The role of automation in a Smart Nation

Automation – a word we’ve been hearing a lot lately. But what does it really mean for business owners such as yourself? We walk through some examples within the context of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative. We also share how it can benefit businesses.


As Bill Gates said “Automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency”. In other words, automation isn’t a magic solution that solves inefficiencies in your processes. Therefore, part of implementing automation in your company would involve you identifying the inefficiencies and addressing them directly because automation only does as it’s told. 

Succinctly put, automation is cost cutting by tightening the corners and not cutting them. 

In an attempt to automate their processes, several business owners have instead cut corners or avoided certain processes – this is not automation. 

An example of cutting corners would be reducing the number of workers, thereby reducing labour costs to increase productivity. As a result, the remaining employees would have to undertake additional responsibilities (which they might not have been trained for). As a result, these individuals may start to omit tasks which they feel are not urgent or critical to keep up with their overloaded workload.

When a business owner successfully weaves automation into their process, there should be no cutting of corners but rather the tasks should be completed with increased efficiency. 

Generally, automation allows for higher productivity, increased efficiency and generally better quality of products and services. Automation allows for tasks to be completed with lesser variability thereby increasing the consistency of the output

Automation is even more important as we recover from COVID-19

Automation is especially important now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic because Circuit Breakers and lockdowns have drastically changed the way we work. 

One such example is the banking industry. While the banking industry has gravitated towards digital transformation in past years, several processes such as loan modification applications are still highly manual. 

We’ve seen several companies adopt automation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic process automation (RPA), Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, Identity Management, Workflow Automation, Machine Learning (ML), Big Data Analytics, and Cloud Computing. 

We know that’s a lot to digest – let’s break it down a little

What is it?Examples
Artificial Intelligence (AI)Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.AI is being tested and used in the healthcare industry for dosing drugs and different treatment in patients, and for surgical procedures in the operating room.
Robotic process automation (RPA)Robotic process automation (RPA) refers to software that can be easily programmed to do basic tasks across applications just as human workers do.Designed primarily for office-type functions, RPA works like a digital assistant, doing routine onerous tasks that would otherwise eat up employees’ time.
Blockchain and CryptocurrencyA cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend.Blockchains, which are organizational methods for ensuring the integrity of transactional data, is an essential component of many cryptocurrencies.Closer to home, DBS Bank has joined Contour’s network, which is built on R3’s Corda and digitalises global trade processes such as the creation, exchange, approval and issuance of letters of credit (LCs).
Identity ManagementOne example of identity management would be eIDV. eIDV stands for Electronic Identity Verification, which refers broadly to computerized systems for individual ID verification using both public and private data sources in order to match individuals based on several criteria including name, sex, address, date of birth, and so on. eIDV is increasingly used in the financial industry by law enforcement to detect and prevent financial crimes and to combat terrorism. It is also used by the private sector by insurers, realtors, and hiring agents, among others. 
A similar product in Singapore would be SingPass, an online account management for access to Singapore Government e-services.
Workflow AutomationWorkflow automation is a created series of automated actions for the steps in a business process. It is used to improve everyday business processes because when your work flows, you can concentrate on getting more done and focusing on the things that matter.Zapier is an online automation tool that connects your apps and services. You can connect two or more apps to automate repetitive tasks without coding or relying on developers to build the integration.
Machine Learning (ML)Machine learning is the concept that a computer program can learn and adapt to new data without human interference. Machine learning is a field of artificial intelligence (AI) that keeps a computer’s built-in algorithms current regardless of changes in the worldwide economy.
Companies and governments realize the huge insights that can be gained from tapping into big data but lack the resources and time required to comb through its wealth of information. As such, artificial intelligence measures are being employed by different industries to gather, process, communicate, and share useful information from data sets. 
One method of AI that is increasingly utilized for big data processing is machine learning.
Marketing and e-commerce platforms can be tuned to provide accurate and personalized recommendations to their users based on the users’ internet search history or previous transactions. 
Big Data AnalyticsBig data refers to the large, diverse sets of information that grow at ever-increasing rates. It encompasses the volume of information, the velocity or speed at which it is created and collected, and the variety or scope of the data points being covered. Big data often comes from multiple sources and arrives in multiple formats.
Cloud ComputingCloud computing is the delivery of different services through the Internet. These resources include tools and applications like data storage, servers, databases, networking, and software.Regardless of the kind of service, cloud computing services provide users with a series of functions including:
– Email
– Storage, backup, and data retrieval
– Creating and testing apps
– Analysing data
– Audio and video streaming
– Delivering software on demand
There are three sub-services under Cloud computing –  software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS).

The advantages of automation are endless. We are sure you’re wondering how you can tap on automation to improve your company’s performance.

In 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon launched Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative (SG Smart Nation). Its aim is to transform the economy with digital technology. 

Businesses would be most familiar with two of six Strategic National Projects –  the National Digital Identity (NDI) System and Electronic Payments (e-payments). The NDI solution provides Singaporeans with a more convenient and secure way to complete transactions relating to banking, healthcare and professional services. While the e-payments such as PayNow have allowed businesses to pay and get paid on time. Several businesses particularly those in the retails, transport and F&B industries have adopted e-payments. The simplification of the payment process has allowed for ease of transaction.

Wondering how automation can help your accounting and corporate secretary businesses?  

Accounting firms have also automated their workflows through the adoption of solutions such as Xero, a cloud-based accounting software. Xero helps ease the reconciliation process with its automated daily bank feeds and OCR function. The adoption of Xero has allowed firms to support more clients in less time.

Several corporate secretarial firms have also embraced automation to increase their efficiency and productivity by relying on digital technology to get reminders for AGM and Tax Returns and also automatically generating the necessary documentation to address these various tasks. 

Crystal Clear, an accounting firm that also provides CSP services, uses Starboard’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) product built on best in class accounting and corporate compliance software platforms. It ensures that their business is 100% digital and secure, and provides the same benefits to Crystal Clear’s clients.

They specifically benefit from a smart accounting workflow that streamlines administrative and operational matters. This has increased Crystal Clear’s efficiency.

For a list of resources for businesses, you may refer to SG Smart Nation’s curated list.

Who or what is Starboard?

We’re a team of programmers and designers — with deep experience in building cloud-based platforms for high-growth companies.

We would like to show you how we start planning for your firm to join the future in both a time and cost-effective manner. 

Click this link to schedule an appointment with us for a walk-through and demo of our platform. Schedule an appointment and we will set something up this or next week, at your convenience. 

Photo by Kelvin Yup on Unsplash

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