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By James Henderson
As new technologies flood the market in Malaysia, consumed by a new generation of workers, businesses are facing a productivity balancing act.
Technology leaders are today tasked with creating an environment designed to improve employee engagement and experience, in addition to improved security and cost considerations.
Whether it is for productivity or recruitment purposes, technology plays a pivotal role in both the workplace and the workforce, placing new demands on businesses.
According to Citrix senior director of pre-sales across Asia-Pacific and Japan, Aaron Mowbray, the success of digital workplaces centre on the ability to marry technology capabilities with human expectations.
“Putting the employee at the centre of the experience is key to improved satisfaction, engagement and ultimately retention,” he said. “However, a world with too many applications, not enough usage and constant switching between environments impacts getting into the flow of work and ultimately your ability to produce.”
Citing Chevron Phillips as a case in point, Mowbray said the chemical company’s workspace strategy puts the employee at the centre of IT delivery.
By adopting unified and personalised digital workspaces, Chevron Phillips has provided more than 5000 global employees with the technology they want to use to get work done “anywhere in the world, on any device, at any time”.
“The payoff in this instance is improved employee experience and increased productivity,” Mowbray said.
As outlined by IDC, digitalisation across Malaysia is expected to drive an estimated $US82 billion in IT-related spending from 2019 through to 2022, catalysed by the adoption of emerging technologies.
Such investment is evident in the Malaya’s Budget 2019 which focuses on Industry 4.0 – under the banner of Industry4WRD – which is designed to help businesses rapidly adopt leading edge technologies.
“The adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence [AI], robotics and the Internet of Things [IoT] has enabled businesses across industries in Malaysia to start realising the desired outcomes such as improved customer experience, better workforce efficiency, new revenue streams and business models, but the number of success stories are still small compared to other matured digital economies,” IDC senior research manager of ASEAN , Baseer Siddiqui, said.
In Malaysia, BP is preparing internally to capitalise on the potential of digital technologies, driven through a transformation of the workforce.
“We are building a ‘digital workforce’,” BP head of IT service operations, Kurt Bergmans, said. “This is a workforce that is empowered to make decisions within its area of expertise and is working in an agile and customer focused way.
“This is a workforce that is open to continuously learning new technologies and skills and is also able to work in small teams on products and services that add value to our business and customers. Technology plays a big role in enabling this digital workforce to collaborate with each other anytime and anywhere.”
Kuala Lumpur-based Bergmans said the oil and energy giant is “driving structural change” across the entire organisation, directing employees towards delivering technology rather than back office tasks.
“This means we are building capabilities and deepening our collective ‘data and technology’ expertise in key areas such as software engineering, Cloud and AI,” he said. “From a technology perspective we move our applications to the Cloud, we automate our processes where possible, we drive self-service and we provide our employees with devices that allow them to access data and collaborate from any location in the world.”
In drawing on more than 20 years of experience – with roles ranging from COO to global program director – Bergmans acknowledged the selection of new solutions can be challenging given the fast-paced nature of the market.
“Technology is changing at such a rapid pace that it is hard to predict which technologies we require a few years from now,” he said. “So, we might be training the workforce on ‘new’ technologies that might be obsolete three years down the line.”
United Overseas Bank (UOB) vice-president of security, Dominic Yew, said efforts to incorporate technology into the workplace often caused “insecurity and anxiety” rather than improving the experience.
“Communication technologies, in particular, can create an ‘always on’ environment that can contribute to burnout, loneliness and feelings of isolation,” he said.
To combat such concerns, Yew said UOB is using technology as an “enabler and empowerment tool” for the workforce, insisting that digital strategies must be “thoughtfully implemented” to deliver a return on investment.
“We are using technology to boost productivity by creating a deeper engagement with the workforce using predictive analytics to understand employee preferences and needs and curate a personalised talent experience,” he said.
“For example, employees beginning new roles or starting assignments in a new part of the organisation could have information such as learning courses, articles and podcasts pushed to them to help set them up for success.
“This data may also help firms identify employees at risk of burnout or the processes and factors that cause it and intervene before their wellbeing diminishes – or they leave.”
According to Mass Rapid Transit head of IT, Maz Mirza, “convenience and security” are the core foundations when building a sustainable digital strategy in the workplace.
“But people’s willingness to try out new ways of doing things can be challenging, alongside adopting new technology and understanding the need for security measures,” he said.
Mass Rapid Transit is driving change through the adoption of mobile-enabled applications, enhanced through the adoption of Cloud services for “standard and commonly required applications,” he said
“Like many solutions, it may require a rather large user base in order to have the economies of scale to justify the investment required.”
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