Probably everyone knows the potential benefits of digital transformation today. However, it is widely believed that artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, big data analytics are only for large enterprises that can afford it and can really benefit from digital transformations. I have good news for small and medium-sized businesses: this is not so! Digital platforms are affordable today and simple enough for use by organizations of all sizes and types.
I am sure that owners of small and medium-sized businesses in a wide variety of industries can change their business for better by using digital technology and get full benefits.
Focus on the essentials
Digital changes should aim to achieve the best possible outcome for your organization. To outline a roadmap that can work, answer two questions:
- Where exactly your company generates the most profit. These can be key areas, key customers, critical products.
- What do you see as the weakest points of your business. Where you spend excessive efforts, where you lose customers, which potentially important segments you do not cover.
Answers to these questions will help you determine the points of application of efforts. For a small business, this is especially important, since the waste of resources for it will be much more painful.
Most likely, with the first approach to transformation, you will not get a perfect, final readmap, but you will get a direction that will help you adjust your course if necessary.
Digital transformation is the transition from paper-based processes to data-driven business processes. Therefore, start collecting data.
Even if you don’t know what to do with the data today, start collecting all the information related to your business. Consider which metrics you use to measure success and what data affects these metrics. How to measure the impact of certain business initiatives. What types of customer interactions and factors of their behavior are important for your organization.
Gather related data as well. For example, if you store the information of your transactions, such as dates, products, amounts, collect additional information, for example, initiators of transactions, duration of processes, number of approval cycles, and much more.
Consider all points of view
Digital transformation is not so much the adoption of information technology as managerial and procedural changes. When planning such changes and analyzing new possibilities for solving problems, it is important to collect information from different groups of people. When making decisions, encourage others to share a frank view of work processes, setting goals in business, evaluating results, and much more. Your business is first of all your employees, and the value of their opinion in small companies can be especially great. Of course, when developing a transformation strategy, critical points of view should be separated from less important ones. Equally important is to provide feedback and encourage employees to submit the most important suggestions.
In a small and medium-sized business, it is much easier than in a large enterprise to create an environment in which people feel ready to make an open and honest contribution. Taking into account the value of various points of view is also easier in a small company.
Make data accessible through your organization
Isolated data and the impossibility of centralized access of different teams and departments can be a big obstacle to a successful digital conversion. Working blindly, without understanding what the rest of the organization does and how it all works together, is absolutely unsuitable for a digital company.
Moreover, your colleagues should not only have access to digital data and processes, but also have a good understanding of how to handle it and why this is necessary. You will spend a lot of time and effort to explain why you invest in digital systems, but it will help inspire your team, encourage enthusiasm and gain trust.
The behavior of people needs to be changed, but this does not happen automatically. Therefore, engage employees in decision-making and train in how digitization will affect them.
Develop and inspire yourself and colleagues
As you transform, you have new tools and technologies, so the development of yourself and others is a key, and for a small business this factor can be decisive. How will you develop your own skills and abilities based on changes? How will you develop your team? This is an important part of the change strategy, and you should consider it at the planning stage.
Trust is an integral part of leadership, and the ability to inspire others is extremely valuable. And during a time of change, leaders trusted by people are able to make impressive strides. In small companies, the confidence factor can be decisive. To build mutual understanding, communicate openly and honestly with your team and fulfill your obligations.
Using paper based systems and manual control of business processes force small business owners to spend more time on tedious work and limit their vision. I’m sure that digital change will help small businesses work better and more efficiently.