Mr Lee Tze Shiong
Transformation and Quality & Principal, Assuranceleetzeshiong@nexiats.com.sg
In the current business environment, “change” is a “constant” and with rapid adoption of technology, business owners are no longer able to be working in their comfort zone and execute their operations without taking into consideration the changing demands from customers, vendors, business partners, stakeholders and their employees.
Before embarking on any transformation journey, business leaders need to have a clear vision for the organisation. Taking the lead in corporate social responsibility and be at the forefront of technological advancement and digitalisation are some common priorities of top management today. Setting a vision requires involvement of mid-management and engagement from all levels of staff. Having their buy-in and support in embracing change will ensure a smooth transition. All these require careful planning and to ensure successful change management, external consultants are usually engaged by management to help them manage the process, including setting goals and key performance indicators which should be aligned to the strategic direction of the organisation. Business leaders need to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in order to create self-awareness. With the knowledge and thereafter deploying the right expertise to rectify the root causes of problems, the organisation is then able to manage its’ operational, financial, human capital and technological risks effectively when it embarks on its transformation journey.
It is not uncommon to hear about departments working in silos and whilst department heads might be motivated to work towards achieving the departments’ goals, the actions and behaviours of each department may not be in the best interest and aligned to that of the organisation’s goal. An example of how this could happen is in a shared resources arrangement when one department is not willing to release its unutilised resources to another department which urgently needs the same resources. This may lead to sub-optimum use of the organisation’s resources leading to higher overheads to be incurred and potential service delivery issue. Hence, individuals or departments which used to work in “closed doors”, especially in circumstance when the goals of individuals do not coincide with that of the organisation, should change their behaviours and work beyond their boundaries to derive synergy in achieving the organisation’s goals.
For business transformation to succeed there is a need to integrate various functions within an organisation and re-engineer the processes to drive new values which will then allow it to re-orientate to be more agile and adaptable to change. Whenever there is a change involving adoption of technology and replacing human on repetitive tasks, it is essential for management to engage the employees affected in alleviating their fear of threats, re-orientate their mind set and provide opportunity to train them with new skillsets.
Harnessing technology to make the business processes more efficient and resilient in times of disruption is unavoidable. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are increasingly being used in labour intensive industry.
RPAs or business process automation is not just about replacing paper with electronic version. Its objectives are to streamline the processes to be more efficient, transparent, and consistent in the deliverables thus less prone to human errors.
Business transformation also means having innovative ways of overcoming various challenges faced by the organisation, which include talent recruitment and retention, resource allocation and effective project management. With changing expectations of Gen Z and the millennials, traditional job scopes such as preparation of financial statements, accounts reconciliations, filing and proof reading of documents are no longer tasks which they aspire to perform on a day-to-day routine. Such menial chores could now be performed by machines with the use of AI and RPA. With rising labour and overhead costs, accounting firms are also turning to offshoring the tasks which require less training and professional skills to lower cost jurisdictions. With digitalisation and availability of cross border communication tools, the use of AI and offshoring, staff could now be re-channelled to perform strategic tasks requiring judgements and analytical skills.
With rising office overheads and the need to adopt in technology, relocating offices to one with smaller space but channelling the investment to upgrade on IT infrastructure is essential. The interior design trend for newer offices is usually an open-space concept with minimal partitions. This open workspace concept facilitates interaction amongst staff and alleviates the problems of departments working in silos as it creates transparency and visibility of staff working in different departments.
Huge storage areas occupied by compactus and paper files are now replaced by modern office designs with cosy corners for staff to interact and have a chat over coffee. Physical space required for storage is now replaced by electronic storage catered by a more sophisticated IT system which facilitates filing and retrieval of information. With the need to digitalise, going paperless and keeping clean desks with hot-desking system are the ways forward.
With increasing use of mobile apps, being able to perform tasks such as office expense claims, leave application and perform e-learning from the phones are the preferred mode by most employees. With the ability to access the office system remotely, employees no longer need to be desk bound and they could perform their office tasks anywhere, anytime and hopefully they could spend more efficient time performing their core tasks when they are back in the office.
As business process transformation is a huge paradigm shift to most small to medium sized enterprises, the challenges faced by management such as lack of resources and expertise to cope with the technological changes, inability to retain appropriate talent pool and having to effectively manage the change management cannot be underestimated.
Whilst there may be resistance and scepticism from the staff and stakeholders on any business transformation, once the strategic direction of the organisation and benefits are clearly communicated and the concerns of the staff properly addressed, the negativity in morale could be turned into a positive energy which will propel the organisation towards the next level of growth.
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