Covid – 19 has had an irreversible impact on the world. This extends to the realm of business. Savings, operations and cash flow were interrupted all over the world in 2020. The aftershocks continue on and can be felt in 2021 as well. Singapore wasn’t spared of this wave either. According to expert estimates, the economy of Singapore contracted to a record 41.2% in mid-2020 alone. Businesses of all scale were affected but small and medium businesses especially bore the brunt of this contraction. What sets apart the businesses that managed to stay afloat? Some even flourished despite all odds. The answer lies in technology. More specifically, Information Technology (IT). A close analysis shows that businesses which successfully integrated the use of IT into their model were able mitigate the impact of a shrinking market. Having said that, what does integration mean? How does one even go about determining the right technology? Read on to answer these questions.
WHY BOTHER WITH ‘I.T.’?
Simply put, IT is tech that helps increase the efficiency of any process. All the way from cutting down on costs to getting a better understanding and running of business components. Ever since digitalization took over the market, data based decision making has proven its worth. Relying on quantifiable data is proven to decrease mistakes and inefficiencies by a significant margin. This coupled with digitalization helps streamline jarring and time consuming processes, leaving managers and decision makers more time to focus on the bigger picture. What is the ultimate prize for this? Cost reduction!
Apart from cost, the second biggest hurdle businesses faced was having their customers quarantined away from the physical market space. Not only did this lead to a drop in sales but also limited business to customer interaction. A two-fold disadvantage. Many businesses with an active customer traction suddenly found themselves without any foot traffic overnight. In early 2020, the trade and industry ministry of Singapore forecasted a degradation in business growth to between -0.5% to 1,5%. A possible recession was also hinted at. This downgrade came from an initial projection of 2.5%. The retail sector and F&B were the hardest hit, with sales in certain business areas going down by 80%. One can imagine the hit this would have taken on their savings and running expense budget. The businesses that were able to survive this shock were the ones who managed to maintain a connection with their customers virtually. They utilized IT systems that helped them interact with their existing customer base whilst actively attracting newer potential customers. All this while the physical market was shut close.
Similar to maintaining an affinity with the customers, keeping the business operations running is vital as well. Covid hampered the running of businesses by affecting employees, services available due to work from home conditions and lack of office related resources that optimize work output. Under these circumstances many businesses witnessed routine errors and delay in reaching work goals. Companies were able to mitigate this by employing integrated IT operation within their operation. This means many of the traditional services like back office administration, Human Resources roles, accounting were done by specialized software.
Taking from all that, IT within the business context can further be simplified and viewed as a variety of utility software that helps run crucial business functions.
SO WHAT SOFTWARE?
Most businesses across the globe used two distinct software categories to tackle the aforementioned grievances. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning).
CRM is a tool widely used by company’s worldwide, to streamline the business processes from marketing to sales to customer service. It is currently estimated that CRM generated revenue will be more than 80 million dollars by 2050 (globally). In other words, it is now an indispensable utility. It is the one stop solution to manage the customer interaction while integrating it with reliable data based analysis. The benefits include and are not limited to:
Ø Reliable Data collection
Customer relationship deals with a tremendous amount of data. Whether it be customer logs, content generation, sales data etc. CRM helps reliable store and analyze that data while minimizing errors by incredible margins.
Ø Constant Communication
This is the most obvious benefit. The interface and database allows the business to keep in constant touch with its customers. This includes keeping a tab on their live feedback and potential interests. Even if a Covid like pandemic has them shut in. For instance, clients can be mass communicated with without wasting much time, based on category and lists.
Ø Streamlined process
WIth CRM implemented, it becomes much easier for the business to streamline and standardize its methodologies involving customer relation management. For example, the company does not have to spend wasteful time trying to familiarize new sales staff with client history.
With a digitized database, it becomes almost impossible for businesses to overlook potential opportunities with customers and services that can help grow the business and make it profitable.
The best way to grasp the concept of ERP is to think about the different processes in a business – HR, Marketing, Finance etc. ERP is basically a software that efficiently integrates all these processes into a single system. These different systems are operated on a shared database. Many modern ERP systems are also integrated with AI that make the process even more dynamic and efficient. Its benefits include:
Ø Increased Efficiency:
Digitalization and unification of the business processes under a singular system means that the risk of error diminishes and more reliable results are produced.
Ø Access to specialized skills:
ERP gives SME’s access to high level competencies like specialized accounting capability at a cheaper cost. This both saves money as well as provides a competitive edge to the business. This is crucial in a post/ current Covid environment when the workforce is locked in place and cost effectiveness is a priority.
Ø Manageable Workforce:
Due to an integrated system taking care of the many business processes, the business benefits from a reduced manpower that is more manageable. Redundant roles are done away with.
Ø Manageable growth:
After experiencing reduced costs and manageable operation, the business experiences an increase in its potential to grow while decreasing its operating costs. Growth is good but only profitable if it is managed well. An integrated system like ERP enables such management.
The Singapore Advantage!
If you are a business, then you have the ‘Singapore Advantage’. The Government offers grants that are put in place specifically to support SME’s based within Singapore to integrate their business with IT. At this point it is quite clear that IT integration is the next step to running an effective business. Covid has simply shown its inevitability and reliability. Added to this is a pro technology government initiative in the form of grants. This all culminates into an environment where it’s not a question of ‘IF’ but ‘WHEN’ businesses will make the most of this opportunity to keep a competitive edge in an ever changing market.