Technology is all around us, and for many small businesses it’s becoming more and more apparent that those that don’t adapt, fail. Digital transformation isn’t just a buzz word or something that’s run by consultants in enterprise level organisations; small businesses can benefit significantly from a practical application of digital transformation too.
But what is digital transformation, and how can you take a practical approach to integrating it into your small business?
What is digital transformation?
Put simply, digital transformation is the process of moving traditional business operations to digitally optimised ones, using technology to perform and streamline tasks. This allows you to:
- Remove manual, paper-based tasks
- Streamline business processes
- Make more effective, data driven decisions
- Add value for your customers and improve the customer journey
- Scale your business more effectively and cost efficiently
- Improve quality across your business
- Improve your business profitability
What is the practical application for small business?
For small to medium sized businesses looking for a practical application of digital transformation, there are several things we recommend to get started. Staring small helps you to manage the process, realise the benefits, see the returns, and then scale. Examples include:
- Moving away from traditional phone systems to internet-based phone systems such as 3CX, to streamline and remove limitations on your communication capabilities.
- Transitioning to cloud-based services, to replace older on-premise, server-based applications that require hefty infrastructure investment and maintenance (not to mention often onerous updates and deployment).
- Deploying modern tools such as Microsoft 365 to improve your organisation’s connection and access to information and tools to improve productivity and collaboration.
- Moving to a more robust and full-service accounting system like MYOB, which streamlines not just accounting functions but also payroll processes.
- Implementing a cloud-based content management and intranet tool like Microsoft SharePoint to provide a centralised hub for managing files, communication and knowledge across your business.
- Outsourcing your technology requirements and maintenance to an appropriately experienced and knowledgeable managed IT service provider, to support you in best practice set up of infrastructure, networks, data recovery and security, and cloud-based systems.
For large scale enterprise businesses, digital transformation often includes incorporating cutting edge technology such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into existing technologies and processes.
How to approach digital transformation
While you can certainly start deploying practical technology improvements at any time, there are significant benefits to taking a strategic approach to digital transformation in your business.
This means looking at your business as a connected ecosystem, so that any new systems and digital tools that you put in place are considered in terms of the whole picture. For example – ask these questions:
- If you’re going to deploy an internet-based phone system, what other applications support this, and how will it influence your procurement processes such as mobile phones and other devices needed by your teams? If your team is no longer office bound to their desk phone, this will influence what hardware you need to purchase to support a much more mobile workforce.
- What infrastructure will be outdated with a move to cloud-based systems, and how can you best leverage this to improve overall capital and operational expenditure over time? Infrastructure can be expensive to install, deploy and maintain, so it’s important to choose the right equipment and systems for the longer term, and achieve significant savings.
- What time and headcount savings can be made by replacing manual, paper-based processes with more robust accounting, payroll, finance and communication systems? You may be able to make better hiring and redeployment decisions, and allow your teams to upskill.
- How can you provide greater value to your customers, and streamline the customer journey, by using digital tools for your interactions with them? The better experience your customers have with you at every connection point, the longer they will remain loyal customers, which will have a significant impact on your bottom line.
- How can you improve the quality of your products and services by moving operational processes to digital methods, even if they’re simple ones? This could be as simple as tracking and sharing product/service failures and customer complaints using digital tools so you can be proactive, rather than reactive.
Your step-by-step digital transformation strategy
A digital transformation strategy should include the following steps, to ensure you’re approaching it with an eye on the bigger picture:
- 1. Identify your business goals and needs – what’s your 5-year plan, and how will technology help you get there?
- 2. Align on the “why” – to implement change, your business needs to be aligned on the “why” from the top down. A digital transformation will impact everyone in your business, so share the vision and the why, and get everyone on board. People are often reluctant to change, so getting their input with the planning and implementation will garner support and acceptance.
- 3. Identify where you will start – work out where you can start using digital technology in your business, and map out the key projects and steps needed.
- 4. Find your partners – all organisations, no matter what size, benefit from connecting with technology partners to implement digital transformation. This means careful research to ensure that any technology partner or consultant is relevant to your business, and understands the industry you’re in and what you want to achieve.
- 5. Review and refine as you go – don’t lock yourself into a box that you’ve committed to and can’t change. Taking an agile approach with review steps so you can respond to feedback, unexpected risk and change, and leveraging off unplanned benefits that have been realised, will mean the application of your strategy is truly fit for purpose.
- 6. Scale – as you start to see the benefits, leverage this for growth so you can begin to scale your business up. This may be through increasing headcount, expanding products and services, or targeting new markets. Your digital technology should be designed to scale with you.
Grow your business with digital transformation
Digital transformation can be a daunting prospect, but when applied practically and with a whole-of-business strategic approach, can provide the very real opportunity to grow and scale your business.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how your business can use technology to grow, then SouthEast IT is here to help. We can help you transform your business through our IT consultancy services to ensure you proceed with the right systems and digital tools for your specific needs.
Want to transform your business with the right technology?
SouthEast IT has over 30 years’ experience in the IT sector, and can provide knowledgeable and innovative support to help you achieve your business digital transformation goals. Call us today for an exploratory chat.