Singapore’s budget opens the way for an economy driven by data and creativity

Shaun H. Ruff

Business leaders and brand ambassadors can play a role in ensuring their teams have the creative mindset and skillset to embrace opportunities in this new competitive landscape, says Simon Dale, the managing director for South East Asia at Adobe, and support with a solid digital foundation, technology, and training for execution.

Covid-19 has made businesses across the globe rethink and reimagine their people, processes, and technologies. Transformation and digitalization have become imperative for business sustenance and growth, regardless of the size of the organization.

In Singapore’s Budget 2021 address, finance minister Heng Swee Keat emphasized the need for a strong spirit of innovation, deep regional and global connections, and redesigned job roles for Singaporeans to keep up with the demands of the new economy.

For Singapore to emerge stronger from the global pandemic, there is an urgency for organizations to not only leverage technology and build their data capabilities, but also deploy creativity, to boost business and employee resilience.

Unleashing and nurturing your team’s creative potential

Amid the changing requirements of a volatile economy and operating landscape, creativity is a core differentiator for businesses, teams, and individuals. It holds the power to unlock unique business opportunities, which in turn will give rise to new and exciting roles for employees to further develop their skills and talents.

However, even as businesses increasingly recognize the value of creativity, many organizations face challenges in defining what it means to be ’creative’, who should be creative, and how to be creative. According to results from the Adobe Creativity Quotient (CQ) test, the greatest strength of South East Asian leaders is the resounding view that creativity isn’t simply the role of the design or creative teams, rather a responsibility of every team and every employee.

Creativity is the toolkit for our workforce to solve today’s problems and also prepare for tomorrow’s uncertainty, and it doesn’t happen by chance. Adopting a structured approach to creativity, and building an overall organizational culture that supports that, will help brands develop a competitive edge to think far beyond the immediate and most obvious solution. Organizations that can combine data with creativity, and provide employees across all functions with the right skills and tools to extract meaningful insights from data and execute on it creatively, will be better equipped to stay agile and continually delight their customers.

Reinventing the concept of customer experience for the new economy

While borders remain closed, brands with strong digital foundations and robust customer intelligence initiatives will go far in delivering seamless customer experience across platforms.

Sectors such as retail, travel, and hospitality that have been hard hit by the pandemic should focus on accelerating digital adoption and data analytics to create immersive, smarter and more personal experiences. These include experiences powered by artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). Take tourism for instance – while it remains largely about in-person, physical experiences, the ongoing restrictions and growing economic pressures on the travel industry have catalyzed the rise of smart-tourism.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is one example of an organization that is leveraging its data assets and technology to create immersive experiences, for international and domestic tourists – both now and for the future. The Tourism Information & Services Hub has almost 3,000 local tourism partners contributing royalty-free-destination assets that other members can leverage through APIs to promote Singapore. This enables a level of content velocity that ensures Singapore’s competitiveness as a holiday destination while many prospective travelers around the world fantasize about their next trip.

STB has also created the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN), a common data platform that enables its tourism partners to leverage data on traveler preferences to look for new opportunities in a vastly transformed tourism landscape.

Businesses in other sectors can innovate similarly on the digital front to bridge the physical-to-virtual hybrid model. For example, retail shops can offer personalized recommendations to their shoppers for nearby restaurants, cafes, or art galleries, along with special deals that they can enjoy there, to offer a more holistic customer experience.

Data and partnerships are key to offering these connected experiences, which when layered with creativity, drive unique content and delivery formats. Now that many companies have collected new treasure troves of data on their customers and prospects, the key differentiator will be the way they use that data to personalize the experience and respond to consumer behavior. Investments in marketing need to go hand-in-hand with investments in innovation and in building the organization’s technology infrastructure to support.

New and more sustainable ways of working

A notable point in minister Heng’s speech was the fact that the transition to working from home last year has not hindered our ability to do our jobs well. In fact, he highlighted a Mercer report which found that 90% of employers globally saw similar or higher levels of productivity despite employees working remotely. This was certainly the case at Adobe, where our employees around the world continue to work from home and do so effectively.

The concept of the office has changed for good. Rather than a physical space where employees gather each day, it is now defined by flexibility and innovative technology. And this sea change is a positive one, with reduced commute, increased flexibility and more time with loved ones.

Digital workflows are creating and enabling this new way of working, collaborating, and interacting within public and private organizations. According to a recent Adobe Digital Insights study, Singapore has the highest proportion of respondents who signed electronically in the past two years (59%) and four-fifths of APAC respondents (78%) wish for institutions, including governments, to offer more e-signing options.

To stay a step ahead, organizations need to offer end-to-end experiences that are convenient and consistent across touchpoints. With consumers and employees turning to all things digital for their daily needs, actively offering digital formats for transactions, with e-forms and e-signing options such as ’Sign with SingPass’, will increase the ease and motivation to engage.

With Singapore’s National Digital Identity (NDI) project well underway, it is safe to say that Singapore will continue to lead the world in the quality of digital experiences offered by brands and employers. Digital is increasingly driving the economy, and digital documents are becoming the centerpiece of how we communicate with each other.

In Singapore, we are privileged to have a government that has a strong vision of a future driven by innovation, and that is implementing initiatives to ensure businesses and citizens are prepared to embrace it.

As business leaders and brand ambassadors, we too can play a role in ensuring our teams have the creative mindset and skillset to embrace opportunities in this new competitive landscape, and support with a solid digital foundation, technology, and training for execution.

Simon Dale is the managing director for Southeast Asia at Adobe

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