In a time when remote working has become the norm a company’s digital transformation has become paramount. However, pivoting a business digitally isn’t just about adopting new technology, it’s also about changing holistically as a company. Workflow, attitudes, and company culture all figure into a successful pivot. How does one achieve this? To find out more, The Peak speaks to Johnny Wong, YPO member, CEO of Fairprice Group’s Digital Business, and Head of NE Digital, an organisation set up to provide digital solutions and products for the various NTUC Social Enterprises.

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Johnny Wong

Streamline your processes

One of the big parts of a digital transformation is automating business processes like finance approvals, onboarding and procurement. Before embarking on the change though, it is best to look into streamlining said processes. “If say, approving something normally takes 5 levels of escalation, look into whether it can be 3. This will make the automation process much easier — which translates into productivity savings,” shares Wong.

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Look into investing in a dedicated technology team

Wong, who also leads the Fairprice Group’s Digital Business (the part of Fairprice that deals with e-commerce, contactless payment, and other technologies), shares that online visitors have quadrupled since the pandemic. “I’d like to think that we’re at the forefront of the online grocery business, but no one builds a system that can handle such a large increase in such a short period. Usually, you might project for maybe a 20 per cent, or even 100 per cent growth month on month, but never five times. So we really had to scramble to fix it — and that’s where our internal IT teams came in handy.”

These teams can be in-house or offshore, but they should be exclusive to your organisation since speed and agility are key. “If you’re depending on another organisation, their priorities might not align with yours. If something breaks down over the weekend, you need to respond then, and not wait until Monday when the outsourced vendor is able to work on it. This is something I would recommend that companies do, even post-pandemic, to respond to competitive threats or evolving customer situations,” opines Wong. 

Acronis Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is important

The more things you have online, the easier it is for hackers to gain access to your business data. Knowing the basics of cybersecurity, and observing best practices can go a long way in protecting your company. “Be personally informed, and ensure that your organisation is informed too. Phishing is one of the most common forms of hacking and even the best organisations still fall for it.” Even though NTUC Enterprise has dedicated tech teams, cybersecurity is one of the few technology-related fields that Wong has no problems complementing with some outsourcing because there are very few experts in the industry — so having an all in-house cybersecurity team is very difficult. 

(Related: Meet the cybersecurity head honcho fighting the good fight against hackers)

Scrappy works too

Not every organisation can afford to build entire systems from scratch. Fortunately for SMEs, there is an entire host of free tools — from website builders to e-commerce platforms — available. For example, an F&B business that is transitioning into taking delivery and takeaway orders can start by taking orders through WhatsApp or other messaging platforms — this gives them a feel of what it takes to handle the logistics like workflow and mobile payments. 

Embrace the “new normal”

The pandemic has already proved that remote working is very possible — with many companies, including Twitter and online classroom Lambda School, establishing permanent working-from-home options for staff. Beyond video conferencing though, Wong says that collaborative tools — like Google’s G Suite — will be widely used. “You need the ability to send a link to a spreadsheet, and everyone can update it at the same time — so you don’t have 10 different versions of the same document that some poor soul then has to combine.” 

For those in retail and commerce, it is time to look into offering contactless payments. “In the new world, there’ll be a lot of desire for contactless payment — so figuring out how to digitise the shopping experience, and offering a contactless experience is important,” says Wong. On this front, Fairprice has implemented a Scan and Go service where customers can scan, and pay for items with their phone — skipping checkout queues altogether. 

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A digital transformation starts at the top

One of the largest hurdles with such a change is getting an organisation on board with the whole system — and that requires change management. “Organisations need to communicate what said change is about, why they need the change, how the change will be done, and then track the change as it is happening so that they can react in an agile fashion when an issue emerges.” Shares Wong. 

Like with any new initiatives, this has to start at the very top, beginning with board members in the case of large organisations. “Important that the board members not be fixed in traditional processes. To be honest, everybody desires change, but more often than not, people don’t want the change to happen to them. When the rubber hits the road, they start saying things like ‘oh, I don’t want to disturb these processes because of – for example – Covid, or because it’s sensitive’.

You just need to stay the course. If you try it, you just need to do it. There’s no other way — because the world will change, and companies that don’t do this will perish.”


Wong is a member of Young Presidents’s Organisation (YPO), a US-based, nonprofit organisation comprising over 29, 000 chief executives spread all over the world. Click here to read about the results of YPO’s March 2020 survey regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Featured image by Bench Accounting on Unsplash