Part 1: Branching into Digital Transformation for SME post-Covid 19

Part 1: Branching into Digital Transformation for SME post-Covid 19

The year 2020 has been an upheaval from the very beginning, especially in Malaysia. From the political change we experienced with a new government to the spread of a global pandemic, it has been a difficult year, to say the least.

Over the last couple of months, the phenomenon that is Covid-19 has been the most discussed topic worldwide. Not only has it taken a toll on people’s health but also on the economy. It is sad to see so many small businesses close off due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) that was imposed on 18th March 2020. Not only does it lead to economical loss but also unemployment. According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the unemployment rate has increased in an alarming rate from 3.2% (January) to 3.9% by March 2020.

Malaysian Employment infographics

We understand that these are challenging times but it’s not all doom and gloom. For now, one of the best solutions around is embracing digital transformation, especially if you’re managing or the owner of SME in Malaysia. Not only does it help revive your business, but it also offers you a chance to venture into many new marketplaces even if you have limited resources. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

This was exactly the discussion that took place on Exabyte’s SME Digitalfest 2020. The panel was lead by Jan Wong, Founder & Online Strategist of OpenMinds Resources and the panellist were industry experts Chan Kee Siak, CEO & Founder of Exabytes, Serm Teck Choon, Co-founder & CEO of Antsomi and Muhundhan Kamarapullai, Director of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

Before I further explain about all the insider tips that were given in the panel, I have to ask, do you know what digital transformation is?

Despite being a relatively new term it has certainly caught on like wildfire. Digital Transformation refers to the process of changing how you operate and deliver value to customers in terms of product and service by integrating digital technology into all aspects of the business.

Contrary to popular believe, undergoing digital transformation is not an easy task. There are a few fundamental things you need to understand before you get started. This is so that the transition process for your business is smooth and almost seamless. During the panel, when asked about the biggest struggle in digital transformation that businesses don’t realise, the panellists were quick to point 3 main points, which were:


1. The Right Tools Matter

No matter how hard you or your team works, it is undeniable that using the right applications and tools make a world of difference. It can drastically make the work process faster and better, preferably cheaper too! When it comes to digital transformation, the thing that you need to look for is making sure your workflow is more streamlined and efficient. One of the ways you can ease your business into digital transformation is starting from a management perspective. Here are some of the tools that make sure you have increased productivity with minimum wait time.


A. Easywork

Easywork is an HR solution that aims to provide ease and convenience to companies human resource management via technology. With a tool like Easywork, not only do you get to ensure your employees’ attendance and performance, it also serves as a great platform to manage their needs. Easywork has the option to streamline lengthy processes like applying for leave, claiming for commission or mileage and even visitor management, an important aspect, especially during the pandemic.

Easywork app used for digital transformation


B. Trello

Trello is probably one of the most used software across many industries, especially by non-desk employees. The software provides a great solution to communicate, operate, track time, schedule, manage workflow and files. Having files and other important information on the cloud is a very important step for any business that wants to go through digital transformation. It enables anyone in the team to access the documents and schedules as long as they have the credentials. With the Covid-19 pandemic lurking around and most people opting to work from home, a tool like Trello can be a valuable addition to your business. You can even access it with your phone via the Trello app. The best part? Since it’s a freemium service, you can access multiple services for free!

Using trello for digital trasformation


C. Freshsales CRM

CRM aka customer relationship management is an important part of any business. Now you can simplify the process better and more manageable with Freshsales CRM. Freshworks has released a more streamlined way for you to track and update your clients without having to do anything manually. You’ll be able to get full visibility into your sales pipeline, track all your deals, look into company insights as well as get reports. They also have useful tools to help your sales team save time.
Freshsales CRM in Digital transformation


2. Take One Step at a Time

A crucial part of digital transformation is understanding that implementing a new form of technology to your business will take time and energy. One of the best analogy for this was given by Chan Kee Siak during the panel discussion; digital transformation is like swimming. You have to start with a pool before jumping into the ocean. Get to know the industry that you’re in well. Identify what is the plan for your business and what would you like to achieve short term.

This applies to marketing too. As Serm Teck Choon said in the panel, marketing plays a very important role in digital transformation in terms of customer experience. The business owners and management need to always refer back to your company vision and mission in order to achieve your goals. For example, if you’ve always done Facebook Ads for your business, why not start experimenting with Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads. It will help you a great deal in identifying new potential customers and broaden your horizon.

linkedin ads on various devices

Here’s a quick check list of things you need to consider before easing your business into digital transformation:

  • Find out your online competitors
  • Have a short term and a long term plan for your business
  • Pay attention to what your customers search online
  • Make your domain name easily recognisable
  • Have a comprehensive email list to spread the word
  • Which platform is the best way to reach your customer
  • Have a clear communication flow
  • Ensure the website is well maintained

Some of these things might seem redundant at first but you’ll thank us later when you have a smoother business flow that gives you a head start.


3. Focus on Your Team

As simple as this sounds, one of the vital parts of your business are your employees. Your team needs to understand what digital transformation tools you need, when should it be applied and why is it the next best step for your business. It is undeniable that you and your team should get to know the industry first before investing in a tool. This not only helps you to save cost, but it also ensures that you make a reasonable decision that helps advance your business.

For your team to assimilate to the new transformation, start implementing one or two tools first.
As the management, there are instances where you might feel pressured by competitors and their advancements, but industry experts in the panel emphasised on taking baby steps when you’re first starting out. This way, you get to focus on your own business goals and help your team not feel overwhelmed.

Remember to set correct expectations for you and your team. Identify what is the ROI or metrics for digital transformation and how you can measure the effectiveness of your efforts. One thing to realise, if you are already breaking even in the first year of transformation, its already considered a good thing. In some instances, the tools that you implement is not even about the ROI but focuses on other aspects like saving time or manpower, for example it could be something as simple as helping the HR team to change from spreadsheet to cloud payroll.

We understand there are a lot of factors to consider when you’re planning digital transformation for your business. Ponder on it and examine each possibility well. If you’ve already thought about what sort of digital transformation your company needs but you do not have the resources for it, don’t worry! Take a look at Part 2 of Digital Transformation where we explore more government and private funding options for your business.

Want to watch the panel? Check it out on youtube!


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