Forum: Digital transformation requires robust 'people foundation'

People wearing face masks at Raffles Place on Sept 7, 2020.
People wearing face masks at Raffles Place on Sept 7, 2020.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Insightful points were raised at the Future Economy Conference and Exhibition about the challenges facing Singapore's digital transformation push (S'pore must act now to digitalise or risk losing edge, says Chan, Sept 23).

The need for change in organisational culture, for one, is in a similar vein to what thought leaders elsewhere have articulated.

For instance, according to research, leaders view digital transformation as critical for their organisations, but believe that their talent lack the requisite skills and capabilities.

To solve this digital equation, it is imperative for digital transformation to be about not only introducing digital technologies, but also having a robust "people foundation" that is achieved through purposeful and resonant leadership that develops and engages talent in the digital transformation push.

American multinational technology conglomerate Cisco frames this as "the connection of people, process, data and things to provide intelligence and actionable insights enabling business outcomes". This entails balancing the focus on the "hardware" of digital transformation, such as new technology and systems, with the "software" of improving talent engagement and alignment to change organisational culture.

Thought leaders suggest that achieving this will involve talent empowerment and alignment; that is, how well employees understand their contributions to the organisation's digital transformation journey, the skills they need, what support is available, and being enabled to make the right decisions without the need for continuous guidance.

To be sure, Singapore is already doing many things right in the digital transformation push. The country recently maintained its position as the world's second most digitally competitive country, after the United States, in the latest edition of the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking (S'pore still 2nd most digitally competitive in global ranking, Oct 2).

For Singapore to sustain this trajectory and remain the world's most competitive economy, it behoves us to leverage digital transformation as a force multiplier, to help the nation thrive and continue to punch above its weight on the global stage.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2020, with the headline 'Digital transformation requires robust 'people foundation''. Subscribe