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Singapore SMBs most 'digitally mature' in region: Cisco

Top digital technology that firms in Singapore are investing in is cybersecurity, followed by cloud technology and analytics

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Small and medium businesses (SMB) in Singapore are the most digitally mature in the Asia-Pacific region, ahead of peers in countries such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, according to a new index by Cisco.

Singapore

SMALL and medium businesses (SMB) in Singapore are the most digitally mature in the Asia-Pacific region, ahead of peers in countries such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, according to a new index by Cisco.

This is based on an assessment of firms' digital maturity in four areas: technology adoption and application; digital transformation strategy and organisation; processes and governance; and talent.

The APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index was developed by research firm IDC based on a survey with 1,340 respondents from 14 economies. It found that more than 60 per cent of SMBs in Asia-Pacific have started to embrace digitalisation.

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Singapore's firms were classified as being in the "digital observer" stage, the second out of four stages.

Cisco described this stage as one where "digital efforts have started but remain tactical"; initiatives are bite-sized; firms are focused on automation; technology investments are siloed; strategies are not well-coordinated; and some cloud resources are used.

The top digital technology that firms in Singapore are investing in is cybersecurity, cited by 16.7 per cent of respondents. Second was cloud technology, named by 12.9 per cent, followed by analytics at 11.2 per cent.

As for obstacles to digital transformation, the two most common hurdles were a lack of digital skills and talent, and a lack of insight into operational and customer data, each cited by 16.7 per cent of respondents.

Coming third at 13.1 per cent was a "lack of perceived value for digital transformation" in respondents' own industries.

"To get ahead, SMBs need to be more savvy with government initiatives that have been set up to support them," said Cisco Singapore managing director Tay Bee Kheng. Cisco is developing a pipeline of digital talent for the industry via its Cisco Networking Academy, he added.

The survey found that 41.4 per cent of respondents in Singapore are aware of government initiatives that support SMB digitalisation and have benefited from them. Another 52.9 per cent are aware but have not taken part in these programmes.

Bidhan Roy, Cisco's Asean regional director and general manager of SMB markets and distribution, said: "The exceptional enabling environment in Singapore for innovation and digital transformation, combined with modern, upgradeable infrastructure, means that SMBs can readily take advantage of new innovations as they become available."

The report's recommendations for small firms in Singapore include: having a clear digital transformation strategy and roadmap; finding digital champions in the organisation; and finding technology partners.