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SMU MITB Day 2021 Virtual Conference (25 March 2021)

20 May 2021

SMU Master of IT in Business (MITB) Day 2021: Embracing Digital Transformation – Moving from Physical to Digital World Virtual Conference

The SMU MITB Day 2021: Embracing Digital Transformation – Moving from Physical to Digital World Virtual Conference held on 25 March 2021 brought together leading government and industry experts who shed light on current trends surrounding digital transformation in today’s business world.


Professor Timothy Clark, Provost, SMU

In his welcome address, SMU Provost Professor Timothy Clark emphasised the importance for business leaders today to be equipped with wide-ranging digital and leadership capabilities to make better decision for new workforce models. Professor Clark also pointed out that both public and private sectors are taking actions to adopt technology and harness its power to overcome challenges and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. Within this context, Professor Clark announced the launch of the new Digital Transformation Track, for the MITB programme under the School of Computing and Information Systems (SCIS). The newly launched Digital Transformation Track prepares professionals to solve complex business challenges and familiarise themselves with frontier technologies, equipping them with skillsets that are highly sought after by employers.

MITB is the largest postgraduate professional education programme in SMU. With the addition of the new Digital Transformation track, the programme offers four specialisation tracks – Analytics, Financial Technology & Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Digital Transformation. The tremendous efforts that have gone into the development of the leading-edge curriculum programme has attributed to its success. MITB has emerged as one of Asia’s best Masters in Business Analytics programmes for 3 consecutive years – Asia’s first in 2019 & 2020, 2nd in Asia and 22nd worldwide in the QS Masters in Business Analytics Rankings 2021.

Professor Yaacob Bin Ibrahim, Advisor, Office of the President, Director, Community Leadership & Social Innovation Centre, Singapore Institute of Technology, Former Minister for Communications & Information

In line with the theme of the MITB Day 2021 Virtual Conference “Digital Transformation – Moving from Physical to Digital World”, keynote speaker Professor Yaacob Bin Ibrahim (Advisor, Office of the President, Director, Community Leadership & Social Innovation Centre, Singapore Institute of Technology, Former Minister for Communications & Information) shared that Asia has experienced major technological advancement over the past decades. Many countries in the region have adopted digital solutions to meet their specific needs. Digitalisation is changing the way how people live and how they work, and organisations must embrace it to stay competitive. Singapore’s journey on the adoption of digitalisation started in the early 1980s, from using simple databases to digitalise certain government functions back then. Today, Singapore has a plethora of efforts to adopt digital solutions across the whole of government and the whole of society. Singaporeans can avail themselves to a host of government services online, from applying for a business license to applying for a flat from the Housing Development Board (HDB), and more.

Professor Yaacob emphasised on the notion of digital inclusivity - as Singapore undergoes digital transformation across public and private sectors, it is important to consider different segments of our society so that no one would be left behind. As digitalisation progresses, there will be a greater risk of cybersecurity attacks. Hence, it is necessary to have the right manpower managing it to reap the many benefits of digitalisation and mitigate the risk.

In addition, universities and other institutions of higher learning (IHLs) play an important role in filling up the manpower gap for Singapore’s digital journey. In this regard, the evolution of the MITB programme including the launch of its new Digital Transformation track, shows the keenness on the part of SMU to equip professionals with the necessary skill sets to engage and be a constructive part of the digital transformation journey of Singapore.

Mr. Tan Chee Hau, Director, Planning & Prioritisation, Smart Nation & Digital Government Office

In his speech titled “Digital Transformation Government: Tackling Change in a Big, Complex Organisation”, Mr. Tan Chee Hau (Director, Planning & Prioritisation, Smart Nation & Digital Government Office), shared his insights on the key lessons learnt (Start, Scale and Sustain) from driving digital transformation in the Singapore government. Mr. Tan pointed that apart from being able to start and scale digital transformation, to be able to sustain it is another important factor. By being able to “disrupt yourself first” is critical for the sustainability for both organisations and the government.

In contrast to the typical approach we are familiar with the Singapore government where 5-year or 10-year plans are announced, on the inside, digital transformation began from small projects focused on existing capabilities before many steps, collaboration, support from leadership and more to develop the 2023 Digital Government Blueprint. Moving forward, Mr. Tan noted that technology is not everything - to successfully digitalise processes in large and complex organisations, multi-disciplinary teams must work across levels making use of relevant methodologies to effect change.

