As Darwinian market forces take hold in the post-pandemic world, businesses that cannot adapt quickly to a digitized world will struggle

Despite getting through the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are still relying on offline spreadsheets and workflows, due to not digitizing basic accounting and project management processes.

One of the key reasons for this is not for lack of trying, but because businesses in Asia Pacific – especially SMEs – are unable to find the right software solution that meets their needs. High overhead costs play a large part as well.

While the majority of these businesses can engage various disparate tools and software to meet their project management, accounting, and specific industry requirements, this has often resulted in a hodgepodge of makeshift solutions.

With offline spreadsheets residing in employee computers, being shared via email, besides employing expensive in-house IT teams to custom-build software solutions to address the unique needs of each enterprise, what can organizations do to futureproof their business?

DigiconAsia asked Yoshihisa Aono, CEO, Cybozu, for his insights.

Despite getting through the COVID-19 pandemic, many firms are still not digitizing basic accounting and project management processes. What are some key challenges companies – especially SMEs – face when it comes to digitization?

Yoshihisa Aono (YA): Many SMEs have been relying on spreadsheets and analog records for their accounting and project management since well before the pandemic. One of the biggest obstacles in the way of digitization is the idea that business software solutions are too costly or require a lot of IT resources to maintain.

Another barrier is attributed to SMEs being afraid of how disruptive a new software may be, due to steep learning curves or being too complicated.

These perceived obstacles to digitization are especially damaging to adopting business software solutions, with the addition of new constraints imposed on SMEs due to the pandemic. Remote work has introduced a whole slew of efficiency challenges and management costs for organizations without digital solutions.

An example is the inability to ask a colleague for information in-person, with most companies needing employees to contact one another via email, which takes time for responses and correspondence, which in turn reduces efficiency by wasting time waiting for authorizations and information sharing.

What are some mistaken notions about digitization among Asia Pacific organizations?

YA: A lack of awareness and understanding has led many SMEs in the APAC region to believe that digitization is just about having your data and information stored within the cloud. But digitization is so much more than that – it’s not just about having a digital tool.

Digitization seeks to eliminate redundant manual tasks, organize data more efficiently, and allow for a more effective manner of sharing information and planning workflow management.

Many organizations also believe that to digitize their businesses, they require the use of the latest and most expensive technologies, which is simply not true. Digitization isn’t about what your tech can do, it is about how you use it. You don’t need to pay a fortune for complicated advanced tools that don’t give you any tangible return on investment.

Customization and usability are your best bet when digitizing your business. Having the tools to reliably and quickly do exactly what you need is the key focus when selecting the necessary customizable business software solutions for your SME.

How should organizations address their niche industry or corporate requirements in a world of blunt, ‘one-size-fits-all’ workflow management tools?

YA: This could be easily addressed by employing no-code business software. No-code business software gives users the tools to create their own customizable digital workplace platform, allowing them to organize data, workflows, conversations, and automations through custom apps housed in a centralized location for a more streamlined work experience.

The need for a customizable workflow management system becomes clear when you look into its myriad of benefits, such as eliminating redundancies, reducing errors, and increasing productivity.

Any user can easily configure a no-code platform to automate tedious and repetitive tasks by setting up initial conditions or parameters that automatically trigger a set response. If you have ever felt like you were repeatedly doing the same thing over and over, that task can most likely be automated via no-code software.

How can low-code solutions and strategies democratize workflow management software, and better meet user needs and experience?

YA: The most important factor when considering low-code solutions and strategies is that any team, even those without programming experience, will be able to create the apps they need to manage and display their project data, assigning responsibilities and key tasks to the appropriate stakeholder digitally. There is no need to rely on external IT professionals, who will also require additional training to be up to speed with the company’s projects, which leads to lower efficiency.

With the use of low-code solutions, information sharing becomes the default mode of communication. Users can protect information by setting permission barriers, and they will also have all the information they require to get their work done efficiently, without having to rely on inefficient back and forth via emails. Eliminating data silos and information bottlenecks is a huge part of democratizing workflow management.

Low-code business software solutions help organizations connect every aspect of their business, so everyone knows what’s going on. Departments can communicate more seamlessly with one another, and everyone can feel more connected regardless of whether they are at the office or working remotely. This helps to create a work environment where diverse individuals with varying workstyles can all feel included, while being a part of the organization’s broader mission.