Consumer expectations have shifted. More than ever, consumers expect a personalised experience and one joined-up conversation from online to offline, in-store or by telephone. But how can SMEs meet the needs of the new mobile-global-now consumer while at the same time compete more effectively with larger organisations?
This is where digital transformation comes into its own. But what is a digital transformation? At a fundamental level, it’s the application of digital technologies to all aspects of business operations. Or, as IDC puts it, “a collaborative culture and a focus on a digital core that embraces analytics and open, agile technologies.”
For SMEs, digital transformation brings incredible opportunity to become more agile, expand, and compete more effectively with much larger competitors.
Digital transformation at eir: what we learned
At eir Business, we were used to helping our customers embrace a digital transformation strategy, like courier company Nightline for example, which transformed its business processes, customer experience and employee engagement with a holistic approach to its entire operations.
But we too had to take the digital leap, and enhance our own operations by tackling the way we market, sell, and support our services. What we found during this process was that digital transformation is not just about one team or one department, it’s a broad cultural shift that requires change across people, processes and technology. It’s also about having the right tools and technologies in place to enable the change.
SMEs are primed to embrace the new digital-first landscape
For large organisations with siloed departments and a global workforce, this digital re-think can be a daunting undertaking. SMEs, on the other hand, are arguably better positioned to implement wholesale changes and build digital into every aspect of their business.
An IDC study commissioned by SAP called “Thriving in the Digital Economy: How small and midsize enterprises are adapting to digital transformation,” looked at how SMEs are taking on digital transformation. Almost half (45.6%) of decision makers said technology levels the playing field for small businesses versus larger corporations and over a third (36.7%) said their size was an advantage over larger companies that are less able take advantage of digital innovation.
How are SMEs taking that digital leap?
1. Small means agile
In contrast to waterfall-n style project phasing, smaller companies are typically better able to deal with change as a more or less routine part of doing business. Smaller organisations can more seamlessly adopt agile methodologies (or at minimum the spirit of agile) and apply it broadly across their customer-facing efforts.
2. Cloud computing scalability
Thanks to cloud developments, SMEs now have ready access to advanced technology and applications. Previously this technology would have been out of reach financially for more SMEs. But now there’s no need for costly infrastructure or additional human resources and because everything can be accessed via the cloud on an ‘as-you-go’ basis, deployment time is reduced and SMEs can scale up seamlessly and get to market quickly.
3. Smart use of data analytics
Big Data has typically been associated with large organisations but as a result of falling prices of technology, new analytics applications and the rise of open source projects, advanced data analytics are more accessible to SMEs. At a very basic level Big Data can be used to gain consumer insights which businesses can then use to deliver a more personalised service. It can also aid decision making, boost operational efficiencies and reduce costs.
Reliable network a strong foundation to digital transformation
Key to any successful digital transformation is your infrastructure. In this digital world businesses are completely reliant on technology, which means that network reliability and data connectivity has never been more important. The network is the foundation on which all digital innovation is built, from WiFi, beacons and bots, to mobile applications and machine-to-machine solutions . With a reliable, consistently high-performing network in place you can layer on the components of your digital transformation strategy.