Not All Malaysian Organisations Are Racing to Digitally Transform Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Only one-quarter of Malaysian organisations have accelerated their digital transformation journey due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by Workday. Interestingly, enterprise technology for human resources and finance also reported that 60% of organisations have also slowed down their transformation progress.

The study titled the “Workday Digital Agility Index”, was conducted in partnership with IDC, a global technology market intelligence company and surveyed nearly 900 senior business leaders and C-suite executives in HR, finance and IT across nine markets in Asia Pacific. The findings provide a comprehensive analysis of digital agility in the leading Asia Pacific organisations in the wake of COVID-19.

In a virtual briefing with journalists, Rob Wells, President for Workday Asia, said, “Recent events have brought into focus the importance for businesses be digitally agile. Without the right technological backbone, organisations can no longer move quickly to adapt to rapid change”.

He added that most companies this year have had to make significant changes to their financial and human resourcing plans. Workday’s research shows offline processes have hampered this. Rob hopes the study will encourage more leaders to think seriously about how they approach digital transformation and invest for the sake of the long-term health of their organisations and workforces.

On the results of the study, Rob pointed out that most organisations seemed to have struggled to adapt to the new normal during the pandemic. Owing to a lack of digital agility, 90% have struggled to make changes to their financial plans for the year, with 83% unable to realign their organisational structures.

In terms of people and processes, almost four in five organisations have been unable to track their people’s skillsets to form special task forces in response to the pandemic and more than half were not able to manage new approval and business processes. When asked which areas of their business are hit the hardest, Malaysian organisations identified customer engagement (65%), the workplace (52%) and the human resources function (38%).

At the same time, the study also revealed that Singapore and Thailand are ahead of Malaysia in their digital transformation. While all the CIOs surveyed agree that digital technology was used for their business continuity plans, 24% of them are now in the process of reprioritisation. This is because a large chunk (75%) of the organisations surveyed found their processes are not fully adaptive and agile.

A shortfall of digital skills has proven to be a significant barrier for organisations in faring better with digital agility amid COVID-19. Two-thirds (69%) of Malaysian organisations lack an enterprise-wide culture of agility. 67% of organisations also say that less than half of their people are equipped with digital skills and capabilities. A staggering 13% say that they have almost no employees with digital experience or skills.

The lack of digital expertise may be due to a prevailing mindset within Malaysian organisations of not viewing talent as a source of competitive advantage and therefore not investing in finding and nurturing it. 79% of Malaysian organisations do not see talent as an important strategic asset and lack the proper tools and processes to manage it. This mindset also has a spill-over effect on organisations’ employee experiences. Less than half (42%) see the employee experience as an essential consideration in their decision-making.

The most important areas of focus for Malaysian organisations in their digital transformation plans for the next 12 to 18 months are front-end revenue-generating systems (60%), back-end finance systems (52%) and front-end customer touchpoints (50%). However, these focus areas are relatively evenly spread with the least important being front-end customer service systems (48%) and back-end HR systems (33%).

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