Overcoming the challenges of digital transformation for small businesses

Embrace digital change and drive results
Embrace digital change and drive results

Digital transformation is creating unprecedented opportunities for growth and innovation. For decades, larger companies have held the competitive advantage in terms of scope, delivery and the ability to respond quickly to changing market conditions. Now, the tables are turning. Advances in technology are presenting small companies with extraordinary opportunities to gain a foothold in markets formerly dominated by large organisations.

Cloud computing is easily accessible to smaller companies, and its flexibility and lack of upfront investment make it a perfect fit for businesses exploring new ground. It also removes the need for frequent, costly software upgrades, and has in-built security. Mobility makes it less important for businesses to spend on office rentals, with platforms and collaboration tools accessed from smartphones, desktops or tablets. And physical mail technologies are now being right-sized so small businesses have access to better, faster, more productive technology integrated with intelligent digital platforms.

Businesses are already juggling a huge amount of challenges from staying on top of evolving regulations, to managing skills shortages and high staff turnover, to meeting changing customer demands. The need to keep up with the pace of change through digital transformation places even more pressure on businesses, and many are not making the most of the opportunities digitalisation delivers. This shows in research from consultancy Arthur D. Little(1) which found that 80% of firms are lagging in their digital transformation maturity and have reactive rather than active strategies in place. A lack of knowledge is cited as the biggest barrier to achieving digital transformation, identified by 50% of survey respondents, followed by a lacking sense of urgency (45%) and excessive complexity (40%).

It’s not difficult to understand why the thought of digital transformation can seem overwhelming, but there are a few key ways to address this. The following tips should also help you form a framework to embrace digital change and drive results:

  1. Map your move to digital, against your business priorities: what do you most want your business to achieve, and what tools could help you do this? Informed business decisions are built on data, so that’s a good place to start. Use what data you have to give you insights: if your sales funnel is growing and you want to formalise your customer relationship management, you might consider Salesforce or an alternative CRM system; if you have sales people with different commission amounts each month, the latest accounting software would work well; and if you need to meet new industry regulations such as the GDPR, you might want to consider ways of protecting your physical and digital customer information.
  2. Let your customers drive your digitalisation strategy: how do they prefer to get in touch with you? Email, phone, or through your website? Which types of marketing communication do they best respond to? Their responses will help you prioritise your digital tools.
  3. Gather as much data from your customers as you can: you can put in place clever analytics behind your website to follow your customers' browsing journey, or you can create a simple form for your customers to complete when they make an enquiry with you. Collect data you might not think you need – mobile numbers will become invaluable for marketing in the future, if not now, so think long-term.
  4. Consider the cloud: data needs to be accessible if you’re going to use it to extract insight. Cloud storage is a great solution, cost-effective and accessible from any device. Similarly, if you do business through your website, look for a cloud-based platform which brings together a wide range of innovative software and applications, from e-commerce payment to shipping tools
  5. Identify how you can make your communication work harder: personalisation is critical to the success of marketing communications, and once you’ve collected your customer data digitally and started to manage it effectively, you have the potential to deliver personalised, relevant, contextual communication. Digitalisation is key here.
  6. Become a beta trialist: vendors are often on the lookout for businesses to trial their technologies and provide feedback, and many will offer a trial subscription to a software platform before you sign up. Take advantage of these offers as they can be fantastic introductions to new ways of working
  7. Consider how your workforce will evolve: do you have mobile workers, or could flexible working give you access to a wider talent pool? Do you need to make sure your mobile workers have access to exactly the same tools and technologies as they do in the office? The latest mail platforms convert mail that comes into an office in physical format, into digital format so it can quickly and securely reach the addressee
  8. If you’re a government organisation, think about which tools will help you best meet digital targets, and find out what’s working for other local government agencies in your area – they can share best practices and outcomes.
  9. Make sure you have the right foundations in place: there’s not much point investing in digital tools and systems if you have a slow and creaking infrastructure underneath them. Talk to your network provider to check you have the bandwidth in place to support your technology objectives. Moving to a different tariff could get you more bandwidth and a faster service for a similar cost.
  10. Finally, think about how it all works together: separate apps, tools and systems that don’t talk to each other are frustrating and hinder progress. One of the benefits of digitalisation is that it provides a connected, integrated approach, so speak to partners or managed service providers who will make sure everything is joined up.

For more information, ideas and insights head over to www.pbconnect.com.

1 Source: consultancy.uk