In today’s fast-paced and competitive business environment, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) must stay ahead of the curve to thrive. The integration of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), offers SMEs unprecedented opportunities for expansion and added value. By harnessing these digital technologies, SMEs can boost productivity and improve customer satisfaction.
The widespread trend of digitalisation has transformed various aspects of people's lives. With over 64.4% of the global population heavily reliant on the internet (Source: DataReport – Digital 2023: Overview Report), the storage of critical information, communication methods, and purchasing behaviours have rapidly shifted to digital formats. The convenience, accessibility, and efficiency offered by digital technologies have reshaped how individuals interact with information, communicate, and make purchases. This is precisely why SMEs should prioritise the process of digital transformation.
A Case Study on the Successful Implementation of AI
Company A, a client of RSM Risk Advisory, is a real estate services provider that operates mainly as a real estate brokerage. The Company recently enhanced the productivity of its salespersons by integrating AI and automation (using ChatGPT API) into its application. The AI tool is used in conjunction with the Company’s information database on properties to generate suggested social media posts for the salesperson. As a result, its salespersons are now able to generate marketing content more swiftly and accurately. Customer satisfaction has also improved, as social media posts are more informative and targeted with implementation of the AI tool. There is a potential time saving of 2.9 million hours (assuming a time saving of one hour per person, per post, with 8,000 salespersons posting once a day).
This achievement is attributed to four main points:
1. A Clear Business Objective and Strategy
Since 2019, digital transformation was highlighted as one of the key strategic pillars for sustainable growth by the Management of Company A. This emphasis was further reinforced in the growth roadmap outlined by the CEO in 2021, in which digital transformation was highlighted as a key area that would provide a competitive advantage to salespersons of the company.
2. Right Culture and Tone at the Top
Technology adoption often involves significant changes in workflows and processes. Therefore, it is essential to have a supportive organisational culture that embraces innovation and continuous improvement. Company A has fostered a culture of open communication and collaboration, with the top management carefully considering the feedback given by salespersons on how to improve their applications. In 2022, a Chief Agency Officer was also on boarded to serve as a bridge between the management and salespersons.
3. Investment and Resource Allocation
Successful technology adoption requires sufficient financial investment and resource allocation. Company A allocated more than S$2.6 million towards its digital transformation efforts. This amount was used to acquire and integrate third-party property tech and develop its very own proprietary apps. Additionally, the company expanded its technology team with the hiring of a Chief Technology Officer. Having the right person to lead the company’s digital transformation is important, as it ensures that the right infrastructure is built to accelerate future transformation.
When adopting technology, it is crucial to consider the cybersecurity aspect as it protects the organisation’s digital assets, intellectual property and customer data. The rapid development of digital technologies has significantly changed security perspectives and increased the risk of IT/cyber threats. The nature of cyber threats and attacks has changed, now becoming more frequent, complex, and target oriented. As a result, Company A hired a cybersecurity expert to lead the implementation of its cybersecurity controls. This includes implementing information technology general controls (e.g., password management, antivirus and firewall implementation, and user access control) and performing penetration testing.
In conclusion, SMEs must view technology adoption and digital transformation as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event. Businesses need to regularly assess the impact of technology on their performance, gather feedback from employees and customers, and be prepared to adapt and evolve the technology strategy as needed to remain competitive and responsive to changing market conditions.