For any business to stay relevant in the long-term, continuous development of personnel and processes is a must. It is a growing concern; however, it cannot mean that the matter can go on in the same manner for years. Excellence in conducting business activities remains a sought-after goal for all enterprises, and the city-state of Singapore is no different. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of Singapore have long remained the mainstay of the economy, and why not?
SMEs add to the Singaporean GDP nearly the exact amount, as is done by big corporates combined. And when it comes to job creation, SMEs are leading with more than two-thirds of Singapore’s labor force employed in them. The question is, ‘Can SMEs afford to turn a blind eye to the need of strengthening their processes and upgrading their management systems in this fast-changing economic landscape’?
The answer to this question is an emphatic ‘NO’. Competition has seeped in from across the world. The firms are today not just competing against local businesses but also against global industry leaders that are looking for new avenues for growth in other countries. Improving business fundamentals to drive inefficiency and make the best out of the limited opportunities available is increasingly becoming the area of focus for enterprises in Singapore. Weeding out weaknesses and strengthening the business processes to pave the way for improved performance of the enterprise on all counts.
What’s Business Excellence Initiative?
The term is self-explanatory. An initiative for businesses in Singapore to help them excel is what it is all about. Singapore proudly celebrated the 25th anniversary of Business Excellence Initiative last year with renewed focus on helping increase the competitiveness and business performance of SMEs at a juncture when the global economy is passing through a not-so-bright phase. Having adopted the initiative in the year 1994, Enterprise Singapore is presently the driving force behind it. The initiative centers on helping Singapore’s businesses gauge their management systems to identify core strengths and understand the areas where improvements get made. The initiative serves as a perfect way of validating how the business is performing. SMEs can extract maximum value by knowing where they lack and hence, perform better than their peers in the market.
Not only does the initiative help in improving the overall business performance, it also adds credibility to the business, thereby infusing a sense of assurance in the minds of customers. The Business Excellence initiative gives an excellent chance for companies to attain benchmarks by providing a set standard. For example, let’s talk about customer service. Customers lie at the heart of any enterprise, and the fulfillment of their aspirations is a sought-after aim. By incorporating new processes and improving the old ones, businesses can add to the experience of their customers, and the initiative aids all this. Second, people working within the organization are the real driving force. Development of this talent pool and achieving higher human resource standards can be attained by pursuing the initiative.
The certifications that come along by focusing on business excellence elevate the standing of businesses both at the local level as well as internationally. It aids the SME to acquire more business. The customers are now well aware that an enterprise recognized and awarded for its business excellence is the one that can rely upon in the long-run. A sustainable business rests on all these parameters, and the initiative of Enterprise Singapore helps achieve the targets.
The Underlying Force- Business Excellence (BE) Framework
What empowers the Business Excellence initiative is the framework for BE that is well-defined and provides a complete set of standards to attain excellence. Various parameters assess businesses on where they stand and what is needed to boost output and overall performance. The framework can tweak to keep it relevant in the current scenario where the landscape has changed owing to competition in the market. Enterprise Singapore has also come up with Singapore Quality Class, popularly referred to as SQC, which serves as a recognition for excellence. By attaining SQC, Singaporean SMEs can have a distinct identity for their brand. SQC is the standard that is achievable given the SMEs pursue best management practices and focus on seven parameters- leadership, customers, strategy, people, process, results, and knowledge.
Strands of BE Framework
BE Framework defines what business excellence initiative is all about. The first focus is on leadership. By leadership, the framework means how its vision and mission lead the business by incorporating best values and integrity. SMEs led by the people, passionate to make a mark in the market with innovative products and exceptional services. These people are the leaders of tomorrow, and by focusing on the leadership aspect of the framework, they can better understand the present market scenarios. Second, our customers, indeed, they are the most critical stakeholder in any business. Customer service and excellence in this strand defines how the SME has been delivering and adding value to customer service. SQC for customer excellence can be the best way of distinguishing the business in the crowd.
Strategy entails comprehending the expectations of stakeholders and adding sustainability to the business. Next, people that work within the company are a talent pool, and their proper utilization brings efficiency in operations and drives productivity. Process is another strand of the business excellence framework, and it rests on how well the processes are defined and implemented within the organization. Improving processes is the critical goal of business excellence initiative. Results are nothing but the returns that get secured in the end. Financial results of the business are an area of interest to all stakeholders, including leaders, people, and customers. When results are favorable and establish that the enterprise is performing in the desired manner, growth objectives appear within reach. Then, in the end, is knowledge, a space that includes learning and development. Knowledge is must to stay relevant in the ever-changing market of today.
Recognition of efforts- Awards
Recognition under the BE framework gets divided into certification and awards. Accept it- a recognized SME always stands a step ahead of its rivals. Customers and all stakeholders get assured of the service standards they can derive out of an enterprise that gets recognized for its best practices. These recognitions are rewarding in the local and international market owing to their wide acceptance.
When it comes to certification, a business can assess on a 1000-point scale. It gets done by employing the BE Framework. A minimum of 400 points are needed to attain Singapore Quality Class (SQC), and the certification. In addition to SQC, a minimum score of 40 on a 100-point scale for a niche criterion can also bring the SQC with Niche certification for the SME. In the event of scoring more than or equal to 550 points on the 1000-point scale when the SQC certification is up for renewal, the SME can certify as SQC STAR. While SQC certification comes with a validity of 3 years, SQC STAR has a validity of 4 years. Singapore Quality Class is the best way to project an organization as a strong force in the market, thereby instilling confidence in the mind of stakeholders.
Awards under the Business Excellence Initiative gets termed as BE Awards. BE Awards conferred upon those enterprises which outshine others on BE standards. Here again, by scoring a minimum of 700 on the 1000-point scale, four awards are in the offing. SMEs can claim Singapore Quality Award, Innovation Excellence Award, People Excellence Award, and Service Excellence Award. Enterprises can send their nominations for a single award in every award year, and any previous Singapore Quality Award winner can claim the Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation by scoring 800 points.
Global Reach of Business Excellence Initiative
It is a moment of pride for Singaporean SMEs that the city-state’s pursuing of business excellence made Singapore the Centre of Excellence for BE in 2009, and this status gets maintained to this day. The Asian Productivity Organisation, also dubbed as APO, considered this status for Singapore and made it a destination for workshops and seminars for other APO members. It aside, Enterprise Singapore has founded the Global Excellence Model Council, which boasts of member countries ranging from China and India to Australia and Japan. It is the way to shine a spotlight on the importance of business excellence and helping the wider region and organizations focus on enhancing their processes and productivity.
Business Excellence Initiative remains a promising and fulfilling program for all Singaporean SMEs. Although not all SMEs have demonstrated deep interest in the initiative, some have taken the lead. It is undeniable that the initiative not only adds to the productivity and overall performance of the business, awards, and recognitions that come by attainment of BE standards boost the credibility of the enterprise. In the market of today with excessive competition and thin margins, SMEs can best placed when they participate in the initiative and adopt the framework to earn certifications that distinguish them from their competitors