IN a matter of months, Covid-19 has pushed companies across the world to speed up their adoption of digital technology by several years.
The small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia did the same, but about 80% of Malaysian SMEs remain undigitised, according to SME Corp chief executive officer Rizal Nainy.
To boost the digital economy, Rizal said SMEs – the backbone of the country – along with all other businesses and corporations should use the new norms of the pandemic as a push factor to go digital for business continuity and sustainability.
“It is imperative for the Malaysian SMEs to embrace the digital economy, not only to ensure that they are not left behind but also to further spur economic growth.”
Citing a study SME Corp conducted in 2018, he highlighted that SMEs using social media and eCommerce in business operations saw productivity improvement of between 26% and 27%.
The online presence of SMEs in the country has doubled from 35.3% in 2019 to 75.8% in 2021, said Rizal, adding that there is much to improve on.
Rizal spoke at the first segment of the Microsoft Malaysia SME Forum: Leveraging modern technology to drive business growth, along with Lalamove managing director Jane Teh, MyEG information technology (IT) director Rushdan Anuar and moderated by Astro Awani anchor Cynthia Ng.
Fostering digital change
Under the 12th Malaysia Plan, the digitalisation of the SMEs will be undertaken as an important national agenda to transform the conventional way of doing business, said Rizal.
“The government has announced eight stimulus packages with an allocation of RM188.4bil to assist SMEs weather the impact of Covid-19.
“Of that number, RM23bil has been dedicated to drive the digital and technological transformation agenda.”
He added that SME Corp provides matching grants to businesses for their digital transformation journey and has also multiple initiatives for SMEs to gain expert advice on technology adoption and digitalisation, digital solutions, and technical support, among others.
A firm believer that transformation begins from within, Rushdan urged organisations to begin their digital transformation journey by constantly updating their employees on the latest digital trends, technological know-how and capabilities.
He also recommended using “internal champions” within the IT department to hasten digital adoption.
“Companies and IT departments should take a step back and build a clear understanding of which systems and applications require the most attention and prioritise those.
“Use technology as a facilitator. Get internal champions to share best practices as well as conduct learning and sharing sessions to drive cultural and digital transformation for the company,” said Rushdan after sharing on MyEG’s rapid response and action to customers’ new needs.
Noting that the shift of consumer behaviour towards online platforms is tremendous and has opened up new markets, Teh pointed out it is “now or never” for businesses to go digital.
“Companies can focus on their core portfolio, business as well as serve customers by making cost effective decisions and scale their business without incurring additional cost.
“They can do this by taking advantage of digital solutions and platforms that support a market of different needs, affordability and different sizes of businesses,” she said after sharing about various initiatives by Lalamove to reduce the barrier of entry for anyone that would like to start a business.
Digitising SMEs effectively
Microsoft Malaysia SMB sales manager Tan Shuh Hun urged small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and SMEs to utilise Microsoft’s solutions and digital platform that are readily available.
“With the right technology, size of a business is no longer a factor to determine success. It creates a level playing field allowing even the smaller businesses to grow and thrive successfully.
“Leverage the power of modern technology and softwares to reduce cost, spur long term business growth, resilience and productivity in a safe and secure manner,” she said during the forum’s opening remarks.
Meanwhile, the second segment of the SME Forum focused on solutions which companies can adopt to make digital transformation more productive, secure and relevant in a post-pandemic landscape.
It featured Infront Consulting Group regional managing director Raymond Chou, Softline Malaysia solution sales for Microsoft Modern Work Hong Zhan Cheng and Leaderonomics Digital learning and engagement consultant Vivian Po.
Chou said SMEs should create a three-team culture to survive amid and post-pandemic.
“The ‘survival team’ will focus on managing cash flow, the ‘today team’ manages operations and what to do for customers, while the ‘tomorrow team’ looks into the next step for the business including embracing, digitising and strategising new business models,” he said.Chou added it is crucial for businesses to seek tech or cloud partners that can match the businesses’ pace and consult accordingly.
On the importance of data security in the workplace, Hong noted that challenges organisations face amid digital transformation include a high surge of cyber-attacks, continuous security vulnerabilities, and lack of skilled cybersecurity personnel, among others.“Businesses need to rely on a multiple set password for an additional layer of security, be proactive in identifying and remediating risks, and conduct cybersecurity evaluation” said Hong when sharing about numerous security features Microsoft offers to organisations.Po shared about how to build an ever-ready workforce in 10 minutes, which ties down to an organisation’s resilience, agility and skills.
She said organisations can support employees by engaging effectively and ensuring their alignment, prioritise empowerment, encourage collaboration, cultivate the growth mindset, establish a culture of feedback and teach back, among others.
Learn more about Microsoft’s solutions for small and medium-sized businesses at www.microsoft.com/en-my/smb or call 1800 889 85252 from Monday to Friday - 8:30AM to 6:00PM.