Cohesive digital strategy needed, SMEs told

Article by The Edge Markets

Small businesses need to think long term when it comes to digitalisation efforts. If they remain fixated on technology investments on a purely piecemeal and short-term basis, there will be an opportunity cost in terms of long-term savings and efficiency gains, without them even knowing it.

This problem is further compounded by the fact that already, Malaysian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are less likely than their regional counterparts to map out a long-term and cohesive digitalisation strategy, according to InfoConnect Sdn Bhd founder and CEO Lim Tong Pheng.

“In addition to a general unwillingness to invest in technology, the abundance of cheap foreign labour has allowed business owners to become complacent and use manual labour.

“As a result of this over-reliance on foreign labour, coupled with a lack of adoption of technology, Malaysia will always remain a middle-income nation, and it will be increasingly difficult for us to catch up with our regional neighbours.”

InfoConnect was founded in 1994 as a consultancy and project management company that also sold software developed in the US. The company evolved over the years, eventually becoming a software developer in its own right, specialising in information and content management solutions.

Its flagship product, Docuflo, is a document management solution. It has since packaged this product into a cloud-based document management system called CloudD, and delivered on a subscription-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

“When evaluating your business, the first thing we tend to do is determine which aspects are causing the most amount of wasted time and resources. We’d then recommend certain solutions to streamline those processes,” Lim says.

By using a company’s paper trail as a starting point, Lim says, a business sets itself up for sustainable, cohesive, and long-term digitalisation. The ability to capture and subsequently organise that data into any number of soft copy forms immediately improves a business’ overall workflow management.

At this juncture, Lim says, he would then look to implement some form of periodic data reporting for the benefit of the leadership, such that they would have a much better overall view of business performance.

“With accurate data, the use of data analytics tools would be that much more meaningful, as businesses can then track their key performance indices (KPIs). This sort of business intelligence could even enable businesses to identify outliers that could be grown into new business opportunities,” Lim explains.

Pandemic problems

According to Lim, InfoConnect made the pivot to providing CloudD a year ago. Having already done very well by servicing clients in big business and big government, Lim decided that it was time for him to diversify and create a more budget-friendly solution for the small business community. Unfortunately, however, like many businesses, he was not spared the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic dealt a blow to our expansion plans, as it forced many businesses to become very cautious with investments into new solutions. In this regard, new projects have thus far been hard to come by, and we expect this to be the case for the near future.”

The company’s early pivot to a subscription-based pricing model, however, proved to be a masterstroke, as it meant it could continue providing document management and consultancy services on a smaller scale, and to businesses who were now extremely cost-conscious.

Our conservative approach has paid off, because since the pandemic began, we have yet to make any layoffs and in fact, are looking to expand our workforce as and when good talent comes by.”

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