Digital transformation: Is your company taking the right road?

Greg Unsworth Digital Business Leader, PwC Singapore 18 November, 2020

A digital-first strategy is key to securing the future of businesses in the new world, and the missing piece in the minds of today’s business leaders is the skills needed to become digital-first. Beyond embracing new technologies, developing the right digital and leadership capabilities is essential for new workforce models for the future.

This article was contributed to and first published in The Business Times on 18 November 2020.

BUSINESSES have been actively embracing digital transformation over the past few years, pouring in billions of dollars, yet nearly 70 per cent of all initiatives aren't reaching their goals. An IDC analysis released earlier this year estimated that of the US$1.3 trillion that organisations spent on digital transformation in 2018, more than US$900 billion went to waste. The moot question is, what can businesses do to course-correct their digital transformation journey?

The good news is technology has moved from being a siloed back office function to the centre of boardroom and management discussions. But, the real difference between technology implementation and digital-first-mindset-led business strategies remain unclear to many. Integration of digital initiatives with the overall business strategies remain unaccomplished. Most businesses aren't yet able to effectively communicate their digital transformation vision and plans, to generate buy-in across all layers of the organisation.

And, when Covid-19 struck, cutting both ways, businesses were pushed to face new challenges and make big decisions about newly-created opportunities, forcing the crux of the issue to the fore. Business leaders and organisations found themselves searching for the necessary digital acumen and skills at all levels, to not only comprehend the dynamics of potential digital world risk, but also prepare their teams for the future.

But, whenever skills are discussed, many tend to look at it as just "training", and that creates a weakness in any digital transformation strategy. Historically, much of the digital upskilling responsibility has been on individuals. Although there are various government programmes to support skills development, businesses need to do more to upskill their employees across the entire organisation, such as through broadbased upskilling programmes on a larger scale. For example, at PwC Singapore, digital upskilling was rolled out to every individual, regardless of function or grade. Although not everyone is able to immediately apply all of these skills extensively, their perspectives and knowledge have now been broadened. This provides the confidence and the right mindset for continuous progression and development of new skills and capabilities.


Many at PwC Singapore have started to envision how data visualisation, data analytics and automation can be incorporated into their everyday work for increased productivity, for instance. This has sparked new ideas on the ground, and these ideas have resulted in new innovative solutions being deployed across all our business functions.

Organisations leading the way with workforce development for the new world are achieving competitive advantage, and building resilient business models. Many are taking a holistic approach by starting with the business vision, and deploying specific digital solutions and programmes to support this vision. Importantly, they are also bringing their teams along and enabling them through technology.This approach not only allays fear that some employees may have around their jobs being replaced by technology, but also brings each employee along the growth and transformation journey so that they can develop and grow in tandem with the organisation with a keen understanding on how their evolution plays a part in the wider organisational success.

A digital-first mindset, culture, strategy is at the heart of successful digital transformation. It is about reimagining what is possible, and providing a conducive environment and culture for leaders and employees to innovate, and build for the future. It requires a clear tone from the top where leaders embrace the digital transformation journey, and are prepared to invest in the skills, tools and resources for their workforce to succeed.

The writer is digital business leader at PwC Singapore.

New World. New Singapore

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Singapore has stayed anchored to its ‘Smart Nation’ vision, while encouraging world class infrastructure development and digital adoption by organisations as well as the wider society. It’s vital for Singapore to retain its leadership as a regional hub, more so at a time when the World Bank expects the global economy to shrink by 5.2% during the year, representing the deepest recession since the Second World War.

The key enablers to realise Singapore’s longer-term ‘Smart Nation’ ambitions include:

  • Developing further e-government services for citizens and businesses alike
  • Strengthening digital policy, regulations and technology adoption support for businesses and society
  • Developing and enhancing digital and data platforms for sharing, collaboration and innovation
  • Encouraging operationally resilient, reliable and secure systems
  • Enhancing broader digital capabilities and encouraging entrepreneurship
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