilling employees as firms change the way they operate with new technologies. Another key difficulty is changing employees' mindsets to embrace transformation.

Mr Tan also said the report examined attitudes towards the skills that finance professionals need in future as well. There will also a higher demand for soft skills such as analytical skills and risk management.

The survey found that more than half the respondents expected digital transformation to have a "significant impact" on their finance team's collaboration with other business departments, and around the same proportion believed this will grow the focus on data-driven insights.

Close to 90 per cent of finance leaders surveyed believed that having more artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies in finance will increase the headcount of finance teams as well. This is expected to rise by 20 per cent or more in the next three to five years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2019, with the headline 'Survey: Mixed views but more are positive on digital changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe