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  • Writer's pictureWilkie

The Human Factor in Digital Transformations


The dilemma; above 70% of digital transformations fail (try Google it), often due to human factors, yet businesses risk becoming obsolete if we stick to BAUs (business as usual).

The approach; even with limited resources, there are creative ways to better think and do. Success is best driven by small cumulative changes, aided by new tools and ways of working.


Digital transformations are crucial for businesses to stay competitive but above 70% of them fail, primarily due to human factors. For Singaporean SMEs to succeed in this digital age with limited resources, we must adopt human-centric approaches that prioritize understanding behavior, leveraging incremental progress and avoiding tech hype.

A majority of successful transformations, 80% of the 30%, incorporated key elements like prioritization, effective monitoring and modular technology deployment, which are all people-centric. Breaking down solutions into smaller, manageable chunks minimizes risks and allows for quicker, more effective implementation, wouldn’t you agree?

Sources: IMDA DAI Study, 2019-2021. Flipping the Odds of Digital Transformation Success, BCG, 2020

People-Centric Elements of Success
  1. Communicating simply

  2. Maintaining momentum

  3. Celebrating small victories

Each and every one of these 3 are vital for morale and guard against human tendencies to falter in the face of setbacks. Easy to assume, tough to implement. Even after securing buy-ins of those sceptics, early supporters may also lose steam or become disillusioned. SMEs especially should pilot experimental projects with proof-of-concepts (POCs) and minimum viable products (MVPs), popularized by science and tech but applicable to all industries.

Imagine baking a cake for the first time. A Proof-of-Concept is like a mini cake test run, checking if the recipe works. If successful, you move to a Minimum Viable Product – a simple, unfrosted cake to gather feedback and refine before creating the final masterpiece. POCs and MVPs help innovators test ideas efficiently and break down transformation efforts into manageable projects.

Transformation Leaders of Today

As Chief Transformation Officers (CTOs) of today, we must ‘skilfully navigate delicate situations and handle people with tact’. Use storytelling to motivate and lead a movement. To rally leaders, inspire dialogue, empower risk-takers & our fav – unite change champions for a culture of bold growth. Branding elements like good positioning and storytelling are crucial in successfully getting across the vision, objectives and expected benefits, to secure buy-ins week after week in the iterative journey.

Managing Change

Capability building and change management make up 70% of successful transformations, with IT only contributing 20% and strategy accounting for the remaining 10%. Businesses should view tech tools as a means to achieve more victories rather than the core purpose of their operations. Technology remains the HOW and not the WHY we are in business.

Businesses that resist change also risk becoming obsolete. As a case in point, 52% of Fortune 500 companies in 2000 have vanished from the list. They have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist. This sobering statistic was revealed by then Chairman and CEO of Accenture at the World Economic Forum in January of 2016.

Cool Tools and Moves of 2023

Graduation Day, Digital Growth & Innovation, BCG Office, March 2023
Graduation Day at the BCG Singapore Office, Mar’23
A First

Just last week, we graduated as the pioneering batch of the 16-week Digital Growth and Innovation (DGI) course, a collaboration between SkillsFuture Queen Bees (SFQBs) and Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) RISE for Business curriculum. It’s a dynamic mix of Zoom lectures, group discussions and presentations, providing SMEs and MNCs here with the knowledge and tools to better differentiate and compete. A seasoned, globally-travelled external consultant also recently commented, 'I've never seen such (90%) subsidies and support from any governments in the world.

Key Takeaways

• Adopting new habits and Rapid experimentation

• Clarifying opportunity spaces and Recalibrating segment-specific pricing

While balancing course commitments with day-to-day business demands can be challenging, we feel the long-term benefits of digital transformation is well worth it. We acquired good shortcuts to the necessary tools, strategies and mindset to thrive in this exciting digital age. There are lots of wisdom and expertise (usually reserved for ‘big companies’) sprinkled across the twice weekly 4-hour Zooms. We share some here.


The process of change can be a frustrating and lonely one. The DGI course embraces this challenge by nurturing a culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among participants. As fellow SME owners and professionals share their experiences, we gain valuable insights and inspiration, allowing us to make smarter decisions and learn from each other's mistakes. This sense of camaraderie and shared purpose also provides much-needed reassurance that others face similar challenges. It’s both precious and heart-warming.

SMEs at different stages of digital maturity are encouraged to embrace new approaches, redefine their vision and cultivate a strong digital mindset and agile culture. By connecting with diverse perspectives and experiences, SME owners can gain a fuller understanding of the reasons behind slow change and explore creative ways to overcome obstacles.

Networking events such as meetings at the BCG office complete the course experience. We gained diverse perspectives and further strengthen connections. Course mates include senior folks from a listed company, MNCs and President of a large association. Also, we are meeting again for a beastly Korean BBQ soon. Maybe a blog post on food next week?

Creative Approaches

The era of "business as usual" is long gone. With resource limitation, we SMEs must find and adopt creative approaches to problem-solving and growth. We also appreciate the supportive DGI community focused on collaboration, knowledge-sharing and networking. By leveraging the collective wisdom of the group, both SME owners and professionals can overcome challenges, embrace innovative solutions and drive our businesses forward.

Interesting quote: The personable Mariam Jaafar, MD and Partner at BCG gave us a little motivational nudge at our DGI graduation; “If you think small, you remain small”.

