Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) Digital Transformation: Paperless Office and Streamlined App Development with Google Workspace and AppSheet

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH)
Digital Transformation:
Paperless Office and Streamlined
App Development
with Google Workspace and AppSheet

Founded in 1984, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) provides a wide range of media platforms that cater to audiences in Singapore’s four official languages of English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. In recent years, SPH has successfully expanded its readership beyond Singapore. The digital edition of Lianhe Zaobao, for example, attracts more than 90% of its readers from overseas.

SPH is keenly aware that news consumption habits have changed. Unlike the past, when readers dedicated a portion of their time to reading news on physical paper, readers now prefer to read bite-sized news on social media platforms. There is also a corresponding shift in ad spending from print to digital, which offers brand managers more visibility on campaign performance. SPH has embraced digitalization to stay ahead of the competition, and Glen Francis, Chief Technology Officer of SPH, describes the organization now as ‘digital to the core’ with ‘a great level of maturity’.


“Media is about digital, and we have over 30 digital products across the business. We use technologies such as AI, robotic process automation and data streaming to innovate and drive efficiencies.” said Glen Francis, Chief Technology Officer of SPH

Speeding up editorial workflows and collaboration with Google Workspace

In recent years, SPH has undertaken a comprehensive IT overhaul to enhance productivity, foster collaborative endeavors, and transition towards a paperless office environment. At the SPH News Center, editorial teams operate under tight deadlines, curating content across various platforms, with staff journalists working around the clock to deliver breaking news promptly.

Addressing historical challenges in remote access, SPH collaborated with PointStar to migrate approximately 4,000 users from the legacy email server to Google Workspace in just six months. This transition provided secure email access, improved communication, and streamlined collaboration, empowering users with familiar and user-friendly tools such as Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. The move to Google Workspace also aligns with SPH’s focus on security, leveraging Apps Script for a workflow engine that contributes to their vision of a paperless office.

The collaborative potential of Google Workspace extends beyond internal communications to support cross-functional teams at SPH. For instance, the ad sales team collaborates seamlessly with circulation sales, editorial newsrooms, and SPH Radio through group chats on Google Meet, fostering productive collaboration regardless of physical locations.

 Notably, the continued improvement in security across the Google Workspace application suite, coupled with the implementation of Apps Script, has not only enhanced productivity but also led to substantial cost savings, reducing paper-related expenditures by S$100,000 annually and further establishing SPH as a pioneer in efficient and secure media operations.

“Apps Script enabled us to build a workflow engine within Google Workspace that means we deliver all memos and requests electronically and contribute to our vision of a paperless office. We have also created a central repository that allows users to monitor memo, electronic request submissions and track usage.” said Goh Lai Fun, Head of HR Systems of SPH

Automating processes with no code development

Google Cloud’s acquisition of AppSheet provided SPH with opportunities to automate and streamline processes. SPH identified key applications, such as staff claims and news planning, where AppSheet could replace the previous solution. AppSheet’s team provided strong support during the transition, addressing issues and incorporating feature requests. 

The combination of Apps Script and AppSheet allowed SPH to automate high-volume paper applications and create front-end applications swiftly. This efficiency enabled the corporate systems team to prioritize larger projects, such as deploying an SAP HR system. Consolidating onto Google Workspace streamlined processes, reducing onboarding time for new employees and paving the way for potential system openings to HR and Finance teams. SPH is exploring the development of a common applicant tracking system for hiring managers, HR Talent, and job applicants.

Executing data strategy with Google Analytics and BigQuery

Data is a pivotal element in SPH digital transformation journey, with Dr. Deb Goswami, the organization’s Head of Data, highlighting internal and external factors driving this change. External factors, such as the decline of third-party cookies and identifiers, coupled with evolving consumer trends like the migration of readership to websites or apps, significantly impact traditional media organizations. Internally, SPH is fostering a data-informed culture to enhance decision-making processes. Deb emphasizes the importance of appropriately scaling the data to avoid overwhelming internal stakeholders with excessive dashboards and numbers during decision-making.

Google Analytics plays a pivotal role in fostering this data-informed culture at SPH, offering deep insights into how readers engage with SPH publications. The integration of Google Analytics with a BigQuery data warehouse facilitates analysis and decision-making through a multi-cloud data architecture.

In the newsroom, editorial teams leverage Google Analytics and Looker Studio to create easy-to-use dashboards displaying audience data on large overhead displays. These dashboards provide insights into reader behavior, including page views on trending stories, engagement metrics like return visits and time spent, and conversion rates. Reporters use these metrics to enhance reader engagement by capitalizing on trending topics and creating relevant articles. 

SPH has also shifted from heavy reliance on third-party data to an analytics model reflecting how readers interact with its websites and ecosystem. The analytics team collaborates with product managers and business units to strategically invest in areas such as dynamic paywalls and subscription propensity models for users and readers.

"We cannot afford to spend too much time on corporate applications such as claims, training and onboarding – we need to get them done quickly so we can devote our energies to core systems like SAP. Apps Script and AppSheet enable us to prioritize our development work so we maximize our contribution to the business.” said Hua Cheng Hong, Head of Corporate Systems, Singapore Press Holdings

Delivering efficiencies with machine learning and AI

SPH plans to enhance its use of AI and machine learning through Google Cloud, leveraging managed containerization like Kubernetes for scalable deployments. The data science team has already applied machine learning to areas such as subscription modeling and brand safety classification for ads.

Using Google Kubernetes Engine, SPH also employs a visual object detection API to analyze camera feeds, helping the advertising team assess the reach of news headlines and set appropriate pricing for billboard ads. The organization aims to drive improvements and innovations across its operations with these advanced technologie

A leading media organization in Asia, SPH has embraced new ways of working to thrive in an age of digital disruption. Its portfolio includes newspapers, magazines, online portals, radio stations, as well as real estate and healthcare investments.



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