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How Singtel and Dell are approaching digital transformation

Singtel employees are learning to create their own robotic process automation-powered bots while Dell has speeded up application development from months to weeks

Having employees create their own bots and mobile applications for sales teams to access customer information while on the go are among the outcomes of digital transformation initiatives undertaken by two enterprises that shared their experiences at IDC’s Digital Transformation Summit 2019 in Singapore today.

During a panel discussion, Mak Chin Wah, senior director for datacentre and compute at Dell Technologies South Asia, said the company’s MySales mobile app, used by its sales teams to gather information about customers, was developed as part of a drive to modernise its internal applications.

In tracking the success of those efforts, Dell uses scorecards with indicators such as the time to develop an application, said Mak, adding that the company has slashed the time it takes to release applications from four months to two weeks.

Mak said the number of applications has increased from more than 600 during the first quarter of 2018 to 4,500 in the first quarter this year.

At the same time, Mak said Dell has been laying the technology foundation to support new applications, which are increasingly being developed as microservices and containerised, as well as traditional legacy software.

“We also started moving applications to our private cloud, and to enable a consistent experience and operations model across multiple public cloud services,” he said. “With our cloud infrastructure, we now have the ability to run applications on any cloud and device.”

Deploying applications is also speedier than before. It used to take 12 days to provision an application, said Mak, but now it takes 30 minutes. “The cost to serve also dropped 20% last year and will drop by another 20%, enabling us to invest in modern applications,” he added.

However, Yuen Kuan Moon, CEO of Singtel’s consumer group and chief digital officer, said digital transformation initiatives should be extended to all employees, beyond those working in IT.

“Everyone needs to embrace digital transformation, and it is difficult at all levels, including junior staff and senior leaders,” said Yuen. “Bosses also need to know how to measure the performance of their staff working in agile squads, and to integrate them back into the organisation.”

To involve all rank-and-file workers in digital transformation, Singtel rolled out a programme about six months ago to teach employees how to create their own robotic process automation (RPA)-powered bots to improve their productivity.

Read more about digital transformation in APAC

“That got everyone excited and there were people who wanted their own bots to apply for leave and request meetings,” said Yuen. “A 60-year-old HR executive who has been with Singtel for over 40 years built a bot for herself in two days.

“It used to take her up to seven hours a week to create a report for her manager, but now it takes just one minute. That got the whole organisation excited about digital transformation on a personal level.”

To ease fears about job losses arising from automation, Yuen said that instead of replacing call centre agents with chatbots, Singtel is deploying its best call centre agents to train chatbots to be as good as them.

“They are now the creators of the bots, and this helps them to overcome the fear that bots are taking over their jobs,” he said.

Enterprises across Asia-Pacific have been doubling down on digital transformation in recent years, primarily to improve employee productivity, streamline operations and improve customer experience.

Those were the top three drivers of digital transformation in the region, propelling enterprises to spend more to refresh their on-premise infrastructure, as well as artificial intelligence and automation to shore up productivity, according to the 2019 Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT Priorities survey.

According to the study, 42% of nearly 1,000 IT decision-makers in the region said they were looking to upgrade their IT infrastructure to support digital transformation initiatives, while 35% expected to harness technologies that improve employee experience and productivity.

Read more on Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics

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