Thinking drives doing and prioritization is key, this we heard are part of BCG’s secret sauce for tackling problems. Embrace the power of digital growth to outperform your peers, but don't be afraid to ask for help or rely on others for support. That’s what we did. Embracing vulnerability in the transformative journey fosters authenticity too.

Small Steps to Big Impact

Question; “How did David win against Goliath?”

Answer; “Drastic transformation is moved by small changes.”

This came from one of our favourite slides, right at the start of the DGI course. Now we’ve a question for you too; are big boys better at small changes? It's not about size, but agility and adaptability. Access to powerful tools is available to all now, take some initiative today.

New mindset, new results.
What do you think?
Mindset Change

Adopting a mindset change, building capabilities and reducing risks through human-centric design are vital components we learnt to navigate the complex world of stakeholders and priorities. We start to adopt best practices of digital champions (proven track records) to

  1. Reframe problems and Challenge inherent beliefs

  2. Prioritize innovative solutions, to channel firepower

  3. Become both a robust change agent and dynamic facilitator

Like you, we face multiple stakeholders, often with differing interests. One good approach to align stakeholders is to co-create with them, starting with a tiny little project or POC. Find ways to celebrate small wins. The structured ways to reframe problems and challenge inherent beliefs also brought us creative approaches to apply to our business. When Starbucks was just starting out, as an SME they were concerned if;

  1. Coffee being an everyday drink, customers may not be willing to pay higher.

    1. It helps to ask; “are we asking the right question?”

  2. Once we reframe the problem it brings new perspectives.

    1. Redefining customer experience brought in long queues for Starbucks the SME.

Addressing inherent assumptions helps all of us better identify alternative solutions to old problems. When was the last time you applied creativity?

Hybrid Intelligence

Given that challenges of hiring will not go away anytime soon, we found new affordable ways to scale and automate processes using cutting-edge technologies like cloud adoption, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Capability building is crucial for success with 70% of it coming from managing change itself. With a digital-first mindset and optimization of processes, systems and products, we SMEs can then have a chance of intelligently achieving increased revenue and market share, while waiting for that dream hire.

Another precious insight is reducing risks through human-centric design and feedback loops. By implementing a customer-led approach and refining offerings based on gathered insights, we can enhance customer satisfaction and minimize potential risks. Your customers may not really want what you think they need.

Mother’s Day is coming, you think you know what Mum wants. But that surprise gift can end up in the storeroom collecting dust, just like past years. Never?

We think we know them, but our assumptions may no longer be correct. New tools and new ways help us better understand our audience. They can be low-cost and high impact too.

Embracing Change. Reaping Rewards.

Empowering Davids

Embracing disruptive technologies such as ...

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS) —— easy setup, cloud-based, pay-as-you-go

  2. No-code Platforms —— non-techie user-friendly, often drag and drop

  3. AI —— ultra efficiency, amazing shortcuts

... empower both individuals and organizations to challenge established norms and foster innovation. It can also enhance overall satisfaction for both our employees and partners. The explosion of data has also led to the development of new algorithms and AI systems that help us manage and analyze information. Industries like logistics, healthcare, media and finance stand to benefit significantly from these advancements. However, it is crucial to remain mindful of the potential risks as well.

Cloud-driven no-code platforms enable widespread adoption by making technology accessible to non-experts. These user-friendly tools have led to increased efficiency, happier employees and more robust partnerships.

Of the 6 disruptive technologies reshaping our world, Whizzard is leveraging 2 of them to raise our game. Pay-per-use, on-demand and fast deployment are some key characteristics of cloud services we really appreciate. We also started about 2 months ago to utilize no-code platforms and AI to reshape the way we work and it amazed everyone around us. (We are talented too lah of course)

The disruptive technologies of today, such as advanced processing power and robotics, have levelled the playing field for those who dare to challenge the status quo. As more Davids triumph over Goliaths, besides tech unicorns, it becomes evident that curiosity and risk-taking are driving forces in this new era of innovation. Some of us in DGI have started playing with SaaS, taking up free trials or subscribing to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and AI tools. We have started to harness the power of low-cost, high-impact technologies to drive success. Sometimes we just need a nudge to start trying. It takes about 60 days to form a new habit and we are encouraging each other to keep at it. It's like nurturing your own child's growth; encourage experiments, fail faster, learn and never give up.

Automation has clear benefits

For example, sales teams spend only 28%-33% of their time actually selling, while automation technologies from a global CRM leader save businesses over 100 billion hours every month. With the right solutions, efficiency and output quality can soar.

A lot more can be done, for digital transformation.
It's exciting times, more to come.
New Dawn

What we just shared is just the tip of the iceberg. By implementing just some from the veritable treasure trove of insights and practical guidance from DGI is already a very good start. Adopting novel approaches, enhancing capabilities and learning from the experiences of others can truly unlock achievements - soaring revenues, delighted customers and efficient operations. Change is not just a flashy move; it's an essential step toward securing a competitive edge in today's fast-paced digital world.

Like some, we started sceptical yet here we are. As Whizzard embark on the adventurous journey of 2023, we'll embrace an iterative mindset, automate processes and minimize risks through customer-centric design and feedback loops. Not forgetting the new pillars of support through alliances forged with fellow course mates as we overcome challenges. We discovered; small steps can really lead to big impact. Next step? Korean BBQ.

Digital transformation helps do things better while branding transformation helps show things better.

One provides the infrastructure and tools to deliver a better customer experience, the other ensures that the customer experience is compelling and differentiated. They’re highly interconnected and we ace the latter.

Be a friend, stay in touch, cya on Linkedin.


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