COVID-19 – The Unexpected Driver of Digital Transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented impact on businesses and nations around the world. In order to minimise human interactions and reduce further spread of the virus, many countries have shut their borders, locked down, and imposed closure of work-places for non-essential services. In April 2020, Singapore’s workforce joins the world’s largest work-from-home experiment as the government shuts down most work premises to enforce social distancing. During this period, telecommuting becomes the main mode by which many organisations operate. However, this is only feasible for organisations that have adopted digital technologies in their work processes.

DigitalLY-ready Workforce 

Digitally-ready organisations are more agile and adapt faster when faced with challenges or black swan events. Although they may not have realised it prior to COVID-19, organisations that have deployed modern customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and operational IT systems would find that their work processes can easily be performed even while telecommuting. With the use of secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, employees can also easily access data and documents digitally, regardless of physical location or device. Additionally, organisations that leverage cloud technology for payroll, accounting or corporate secretarial work can still continue to operate even when the government imposes a shutdown of physical offices for an extended period of time.

To ensure that work is carried out accurately and on a timely manner while telecommuting, the use of connectivity tools such as e-mail and instant messaging applications becomes critical. Recent popularity of video conferencing software have proved that such forms of communication are effective, regardless of physical boundaries. Under this COVID-19 situation, many meetings involving large groups of people such as Annual General Meetings (AGMs) are held online. The cost of holding AGMs online might even be defrayed by the AGM Facilitation Grant provided by the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

Data privacy & security

Despite the convenience and opportunities that technology brings, there are potential pitfalls that organisations should be aware of.

Regardless of the technology used, it is critical that data privacy and security be considered. However, practices are often inadequate, which could compromise the security of an organisation’s data. With large amounts of data being transferred digitally while telecommuting, data leakage due to improper data handling or storage could happen easily and inadvertently. If personal data is involved, this will violate the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) and penalties could be hefty. It is important for organisations to implement good governance over data policies and the security of their systems to prevent unnecessary breaches. This would further ensure the feasibility of working from home.

Although technology has made telecommuting possible for some time now, recent circumstances have further accelerated the adoption of this mode of work and accentuated the benefits of digital transformation. Organisations that leverage technology to reduce manual and paper work on premise are best-suited to succeed. 

Leverage government's support

With crisis, there are always opportunities to reinvent and stay ahead of competition.

Organisations may choose to leverage IMDA’s SMEs Go Digital initiative, as well as seek government funding from the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) to redesign their workflow and processes. For those most severely impacted by COVID-19, the funding could be as high as 90% of the project costs. Furthermore, to ensure that their employees are future-ready, organisations could also seek course fee subsidies and absentee payroll funding from SkillsFuture Singapore when they send their employees for training.

Outsourcing Solutions 

For organisations that do not have the resources or scale to digitally transform their work processes, an alternative is to consider outsourcing as a solution. Outsourcing routine back office functions such as corporate secretariat, accounting and payroll functions would allow management to focus on their key products and services.

COVID-19 will abate but the future of work is here to stay.

This article is contributed by Zhang Yuchen of our Technology, Media & Telecommunications practice.

Please consult our Technology, Media & Telecommunications team to assist you in the following technology needs:

  • Digital transformation
  • Outsourced and cloud services (accounting, payroll, corporate secretarial)
  • Outsourced IT
  • CRM and ERP systems
  • Secure work from home IT advisory and set-up
  • Cybersecurity and data security
  • Personal Data Protection Act
  • Workflow automation and customisation
  • Digital AGM services (advisory, procurement, set-up)

Adrian Tan
Partner & Industry Lead, Technology, Media & Telecommunications
+65 6594 7876
[email protected]

Hoi Wai Khin
Director & Deputy Industry Lead, Technology, Media & Telecommunications
+65 6594 7880
[email protected]