Fast-tracking digital transformation to cope with the crisis

Local firms are tapping on assistance schemes to help them go digital during this challenging period

The unexpected disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many local businesses to fast-track their digital transformation efforts. The most urgent challenge for most firms was providing a way for staff to work from home. Many businesses also had to find ways to run their operations with minimal staff on premises, while tackling issues such as keeping their digital operations and links secure and robust.

Against this backdrop, many businesses in Singapore have been taking advantage of Government’s support schemes and technology packages designed to help them quickly jump on the digital bandwagon.

For instance, the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) SMEs Go Digital programme has been supporting SMEs in this endeavour since its launch in April 2017. The scheme has now been enhanced with higher support levels from the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG), and to cover more solution categories like remote working and visitor management.

Moving to the cloud

Violet Chan, General Manager, KMS Lines

One beneficiary is freight management company KMS Lines (Singapore), which tapped on the PSG to move to a more efficient and secure cloud-based Microsoft 365 solution to handle its e-mails and corporate data. The move has helped to reduce costs and ramp up productivity at a time when it is facing less freight movement because of falling customer demand.

KMS staff can now access the company’s corporate server virtually without the need to use third-party software, which reduces the risk of cyberattacks. The company has also eliminated the power costs associated with keeping its servers on premise. Furthermore, moving its digital infrastructure off-site removed the need for costly cybersecurity protection software and freed up space in the office.

“Most importantly, all our customers’ data is secured as server security is now handled by our cloud server provider,” said Violet Chan, KMS Lines’ General Manager.

The company also made use of PSG’s funding support of up to 80 per cent to buy new laptops so that its employees can work from home easily. Previously, they relied on desktops in the office.

“To help defray some of the cost of upgrading our software and hardware, we have banked on the PSG initiative to quickly equip our team to telecommute more effectively,” said Violet.

“Pre-COVID19, we dedicated little attention to these telecommuting platforms and digital solutions such as a virtual server,” she noted. “However, they have now become an integral part of our operations and data security.”

Automating processes

Marc Chua, Deputy CEO, Sunlight Paper

Yet another company that has banked on digital processes to help them through the crisis is Sunlight Paper Products, a 40-year-old business that supplies tissue products to corporate customers in Singapore.

Since moving to a cloud-based system that was pre-approved under an IMDA programme for its enterprise resource planning and fleet management, it has managed to better monitor and control its fleet of trucks.

Previously, this process was largely manual and paper-based. Work was slow and labour intensive. Once the trucks left the factory, the company had no visibility of the trucks’ progress, so it could not plan for reloading in advance.

With the rollout of the new system, the company can now quickly boost its warehouse efficiency and be more proactive in its operations.

Hence, when the pandemic hit early this year, staff were ready to work from home because the company’s new enterprise management and the fleet management systems were cloud-based and could be accessed remotely.

“We communicate internally via Microsoft Teams,” said Marc Chua, Sunlight Paper’s Deputy CEO. “Our equipment is fully configured to access the office network via VPN (virtual private networking). We can even use the office printer from home,” he added.

As the company navigates the ‘new normal’ brought about by COVID-19, it is now setting up an e-commerce site for customers. Looking ahead, it also plans to establish a document management system as its next digitalisation project.

For companies like KMS Lines and Sunlight Paper Products, going digital is no longer a project to be pursued in future, but one that is needed right away. “We are heartened to see our local SMEs step up efforts to digitalise during these extraordinary times. In light of the COVID-19 situation, digital resilience is the key,” an IMDA spokesman told BiZQ.

“It not only allows our SMEs to tide through the current climate, but also positions them to emerge stronger and more competitive when the economy recovers.”

Subsidised solutions to support businesses

The Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) supports companies keen to adopt IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes. These solutions may be in areas of customer management, data analytics, financial management and inventory tracking.

With the supplementary budgets announced by the Government, PSG has now been enhanced to encourage businesses to continue their digitalisation and productivity upgrading efforts. The maximum funding support level has been raised to 80 per cent from 1 April 2020 to 31 December 2020.

The scope of generic solutions will also be expanded to help enterprises implement COVID-19 business continuity measures. These include online collaboration tools, virtual meeting and telephony tools, queue management systems and temperature screening solutions.

PSG now also supports laptop-bundled remote working solutions for eligible enterprises until 31 December 2020. More details are available here.