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Nearly one in five Singapore business leaders bypassing IT

Frustrated with IT departments, business leaders are now taking technology matters into their own hands

Almost one in five business leaders in Singapore are bypassing their IT departments to make technology purchases at their own discretion, underscoring the growing chasm between business and IT across organisations in the city-state.

A number of business leaders said their IT departments have not listened to them, leading them to go ahead to take charge of their own technology needs, either independently or in collaboration with IT.

These were some of the findings from a 2016 survey commissioned by Fujitsu, which found that the key technology-related frustrations felt by Singapore’s business leaders were connectivity, manual processes, understanding needs and supporting or enabling the use of new technologies.

On the upside, the survey shows that Singapore’s business leaders understand the benefits that technology can bring to their organisations – real-time access to accurate information, achieving goals efficiently and spending less time on manual tasks – though they have yet to take full advantage of them.

Finance leaders, in particular, want always-on access to data, while marketing leaders want to use digital technologies to provide better customer experiences and react more quickly to rivals. The technologies include online and contactless payments, Mobile wallets and location-based services, along with artificial intelligence and internet of things.

One in two Singapore business leaders also revealed that their organisation has a digital transformation initiative in place, albeit a less mature one. According to the survey, less than 40% think their organisation’s strategy regarding technology as it relates to their role is mature.

Some 500 business leaders in Singapore participated in the survey conducted by Tech Research Asia (TRA), representing organisations with more than 100 employees working in sales and marketing, operations, human resource and finance. Some 42% of organisations have more than 500 employees.

Wong Heng Chew, country president at Fujitsu Singapore, noted that with business leaders welcoming digital transformation, even going so far as to take a more active role on IT decisions, IT departments should collaborate more closely with business units to maximise the value of IT and fulfil organisational goals.

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Trevor Clarke, TRA’s Asia Pacific research director, agreed. “It’s clear Singapore’s business leaders think digital is the way of business today and in future. They know what it can do for them personally and their organisations – and they like it,” he said.

“Notably, they will increasingly have influence and control over IT investments and outcomes. This is true for both core technologies and systems, as it is for emerging tech,” he added.

“This isn’t ‘Shadow IT’. It’s just business and IT leaders need to step up and collaborate. That won’t be easy, but communication and cultural change is an imperative for future success.”

Indeed, driving change has been a key barrier in digital transformation efforts in the Asia-Pacific region.

At an industry event organised by SAP in March 2017, MSIG Singapore’s CEO Michael Gourlay pointed out that one of the insurer’s biggest challenges was to convince agents that it was not cutting out intermediaries by selling directly to consumers through digital platforms.

“It has taken us a long time to work together with them to provide a platform they need to serve their customers,” he said, noting that such efforts are still ongoing.

According to Gartner, IT head honchos in Southeast Asia will spend 2.2% more in 2017, mostly on digital initiatives aimed at transforming their businesses.

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