Recent research by Epson found that among six ASEAN member countries surveyed, three out of four reported that they have embarked on the digital transformation journey. One in five of these respondents said they have incorporated digital transformation into several departments and business activities. While generally, SMEs are fully aware of the benefits and value of digital transformation, most are reluctant to invest in new technology due to costs and an overall lack of knowledge and skills to make it work.
A key aspect of enabling SMEs to digitise is improving connectivity to support the adoption of new technologies. Malaysia is ranked 9th in the Asia Pacific region for its ICT development and has made major progress in its broadband connectivity. The country has made great strides in developing its ICT industry, leading most ASEAN countries in developing ICT in the local economy.
That is not to say that the other Southeast Asian nations are sleeping on digital transformation either. Governments throughout SEA have been leading the way in encouraging adoption of digital technologies among SMEs through education, offering incentives, and creating technology incubators to develop businesses’ capabilities.
While SMEs tend to concentrate on the upfront cost of upgrading technology, it is also important to consider the total cost of ownership. New technologies can help companies achieve better business outcomes as well as lower operational costs. SMEs need technologies that are faster, more reliable and produce a higher quality end result to be competitive in today’s environment. These products must also integrate seamlessly with existing technologies without impacting operations and be easy for employees to use.
The digital economy holds limitless potential and opportunities for the ASEAN region. In order for SMEs to reap the benefits of their digital transformation investments, employees need to be at the centre of the digital transformation effort. This means making sure that they are fully trained on how to use new technologies and that solutions selected are meant to improve their jobs.
SMEs in particular often cannot afford the downtime that may result from adopting new technologies so it is important to adopt solutions that will have minimal downtime and extensive customer service assistance.