Digital transformation projects in Malaysia set to surge in 2021

COVID-19 is accelerating digital transformation initiatives, research found, spurring the plans of 34 per cent of surveyed firms in Malaysia to start on such a journey in 2021.
Achim Granzen (Forrester)

Achim Granzen (Forrester)

Partners in Malaysia specialising in digital transformation could see a surge of projects this year, with more than a third of firms in the country indicating an appetite to start on a digital transformation journey in 2021.  

This is according to recent research by industry analyst firm Forrester Research, which found that although a minority of firms in Malaysia were actively implementing digital transformation projects or expanding their implementation, more were planning to kick off such projects within the coming 12 months.  

The data, drawn from surveys that Forrester ran in two key Asian markets, including Malaysia, late last year, found that only 46 per cent of the firms in Malaysia that were polled were on a digital transformation journey. 

However, as in other markets, COVID-19 is accelerating digital transformation initiatives, the research found, spurring the plans of 34 per cent of surveyed firms in Malaysia to start on such a journey in 2021.  

“More interestingly, of those currently driving a transformation effort, more than half say that they actually increased their spending on [digital transformation] in 2020 — despite the economic crisis,” said Forrester principal analyst Achim Granzen in a blog post. 

According to Granzen, it is anticipated that there will a fair bit of action in the areas of adaptiveness and customer experience (CX) improvement this year, with both being key business priorities for Malaysian firms in 2021. 

“COVID-19 has shown firms the critical importance of adaptiveness for business resiliency and growth,” he said. “It’s not surprising that top business priorities for 2021 fall into these categories. Improving CX and improving products and services are most often mentioned as business priorities, along with revenue growth.  

“Priorities aligned to adaptiveness make up the rest of the six most common priorities, with accelerated response to business and market changes, increasing the ability to innovate, and accelerating the shift to digital business. Reducing costs, while an important business priority, is lower on the priority scale for 2021,” he added.  

Looking ahead, Forrester’s data indicates that, by the end of 2021, 80 per cent of Malaysian firms will be implementing or expanding their digital transformation.  

However, there may be challenges for some organisations to overcome before they can embark on a digital transformation journey and, indeed, while they are on it, with key challenges relating to budget, security and technical skills. 

“Most [firms] struggle to demonstrate the business value of their [digital transformation] and securing the budget required to drive it,” Granzen said. “Key challenges also include securing their digital transformation, a common situation throughout Asia, which remains behind on adopting security frameworks such as zero trust.  

“A lack of knowledge, skills, and employee availability indicates a serious talent crunch. This should give firms another reason to invest significantly in EX [employee experience] and retention so as not to jeopardise their [digital transformation] efforts,” he said.