Overcoming roadblocks of analog to digital

SMEs have expressed the need for help to make their digital transition. Find out how to overcome challenges that stand between effective digital adoption and their business by leaning on the right support for your journey ahead.

Overcoming roadblocks of analog to digital


Small businesses like yours face some pretty huge challenges these days. Singapore’s Small-to-Mid-Size Enterprises (SMEs) have been forced to work double-time to optimise their work spaces and processes, to better respond to the ongoing disruptive environment.

More SMEs are pinning their hopes on digitalisation, in particular. Your fellow entrepreneurs have greatly benefited from digitalising their business operations: they’ve reduced costs, standardised and automated business processes, and reduced their dependence on manpower for many repetitive tasks.

However, some roadblocks lie between SMEs and effective digital adoption. Compared to multinationals, SMEs have less time, resources and budgets to devote to learning how to grow their business or develop their staff. In a 2022 SBF survey, many SMEs expressed that they don’t feel they’re up to the job of digitalising their enterprises; 42% of Singapore SMEs report needing assistance in digitalisation.[1]

What’s impeding digitalisation progress

The apprehension about making the shift is understandable, especially if you’re in an industry that’s not heavily involved in technology, or if you have a business culture that’s not very tech-savvy.

Without the right expertise at hand, SMEs may not succeed at their digital transformation efforts: in a 2022 Microsoft survey, only two in five Singapore companies (39%) perceive their digital implementation to be successful, seeing only moderate levels of success in their digitalisation journey.[2]

The business environment, though, may give you no choice. Many SMEs find that the business environment favours those that digitalise, and also penalises businesses that don’t. In DBS’s recent Digital Readiness Survey 2021, about 94% of SMEs reported experiencing external pressure to digitalise, driven by factors such as customer demand and growing supply chain complexities.

This might put you between a rock and a hard place: for many SMEs, “the cost of adopting new technologies and the steep competition for digital talent have been impeding their progress in digital transformation” explains Joyce Tee, Group Head of SME Banking, DBS.

“For some SMEs, there also appears to be a knowledge gap or lack of confidence on exactly where to begin, so it is incredibly important for partners such as banks to not only be providing digital solutions, but also educational resources on where to start and how to progress.”

Finding the right support for digitalisation

While these roadblocks are expected, they aren’t immovable. For starters, digital adoption doesn’t have to happen wholesale: you have the freedom to adopt digital solutions incrementally, in a step-wise manner that makes the solutions work for your existing workflow, not the other way around.

To address the expertise gap, SMEs like yourself can work with partners who already have deep expertise in digitalisation. These include popular bookkeeping and HR apps that already have seamless integration with Digibanking services, and banks like DBS that have rolled out digibanking services that cater specifically to SMEs. These partners can help resolve entrepreneurs’ most common pain points through services that accompany SMEs throughout the whole cycle—from starting up and managing day-to-day operations, to growing the business and securing business financing.

Making positive changes happen

For entrepreneurs who’ve made the leap from analog to digital, the difference between both paradigms is palpable—digitalisation has made positive changes happen not too long from the shift.

For example, the F&B industry felt a significant downturn in the wake of the pandemic—and savvy entrepreneurs shifted to digital solutions to ensure survival in the face of

drastically-reduced footfalls. Asian Food Mall, a 350-seater food court located in Central Singapore, experienced a 70% drop in dine-in sales during the 2020 circuit breaker.[3]

Asian Food Mall General Manager Wong Minying then partnered with DBS to shift their operations online. The bank’s advisers walked their team through their ecommerce platform setup, even sourcing photos and videos for their new social media presence. A newly-online Asian Food Mall managed to continue operations throughout the circuit breaker, seeing a recovery in sales that has only continued since restrictions were lifted.

“When our food stalls started receiving and delivering online orders, I remembered thinking, ‘why didn't we do this earlier?’” recalls Ms. Wong.

Scaling up, and other digitalisation tips

To get from start to finish in your digitalisation journey without stumbling half-way, SMEs can follow the tips we’ve listed here.

  • Don’t be afraid to start small. Digital tools are scalable: they can be onboarded in increments, accounting for the team’s comfort level and the resources available. By starting small, you can learn as you go, and scale up the solutions in pace with your company’s growth.

  • Identify areas of your business that can benefit the most. Consider your business’ unique circumstances: are you a food business with an increasing amount of online delivery orders? Are your operational expenses outrunning your cash flow? List out your key issues, and work out your priorities in the long, medium, and short term. This will help you figure out the digital solution that works best for your needs.

  • Get staff buy-in. Your staff is absolutely critical to the success of your digitalisation. Talk to employees for their actual pain points—they may have on-the-ground insights on the challenges that need to be addressed first. This will help clarify your priorities, while also driving the benefits of digitalisation home to the rank-and-file.

  • Find support from external partners. Many SMEs lack the talent or resources to take on their digitalisation efforts by themselves. Fortunately, know-how and funding can be sourced elsewhere at a lower-than-expected cost. For example, the Singapore Government supports SME digitalisation through advisory projects like the SMEs Go Digital Programme and the Start Digital programme in partnership with DBS and other financial institutions; training initiatives like the Tech Skills Accelerator; and training subsidies through SkillsFuture.

Banks like DBS also have programmes designed specifically to support SMEs in the digitalisation journey. DBS’s digibanking, for starters, represents a comprehensive digital platform that helps SMEs access easy, collateral-free financing; manage business operations anytime and anywhere from the convenience of a single personalised screen; even open an account digitally as soon as the next business day.

Digitalisation at your pace

If you feel daunted by the idea of shifting from analog to digital in one fell swoop, don’t worry. SMEs like yours can start their digitalisation journey by gradually adopting digital banking services that can help you migrate from paper-based processes.

In no time at all, you can move from paper ledgers to running your business from your smartphone screen, with all the smart tools and solutions you need right at your fingertips. And you’ll think, as many digitalised entrepreneurs have before you, “Why didn’t we do this earlier?”