Thursday 20 December 2007

Its that time of the year again

We are at another end of an eventful year, again. For people in professional services industry, this is the period that they hope does not exist. Most key clients are either on holiday, overseas or other sound reasons why they should not be in the office. Most will defer any new contracts or engagements until the new year or worst, after the Chinese new year. Even to collect your fees may be tough as cheque signatories may not be around although the cheques are ready for signing for a while already.

What am I mumbling about?
I am discussing about the period where most people do nothing. However, when the new year starts, most will be singing new plans, ambitions and targets. How do they suddenly pull out the rabbit from the hat, just like other business people?
Some people are serious about planning for the future, some just feel they need something new while others couldn't be bothered to look ahead at all. This is a free world, people are entitled to do what they like. Off course, the consequences of their attitude and behaviour would not be the same.The one who take planning and execute their plans have better chance to be successful. Those that run their business as usual may not necessarily going to go bust just because of that, but may have higher chance to be so or simply would fail to capture new opportunities appearing in the market place.
So, what is in store for us in Malaysia for 2008? Wait, I am taking out my crystal ball!
I see few trends that are worth to be considered.
On the political front, we may be going for general election again. I am not going to speculate on the outcome. However, once the general election is over, the government (I am assuming no significant change from the present) will be able to make tougher decisions on issues that require strong actions. The issues like petroleum subsidy, implementation of the Ninth Malaysian Plan (we will be halfway of the plan by then) require strong commitment from the government. I am not also surprised if the long awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be announced as soon as the election is over to enable enough implementation period and enough time for people to adjust so that it would not be an issue in the next election.
Economically, the growth trend would continue especially with further spending from the Ninth Malaysian Plan projects which will mitigate whatever effects arising from reduction of export abroad which is expected as the consequences of higher petroleum prices globally and the financial chaos due to the sub-prime debacle which is hitting the US and other capital markets globally. The challenge for the small and medium enterprises in Malaysia, which make up around 95% of businesses, is how to capture the economic opportunities. Those that rely solely on handouts from the government would have to compete more with their own kind and their number grows. I suppose looking at the larger market and being more competitive would be the only way to sustain your business. They should start to take seriously the intent of the Malaysian government in encouraging Malaysian businesses to move up the value chain and be part of the global business supply chain.
Our society will continue to learn how to live in a more global and networked world, hopefully. The push for enterprises to be more socially responsible would create further interest in this area. I hope companies are not only concern about CSR after they make profits but in how the profits are made and how their behavior affects the society. The demand for accountability would be more visible, especially from those who got their power from the public (read politicians, especially those who are in the government) and the civil servants. This is where enterprises could play their role by not involving with practices that compromise public interest. Knowledge based business would be growing, as Malaysia as a whole invests further in human capital development to have more people to drive the economy forward.
Technology will continue to influence our live next year. With new technology based business solutions and tools, businesses could improve their competitive edge by venturing into new business, improve production and work processes as well as extending their market through new delivery channels. Its would be interesting to observe the rolling out of the WIMAX services by the companies that were awarded with the license. Further growth in broadband panetration would certainly create more opportunities to businesses to use the web to capture new markets.
With the recent summit on environment over in Bali, I expect the Malaysian government and Malaysians generally would be more concern on how we could enjoy development and growth without further demaging whatever that is left from our environment. I suppose companies which could make themselves visible as "environmental friendly companies" would be given favourable preference in contracts and tenders, other things being equal. Let's watch this space as well. There would also be a lot of business opportunities in saving the environment!
I suppose the above trends would only be meaningful to businesses which look at them and try to identify business opportunities or threat that come together. Further, they need to work out plans and initiatives to capture the opportunities. This has to go to the level where specific people is given responsibility to ensure specific outcome to happen and this has to be tracked on a continuous basis. If not, you will get the old year overhang and your new year will not bring much different.

Happy New Year 2008!

Sunday 2 December 2007

A Week On Innovation

I was fortunate to be in Penang again, this time to do few things in my capacity as the President of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants. Interestingly, all the events that I attended had to do with "innovation", the catchy word that is gaining more significant in today's world which is full of uncertainty. First, I attended a discussion session with the faculty members of the School of Management at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). I shared my thought on issues relating to the accountancy profession and what the future would be. The faculty members did not disappoint me as they post me with questions ranging from PCAOB to how a more sustainable business governance could be shaped, by focusing on the heart of people rather than creating more rules. Significant portion of the discussion was also on Islamic Finance, which is gaining popularity and where Malaysia aspire to lead the world.
At the end of the session, as what we normally do in Malaysia, I was handed a souvenir. In line with the institution that I was visiting, I was handed a book. This is where I got excited. It is about what sort of university USM is going to be in the future. USM is considering a number of models such as virtual university, industry lead university, government lead university and a number of other models that would make USM significantly different from where it is now.

Hey! They are also concerned about the future after all and dare to consider models that are totally different from what USM is used to be! It gives me confort that our institution of higher learnings are innovating themsleves. What would be interesting is whether they are allowed to be different, since being different means they may need to be lead by different group of people who perhaps, would be more confortable of being challenged, at least intellectually.
Next, I attended the MIA Business Forum 2007 with the theme "Driving Innovation". The highlight of the conference was round table discussion attended by CEOs of Malaysian and global companies. All of them talked about competitive edge, competing globally and the need to nurture quality human capital. Innovation is not limited to scientific discovery only but covers a wider areas including business process, supply chain management, distribution and a host of other areas. The message is very simple, without innovation there wouldn't be competitive edge. Without competitive edge your business is not going to survive! Period.

The MIA Penang annual dinner was held in the evening. What has got dinner to do with innovation? I noted few things. One was the theme of the dinner, Baba and Nyonya Night. The theme allows people to be innovative in choosing their attire. The dinner hall was also innovatively decorated in such a beautiful way in line with the theme. Second was the violin performance. The lady performer was energatic and dancing around in line with the tune of the songs, no longer a violinist stands still! Well, at least for me, violin performer will never be seen in the traditional light again.
So, over two days, I observed professors, lecturers, CEOs, diners, event managers and performers displayed the concept of innovation. Everybody wanted to achieve differentiation and attain competitive edge. I trust this would be pursued by all Malaysians, so that Malaysia will continue to be a great country for a very long time.