A small poll has pointed to optimism about resilience but also a lack of focus on a data-driven innovation culture.

In an August 2020 online poll of 103 companies in Singapore, businesses were fairly confident about their ability to survive the next global disruption.

The 108 management-level respondents cited that their organizations’ digital transformation (DX) initiatives were largely on track, amidst government efforts to support and strengthen the country’s economy and resilience.

Despite ongoing economic pressures, only 22% of respondents planned to reduce their DX budgets. Security across all aspects of DX initiatives proved to be one of the biggest challenges faced, with 70% of respondents citing data security as their top IT priority.

However, even as companies reshuffle their priorities ahead to include remote-working and collaboration needs, the importance of fostering a data-driven or innovation culture ranked near the bottom of the small poll.

According to Motohiko Uno, President, Fujitsu Asia, which commissioned the survey: “The pandemic spotlighted DX’s role as a necessity to help organizations stay resilient in the face of major disruptions, and the importance of safe-guarding the security aspect of data, networks and cloud platforms. Yet the future-proofing of businesses goes far beyond protocols and technology—organizations need to transform in ways that ensure that both employees and customers trust the outcome, a key pillar in successful DX strategies.”

Key findings

  • DX budgets
    Respondents were optimistic of the post-COVID era, with 84% rating their preparedness level at 6 and above (out of 10), and close to half (47%) rated it between 8 and 10.

    Digital transformation initiatives remained on track. When COVID-19 impacted their operations, 22% saw a reduction in their IT/DX budgets, and one in three kept their budgets unchanged. To support their DX operations, one quarter increased their in-house initiatives, while 13% tapped more often on the expertise of third-party vendors.

    The banking sector was most likely to be in-sourcing its digital initiatives (61%). The engineering sector reported the greatest increase, with one in three respondents saying that they were in-sourcing their DX initiatives more than they were before, even as they experienced the most budget cuts (50%). The education sector was ‘most likely’ to maintain their IT/DX budgets (42%), while the public sector was ‘most likely’ to report a budget increase (50%).
  • Security across all aspects
    Many respondents (70%) cited data security as their top priority, followed by network security (48%) and cloud security (44%).

    Businesses were already investing in cloud capabilities even before the disruption brought about by the pandemic. Zooming in on cloud strategies (an essential part of DX initiatives), respondents shared that their top cloud investment focus priority was “just getting on the cloud” (29%). The survey also found that 22% of businesses were allocating resources and budget to cloud security.
  • Pain points
    The two most-cited challenges for the onset of the pandemic were collaboration (26%) and security (23%). The education sector’s main pain point proved to be collaboration (42%). One in two respondents in the healthcare sector cited collaboration as their biggest IT challenge, as they coped with the workload at the frontlines. For the transportation sector, its primary IT challenge was external communication (33%).

    Businesses also shared the three biggest challenges they faced in building resilience into their businesses: workflow and process complexity (almost 53%), security (49%) and resiliency (37%).

    Two in three respondents (67%) in the education verticals named workflow and process complexity as their biggest resilience headache, in line with the overall findings. For banking, the main challenge is security (67%), and company culture (67%) for the healthcare sector.

A disruption-ready future?

Since the start of the pandemic, businesses have placed a high priority on two key areas in terms of resilience: minimizing downtime to maintain maximum availability to customers; and adapting the business model to the reality of any lockdown and social-distancing measures. Respondents also placed a higher priority on maintaining or increasing productivity among staff, compared to promoting optimism or maintaining headcount stability.

Respondents cited that, moving forward, remote-working (55%), better business continuity planning (41%) and collaboration (40%) were their top three priorities in future-proofing themselves against the next COVID-level disruption.

Respondents ranked the need to foster a data-driven or innovation culture on a low priority, even though they may know that successful DX initiatives are often a result of combining technological, structural and cultural transformation.