Realising a person’s potential lies at the heart of Tan’s vision of the enabling power of technology – something which is of particular significance for Singapore, one of the smallest states in the region and yet a perennial economic overachiever.
“Singapore is a fast-growing economy, and the war for talent is highly competitive in a global market. Not only are we competing from a small base of talent, but our talent is exposed to overseas opportunities. Our country is also challenged with the constant need to help our talent stay relevant,” she says. “Today, organisations are looking for people who can relate to the four mega trends – mobility, enterprise social, big data and cloud – and this is not just from a technology standpoint, it cuts across all industries.”
Government departments and businesses looking to stay competitive in this tight labour market, while keeping costs down, are forced to see if they are optimising their workforce.
During the recent FY2014 Budget Statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced that employers will have to contribute a higher Central Provident Fund rate for older workers aged above 50 years starting in 2015.
While others worry about business costs rising, Tan sees this as a push for organisations to ask themselves, “How can technology free up my employees’ time to do more valuable work? What tools does my staff need to do his or her job better?”
Tan whips out her company-issued Windows phablet and cites her own experience as an example. “Through this device, Microsoft has gotten a lot more of my time because I’m better connected on the move. Data is synchronised across all my devices via the cloud, which means I no longer spend time doing that manually.”
Microsoft has been partnering organisations across a wide spectrum of industries to help them use technology to achieve their mission. Tan highlights three such areas where her team has made a positive impact.
Delivering 21st Century Learning in Schools
“We work very closely with the Ministry of Education, schools and educators to marry the strengths of Singapore’s established pedagogical methods with Microsoft’s innovation and technology,” she says.
For example, students at St Hilda’s Primary School collaborate real-time with their peers in Taiwan and Hong Kong using cloud technologies. Its teachers also connect with Swedish teachers online for curriculum content and sharing of best practices.
Shuqun Secondary School implemented the ‘Flipped Classroom’ strategy (a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online, then discuss and assess their knowledge during class time).
Using Microsoft Office 365, students watch videos or online tutorials before classes. During lesson time, they then work on problems collaboratively in groups, and review one another’s work on SharePoint.
Tech-Enabling Small and Medium Businesses
Microsoft works with organisations such as SPRING Singapore, the Chambers of Commerce and other business networks to better understand what their member companies are facing and use that information to educate them on relevant and beneficial technologies.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises don’t have a huge talent base or the ability to invest heavily on infrastructure. Cloud services provide them with agility and scalability on a pay-as you-use model, so they have access to enterprise-standard infrastructure without having to invest in hardware or an IT team,” explains Tan.
Bridging the Opportunity Divide
The Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) is one of many non-profit organisations that Microsoft has been working with. Besides monetary support and employees volunteering their time, Microsoft strives to help persons with a disability by empowering them with assistive technology.
“Using technology, we want to enable people to communicate and connect with others, as well as perform activities of daily living. We partner SPD to see how we can help train beneficiaries so they can secure gainful employment,” she adds.
Overall, it is an exciting though challenging journey, she shares. “We want to help organisations in the public sector, education, enterprises or SMEs, assess how they can leverage technology to support their mission and work.”
“We as technology partners, allow and enable possibilities. But at the end of the day, it is the leadership of our clients and their willingness to dream big and to try that will make things happen,” concludes Tan.
Report: Kelly Ng