The business landscape is rapidly undergoing digitisation with the continuous evolution of new technologies. Consequently, digital transformation is fuelling substantial and swift growth for numerous companies across various industries and diverse processes.
While the term "digital transformation" might evoke images of large corporations, towering office buildings, and teams of IT professionals tirelessly working on digital strategies, it is increasingly crucial for small businesses as well. As the adoption of digital solutions becomes more widespread, small businesses that delay action risk falling behind and creating a significant gap between them and their competitors.
To initiate the digital transformation journey and harness the benefits of emerging technologies, here are some fundamental steps that small businesses can take:
Before starting - Define the business' needs
The first step before diving into a digital transformation in earnest is to define what the business is seeking to gain from the process. Many businesses have a pre-existing mission statement and even if they don’t there will likely be some kind of overriding ambition or purpose that the company is building towards.
Undertaking a digital transformation offers the opportunity to both review and potentially revise this mission to ensure it remains relevant for the future and to analyse how technology can best be used to drive their aims. Owners should consider ways in which they are currently lacking in their pursuit of their ambitions and how technology could help them to progress towards their goals quicker or more efficiently.
While it may be tempting to dive straight in, a thorough analysis of how digital transformation can help the business will ensure that the approach is more considered and, as a result, more effective. Armed with the findings, businesses can focus on priority areas, identify the technologies that can best suit their needs and build a comprehensive plan for implementing new technology and upskilling employees.
Some key transformative technologies
Enhancing business efficiency and freeing up time for growth-focused activities can be achieved through automation. These systems streamline tasks previously handled by staff, eliminating mundane and time-consuming activities that demand minimal skill. Virtual assistants, for instance, can automate processes like scheduling meetings and retrieving necessary documents promptly. Without automation, employees may become bogged down with administrative work, diverting attention from business growth and revenue generation.
The adoption of data analytics enables businesses to log and access valuable insights, driving greater efficiency. Whether optimising marketing efforts or strategising for the future, analytics play a crucial role in digital transformation. By providing unbiased analyses of the industry, consumer trends, and performance relative to competitors, data analytics empowers businesses to make informed decisions and propel their growth.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the urgency for digital transformation has never been more apparent. The significant rise in remote and flexible working necessitates a strategic response. Embracing this trend involves migrating businesses to the cloud, offering flexibility for seamless collaboration and communication among remote teams. Beyond facilitating remote work, cloud solutions provide scalability, reliable systems with 24/7 support, and robust cybersecurity protection, ensuring businesses are well-equipped for the digital age.
During the transformation - Measure progress
Something that is universal across any transformation process or growth strategy is measuring progress and success throughout. Not only can this enable owners to track how their digital transformation is progressing, it also provides opportunities to revise objectives and, if necessary, adjust the course being taken.
Especially for small businesses, where resources are limited, ploughing on with a digital transformation that is not delivering on its stated goals can be extremely damaging. Therefore, it is vital to monitor progress against the aims set out at the beginning of the process and be prepared to act decisively if they are not being met.