Helping SMEs Digitalise in Pandemic Times

Lenovo and its partners are working with IMDA’s SMEs Go Digital programme to help SMEs on the digitalisation journey.

Ever since the novel coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, hit Singapore and the world early this year, digital technologies have sustained governments, companies and even individuals. According to a global survey done by Mckinsey¹, the pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation of businesses by as much as three to four years.

The Asia Pacific region, in keeping with its status as the factory of the world, has been at the forefront of digitalisation. According to a study², the Asia Pacific digital transformation market, which was valued at US$138.94 billion in 2017 is expected to reach US$825.11 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.9 per cent.

Singapore ranks first in the Asian Digital Transformation Index, owing to its well-developed digital infrastructure³. The government continues to play a key role in Singapore’s digital transformation. The ICT (Infocomm Technology) and regulatory policies over the years are in sync with the vision of having a robust digital infrastructure in the country. This has helped boost businesses and encourage digital development.

Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) play a vital part in Singapore’s economic growth. The SME sector accounts for 99 per cent of Singapore’s registered enterprises. The sector contributes 48 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 65 per cent of its workforce4.

The sector is a vital cog in Singapore’s economy and needs all the help it can get in its digitalisation journey. This is especially true now as, due to their small size and limited resources, they have become more vulnerable to the economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Studies have shown that SMEs find it more difficult to digitalise as, due to their limited financial abilities, they are often reluctant to invest money and resources in digital technologies. What is encouraging is that, Singapore SMEs have grasped the benefits of digitalisation and are looking at strategies and help in their digital transformation journey. The Government on its part, using a public-private partnership model, has rolled out a number of schemes and initiatives to help SMEs digitalise.

Helping SMEs

Lenovo and its partners have worked with Singapore government entities like the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) on schemes that help SMEs adopt the technologies they require to digital transform themselves.

One of these programmes is the IMDA-run SMEs Go Digital. The SMEs Go Digital programme aims to help SMEs use technologies to build stronger capabilities to seize growth opportunities in the digital economy. Building on the foundation of Enhanced iSPRINT, SMEs Go Digital has a more structured and inclusive approach towards the adoption of digital technologies by SMEs.

As part of the process of getting the solution proposal approved by IMDA, for this programme, vendors have to go through a stringent series of questions and paperwork submissions. Lenovo, along with its solution partners Innocom Technologies Pte Ltd, Nanyang Tech Pte. Ltd., Rentalworks (SG) Pte Ltd and Singapore Telecommunications Limited (SingTel) have qualified for the programme.

Lenovo has worked out bundle deals for SMEs that have been approved by IMDA based on the specs, pricing as well as the package as a whole (which comes with a Microsoft office bundle ). Lenovo’s proposals have gone through several layers of approval in terms of genuine interest to help SMEs to embark on their digitalisation journey, thus making technology accessible to all small businesses.

Lenovo has the technology and expertise to help SMEs who are not very digitally savvy. The company ensures that its products and solutions are able to assist organisations tide through the challenges of the pandemic using smart technology, especially in these four areas: i) risk and crisis management solutions that will be key to operations, ii) customer experience technologies that support changing customer behaviour, iii) employee experience and human capital management tools to promote wellness and productivity, and iv) health and safety solutions to assist workforces to safely return to work. These services and solutions are vital in ensuring that SMEs are able to stay relevant and afloat during the pandemic, and beyond.

In addition, Lenovo also ensures product quality and security standards meet or exceed those of industry peers. The company’s security strategy provides appropriate industry-standard security controls within product design, manufacturing, operations and throughout our global supply chain.

Schemes like SME Go Digital and SME Digital Tech Hub are helping Singapore’s SME sector go up the digital value chain, not only in terms of equipment but also training. Established by IMDA and operated by the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), the SME Digital Tech Hub is a dedicated hub that provides specialist digital technology advisory to SMEs with more advanced digital needs, such as data analytics and cybersecurity. SME Digital Tech Hub also works with SME Centres and Trade Association & Chambers (TACs) to help connect SMEs to ICT vendors and consultants, as well as conduct workshops and seminars to help SMEs to build their digital capabilities.

All these efforts have had a positive effect and Singapore’s SME sector is today more digitally savvy and is adopting technologies to transform operations to keep themselves relevant in today’s digital economy.

SMEs more digitally aware

An SME Digital Transformation Study done by Microsoft in 20185 showed that only 57 per cent of Singapore SMEs polled for the survey had heard of the term digital transformation. The same study done by Microsoft in October 20206, however, shows that today 83 per cent of Singapore SMEs now have digital transformation strategies in place.

Reflecting on the problems caused by the pandemic, the study also notes that 54 per cent of the companies have reported delays in their digitalisation plans due to economic uncertainties as a result of Covid-19.

The Microsoft survey highlights that the economic uncertainties brought about by the global pandemic have exacerbated some of the challenges that SMEs face when it comes to digital transformation. Cost remains a top barrier, with just over half (56 per cent) of Singapore SMEs saying that they found it too expensive to digitalise due to high implementation costs – in addition to other factors such as a digital skills gap, and low awareness of government initiatives to support firms in their digital transformation journeys, the survey adds.

The public-private partnership model adopted by government agencies like IMDA can help SMEs overcome these problems by providing targeted grants and connecting them to companies like Lenovo which have both the expertise as well as products that can start these companies on their digital transformation journey.

Nick Lim 
SMB Lead
Lenovo Singapore
[email protected]