The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1986 for entrepreneurs. With a wide array of services and programmes, ASME plays a vital role in the Singapore businesses landscape by equipping members with the business knowledge and market opportunities to help them grow their businesses.

We speak with the Vice President of Strategies, Development and Digitalisation - Yuit Ang - on the different aspects of the digitalisation process and key things for SMEs to consider along the way.

Tell me more about yourself, ASME and your role at ASME?

I’m the Vice President of Strategies, Development and Digitalisation at the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) in Singapore. My role in ASME is to drive the digitalisation of the association.

ASME functions as an advocate for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) matters in Singapore. We form a bridge between SMEs and the government. We communicate information from the government to SMEs and we also advocate for the needs of SMEs to the government so that we can promote an environment that fosters the growth and development of SMEs in Singapore.

What are some challenges you have faced with the digitalisation process?

For us, the challenge with digitalisation was really going against what people were used to doing. Oftentimes, when you look at introducing new ways of doing things, the resistance stems from a change in an existing workflow. With digitalisation, on top of changing workflows, it also requires people to pick up new skills, and this creates a compounding challenge for people as a result.

What advice would you give to businesses whose staff are facing that compounded challenge on how they can tackle digitalisation effectively?

First and foremost, the key stakeholders initiating the change have to own the process and clearly articulate their motivations behind wanting to undergo digital transformation.

Secondly, an honest conversation needs to happen with stakeholders and staff around what the boundaries of success and failure are with the adoption of a new digital solution. What if it fails? What if something doesn’t work out? Doing so will help businesses measure the success of digital transformation appropriately with realistic expectations.

Once you have buy-in from stakeholders and have addressed concerns, then perseverance to see the change through becomes very important. Oftentimes, these changes end up only progressing halfway because SME owners have a lot of other tasks that require attention. You can never tackle everything at the same time, so my suggestion is to carve out what you want to achieve into little bite sized steps, celebrate the small wins, and allow that to gain momentum to help you persevere through the change.

What are some steps SMEs can take to remain competitive in the digital economy?

SMEs need to look at the direction of where digitalisation is headed, and how they can leverage on the digitalisation process. One of the places they could look at is how they can disrupt either their own industry or their own processes for the better with digitalisation.

Within their organisation they can also look at leveraging on digitalisation to reduce manpower or to restructure roles within their businesses so that staff can move on to higher value work. Many workers fear digitalisation because they don't see the relevance of how their knowledge can cross over into the digital world, and they end up thinking their experience is rendered useless. Actually it’s not, you can meld experience and technology together to contribute so much more, plus it helps in your own personal development as well.

How can accountants and other service providers utilise automation to thrive? 

Overall, technology enables you to provide higher value work to your clients. Service providers need to look at helping SMEs perform better by playing a significant role in helping SMEs look forward instead of just alleviating their operational admin work.

Once you start looking at the relationship with your clients as one that helps your clients anticipate hurdles and take action before the bus hits them - that’s a lot more value you can add to your services.

Why is it important for accountants and service providers to have the right technology stack? 

More and more industries are going to have software as an integral part of their business, whether you’re a service provider or a product company. So looking at your own technology stack, and evaluating what is the most suitable technology for you is a natural part of that progression that moves you towards using technology to enable you to provide better service, and better value to your customers.

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