Google and UOB launch SME Leadership Academy to guide SMEs into the digital economy

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Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

In August 2019, Google and UOB launched SME Leadership Academy, a new training program for business leaders. This program is supported by Digital Industry Singapore (DISG) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), and aims to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) accelerate their digital transformation and compete more effectively in the digital economy.

Apart from training SME leaders on people strategies and business solutions to maximize efficiency, the collaboration also offers help for SMEs to be discoverable online and attract more customers

The SME Leadership Academy builds on the successful Go Global program – which has helped more than 2,700 SMEs tap into the global market – to offer a specialized learning experience that equips business leaders with the relevant know-how to capitalize on the booming internet economy. 

SMEs and the internet economy

Speakers at the launch emphasized SMEs centrality to Singapore’s economy, and the importance of technology in ensuring their success in the digital age.

Ms Stephanie Davis, Managing Director, Google Southeast Asia said, “SMEs are the bedrock of Singapore’s economy, and helping them succeed is paramount to building a bright future in the digital economy. Through the SME Leadership Academy, we are equipping business leaders with the knowledge, tools and connections to help them adapt to the changing markets and customer needs and grow profitably.”

Mr Frederick Chin, Head of Group Wholesale Banking and Markets at UOB, said, “In today’s business environment, technology is a critical enabler for companies large and small.” He continued, “through the SME Leadership Academy, we hope that SMEs will be able to gain the necessary skills and expertise to use technology to improve their performance and to provide a better customer experience.”

Mr Kiren Kumar, Chief Digital Industry Officer, DISG, emphasised the need to “empower” Singapore’s SMEs to “leverage technology and upskill their capabilities” in order to “capture opportunities in the digital economy in Singapore and beyond”. To this end, DISG is looking forward to more collaborations to transfer technological capabilities to SMEs.

The development of SME Leadership Academy

The program was developed based on feedback gathered from more than 100 SMEs across various industries such as retail, F&B, engineering, manufacturing and travel who took part in pilot batches of the program. They shared their desire for practical advice that would enable them to leverage digital tools to address critical business issues. They identified the top three obstacles as: 

  1. Internal hurdles such as a lack of effective digitalization strategies 
  2. Lack of talent with sufficient digital know-how and capacity
  3. Cost/resource constraints

Through interactive discussions and lessons led by business leaders from Google, UOB and other enterprises, SMEs will gain insights and practical guidance on how they can use digital solutions to adapt to the changing business landscape and enhance their workplace to be more efficient and productive. They can use these lessons to improve their competitiveness through:

  • Learning and implementing data-driven HR strategies, including best practices on organisational culture, hiring and leading effective teams;
  • Generating digital marketing strategies grounded in consumer and industry insights; and
  • Maximizing the use of enterprise software and tools to boost productivity and to create a collaborative workplace

Positive feedback from pilot batches

Participants in the pilot batches were from a range of fields including business and management consultancy (Arcafile Pte. Ltd), construction (HCJ Construction Pte Ltd), education (SG Code Campus), and engineering (Netatech Engineering Pte Ltd).

Many of them appreciated the candid sharing by industry leaders that they found both insightful and relevant to the realities and aspirations of SMEs. According to Ms Lim Peck Hui from Tunity Technology Pte Ltd, “The generous sharing at SME Leadership Academy has opened my eyes to how SMEs like us can embrace new ways of working that makes sense to our limited budgets and our ambitions to scale our business locally and abroad.”

Participants also gained a better awareness and understanding of the digital tools available to them. Mr Cliff Choo from RM3C Industries Pte Ltd noted that while the company was already using tools offered by UOB to digitalize their operating processes, the SME Leadership Academy “has enabled me to learn about many more new tools and practices to stay relevant and competitive in this tech-driven and globalized economy.”

Similarly, Ms Stephanie Law from SG Code Campus said that “Whether you are looking to start digitizing business processes or fine-tune and adopt existing best practices, there are learning opportunities for any company, no matter the stage of their digital journey.”

Beyond the content of the course, participants were positive about the opportunity to network with industry leaders during the program. Daniel Wong from Netatech Engineering Pte Ltd, was attracted to the “synergy from the collaboration between a tech giant and a bank” and was “heartened to see UOB taking the initiative to help more SMEs”.

Besides industry leaders, participants also appreciated the chance to share and learn from each other as SMEs facing similar challenges.

Under this program, there will be ongoing cohorts in every quarter until end 2020. SME business leaders who are interested in SME Leadership Academy can visit their website to express their interest in the program.