Mr. Ewen Plougastel, Managing Director, Digital Transformation, Accenture Strategy & Consulting

Switching gears, Mr. Ewen Plougastel (Managing Director, Digital Transformation, Accenture Strategy & Consulting) addressed why businesses who digitalise their products and services may fail to increase their customer base or revenue in his presentation “Providing a Personalised Experience to Customers”. In Mr. Plougastel’s consulting work, businesses have to personalise their products and see each customer as an individual. As businesses undergo digital transformation, data points are created at every touch point and stage of the sale. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, businesses need to make sense of data to provide customers with accurate reccomendations that are relevant to them – in other words, creating a personalised experience.

Mr. Darrren Thayre, Head of Digital Transformation & Digital Ventures – JAPAC, Google

In his sharing “Technology Alone Is Not Enough, the Ingredients of a Modern Digital Organisation”, Mr. Darren Thayre, Head of Digital Transformation & Digital Ventures (JAPAC) at Google, delved deep into the building blocks of Google’s success today as a digital firm. Early on, Google recognised that the process of digital transformation is really about change. Within the organisation, structures encouraging change needed to be in place to provide psychological safety for talents to trial ideas, make mistakes and share their learnings. Over time, this grew into the culture we see at Google today – where change is embraced, with teams continually pushing innovation to new frontiers.

Dr. Mark Shmulevich, Councillor & Digital Transformation Chapter Chairman, SGTech, Senior Vice President, TAIGER

When it comes to implementation, artificial intelligence (AI) will definitely help with the digital transformation process. Dr. Mark Shmulevich, Councillor & Digital Transformation Chapter Chairman, SGTech and Senior Vice President, Taiger shared on the topic of “Intelligent Information Processing as a Key Driver of Digital Transformation”. In his presentation, he shared that only half of the CEOs surveyed have introduced AI initiatives on a wide scale, according to PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey in 2019. He believes that the statistics will change dramatically in the next five years, as they gain a greater understanding of how machines can help organisations process information much more efficiently.

Dr. Patrick Thng, Senior Lecturer of Information Systems, Director, MITB (Financial Technology & Analytics), SMU
First row (from left): Dr. Patrick Thng, Mr. Tan Chee Hau, Mr. Darren Thayre
Second row (from left): Dr. Mark Shmulevich, Mr. Ewen Plougastel

Moderating the Fireside Chat titled “Reinventing for the New World… the Endless Possibilities & Opportunities for Digital Transformation” was Dr. Patrick Thng, SMU Senior Lecturer of Information Systems and Director of MITB (Financial Technology & Analytics) programme. The distinguished panelists – Mr. Tan Chee Hau, Mr. Ewen Plougastel, Mr. Darren Thayre and Dr. Mark Shmulevich exchanged perspectives ranging from upcoming trends, directions and initiatives one can expect to see in the near future. Both Mr. Tan and Dr. Shmulevich pointed out that having people with the right skills, attitude, and mindset is indeed the prevailing factor for the success of Digital Transformation. Extending from earlier speeches, the panelists also discussed best practices and critical competencies needed to be successful in implementing digital transformation.

Dr. Hoe Siu Loon, Associate Professor of Information Systems (Practice), SMU

The conference concluded with a presentation by Dr. Hoe Siu Loon, SMU Associate Professor of Information Systems (Practice) who provided a detailed introduction to the new MITB (Digital Transformation) programme. It aims to develop professionals who are business savvy and technically sound to assist the C-suite in planning and delivering a successful digital transformation plan. The curriculum was developed in consultation with 20 experts from both public and private organisations across various industry domains to determine the talent requirements, in terms of knowledge and skillsets, for digital transformation. The courses include Digital Transformation Strategy; Digital Organisation and Change Management; Agile and DevSecOps; (digital) Product Management; Experimental Learning and Design Thinking; Digital Governance and Risk Management; Digital Enterprise Architecture and Business Applications of Digital Technology.

For more information on the MITB (Digital Transformation) programme, please visit the MITB website.

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Last updated on 04 Aug 2021 .