Tech start-ups in Britain and Singapore face the same challenges
A recent study conducted by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) showed that finding and growing a customer base was cited as one of the biggest challenges facing new businesses in the UK. It seems that many businesses don’t consider expanding overseas as an option, for a number of reasons. 48% of the study’s respondents who hadn’t already moved overseas said they hadn’t even considered it.
Steve Leonard Executive Deputy Chairman of the IDA said: “Through the survey, we realised British and Singapore businesses have, unsuprisingly, a lot of shared challenges. For example, a lot of UK start-ups were saying that they struggled to find enough customers. That sounds like a generic thing but it’s an important one because there’s a demographic in South East Asia that you can reach here in Singapore.
“There are 600m people within a three hour flight from here so there’s a big market available even if Singapore on its own might not be huge. We have a gateway relationship with other parts of South East Asia so Singapore is a huge growth opportunity for UK businesses.”
The IDA has a subsidiary, Infocomm Investment, which is the outward facing arm of the regulatory body. Its job is to bring investment into Singapore but also to help business owners there to expand overseas. It’s dedicated to educating European business owners on the opportunities available in Singapore and South East Asia.
Leonard said: “A lot of UK start-ups have not yet considered expanding beyond the UK and Europe. Maybe people don’t understand what might be possible in Asia and that’s where we’d like to try and help by making things more clear.
“There’s a lack of understanding about Singapore. For example, some respondents said, ‘I’d be interested in expanding into other markets but I don’t know if English is spoken there’ or ‘I don’t understand the legal system’. Our goal is to say Singapore’s main business language is English and the education and legal systems are well known and transparent.
“That continuing clarification is part of what we’d like to promote, as that’s how bridges are built. If you remove those misunderstandings then hopefully the bridges are stronger and we can do more student exchange, more start-up exchange and offer more investment opportunities for businesses in both Singapore and the UK.”
Not only is the IDA and its subsidiary trying to build bridges between the UK and Singapore but it’s also trying to encourage start-ups to tackle more difficult issues too.
Leonard said: “We’re wrapping this all up under something called Smart Nation. Problems like healthcare, transport and an ageing population are big challenges for the future. If we can do a better job bringing our start-ups, education system, investment capital and government together in a more cohesive way, we can accomplish bigger things.
“This is something we’re trying to use to bring a lot of young Singaporeans and, we hope, Europeans into the start-up market to work on these problems rather than always thinking about a clone of something that’s already out there such as another taxi app or restaurant booking site. While those might get attraction with funding, we want to tackle some bigger, tougher issues.”
Find out more about the Smart Nation campaign and the opportunities for European entrepreneurs in Singapore on the IDA website.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”