Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the Asia Pacific region are expected to scale up on limited resources. Business leaders have to do much more with much less while responding as quickly as possible to market changes.

While digital transformation helps SMBs stay competitive, the journey can be a challenging one. According to the Cisco APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index, the top three digital transformation challenges for SMBs in this region are the lack of:

  • Digital skills and talent within their organization
  • Insights into operational and customer data
  • A robust IT platform to enable digital transformation


Skills and Talent

The talent crunch is real. In China, one in four (24 percent) SMBs rate the dearth of digital skills and talent as their biggest hurdle to digital transformation.

Attracting talent has traditionally been tougher for SMBs compared to larger enterprises. People typically want to work for bigger brands but SMBs are really the best training ground – providing employees with more opportunities to acquire different skills.

The good news is that people are starting to look beyond the company name and thinking about what they really want out of a job, beyond just bringing home the paycheck. SMBs that are purpose-oriented and spell out the long-term learning prospects and how employees can make an impact on the market or society are likely to do well in recruitment. How a company is contributing to sustainability is also high on the charts.

To succeed at digital transformation, SMBs will need technology specialists, data analysts as well as those with more specialized skills. Hire people with digital skillsets where possible, and then help to reskill your existing workforce with the wealth of training resources that are available today. For example, the Cisco Networking Academy offers self-paced online learning as well as in-person learning for digital transformation essentials.



Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and even Singapore SMBs named a lack of insights into their data as a significant challenge. While many SMBs are initially focused on developing reports, analytics is key to reaping the benefits of digital transformation.

Getting real-time feedback can help to improve processes or surpass customer expectations, in turn boosting revenues and reducing the likelihood of losses. Start with technology that can show you what’s happening, then apply analytical tools to get the most of your data. Artificial intelligence-backed tools could give you an edge over the competition.



Chinese and Indonesian SMBs both feel the lack of a digital transformation platform most keenly, with 18 percent of SMBs in each country identifying this as a top challenge to their digital transformation.

Becoming cloud-first is vital for digital transformation. Cloud services facilitate 24×7 availability and ensures the business can scale up or down easily. Most companies today are embracing a hybrid cloud model, one that has both public and private cloud features. Work with a cloud-savvy technology partner to ensure you can get the most out of the hybrid cloud.

While SMBs across the region may rank challenges with digital transformation differently, everyone is moving towards reaping the rewards of becoming a “Digital Native”. Acquiring digital skills, insights that can give a competitive edge and an enabling platform are all essential milestones along the digital journey. Solve these three challenges, and the rest will fall into place.


Find out more about the digital journey with the Cisco APAC SMB Digital Maturity Index

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 The SMB Inspire Series features insights on addressing today’s SMB challenges in Asia Pacific. Stay tuned at https://news-blogs.cisco.com/apjc/ for regular updates!