digital transformation

What Digital Transformation Looks Like for Small Businesses

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Digital transformation is a top priority for most organizations today. Across the world, CEOs and COOs are starting to shift their budgets and their organizations to be more digital-friendly. But what does that mean for organizations that don’t have massive IT budgets or multiple departments?

digital transformation

Can small businesses take part in digital transformation and if so, what will it look like?

For us to be able to answer these questions, let’s first define digital transformation. Digital transformation is how businesses exploit technology to create new business processes, culture and customer experiences to meet the changing needs in today’s technological world. In short, it’s about adapting your business to the changing digital landscape.

While digital transformation can become quite complex, it’s actually uniquely suited for small businesses. Small businesses must be agile and quick to adapt in order to survive. Most small businesses owners are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes because they need to be as efficient as possible.

So it’s not surprising that small businesses are already embracing a digital future. 48% of SMBs plan to transform their business for a digital future. In fact, many small businesses have already started their own digital transformation journeys. An IT research firm’s most recent survey of 1,600 small businesses found that 82 percent of SMBs are already on their digital transformation journey.

One of the biggest complaints about digital transformation is that it is an enormous initiative that takes time, money and manpower. But SMBs are showing that even the most time-strapped business owners can find the resources to address these initiatives and embrace a digital future.

During digital transformation, organizations must take a step back and ask themselves if they are using technology in the right way and for the right solution. It’s about being intentional with the way you use different technologies across the organization, no matter how large or small the organization.

These initiatives can be many different things for small businesses including:

  • Collaborative tools
  • CRM systems
  • Marketing automation
  • Accounting software
  • Communication tools and processes
  • Hiring processes

From chatbots to cloud accounting software, digital technologies can improve every area of a small business. But a small business owner needs to thinks strategically when it comes to implementing digital transformation initiatives before just diving right in.

Here’s how to get started with digital transformation as a small business:

Before you start any digital transformation project, perform an internal assessment to identify gaps, problems and threats in your organization.

  • What’s key to your business’ survival?
  • What’s your biggest problem?
  •  Where are the gaps in your processes?
  • What are your competitors offering that you are not?
  • What are your customer expectations?

When creating your roadmap, it’s important that SMBs do two things:

The first is to pursue a holistic approach to digital transformation, which means to focus on the technology along with the needed business outcomes. Digital transformation is not about buying the most expensive, trendiest tool. It’s about solving the problems of the organization and improving its efficiencies. For each technology that is suggested, identify the desired business outcome and ways of measurement.

The second is to consider long-term and short-term goals. Digital transformation is not an overnight initiative. However, for SMBs, it’s essential that they implement initiatives that can be implemented quickly with specific and measurable ROI. There are no huge budgets in a small business, so these initial projects must free up resources and increase revenues so that they can help to fund bigger projects later on down the road.

As the digital transformation roadmap is created and begin to choose your digital transformation projects, there are three characteristics that you want to keep in mind. These three practices are the keys to a successful digital transformation initiative.

1.Clear communication

Business leaders must be able to clearly state the desired outcomes of the project in a way that your teams will understand. It’s also important that SMBs collaborate across stakeholders. Whether it’s a team of 5 of 200, it’s imperative that decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Digital transformation blends processes, technologies and departments so that the entire business improves. Get buy in from all your team members.

2. Strategic prioritization of goals

The team must be aligned with the company’s shared strategic goals for digital transformation to occur. Digital transformation cannot be an “IT initiative.” It must be a company-wide initiative.  Each department or team member will be more willing to take part in projects when they understand how these projects will improve the company as a whole.

3. Rely on those with subject matter expertise

Empower team members to be part of the digital transformation by inviting them to have a say in the projects that align with their roles and their experience. Your IT manager or consultant should play a role in every project but if you are searching for the perfect marketing automation software, empower the marketing team to take lead in the business case.

As small businesses build out their digital transformation journey, they will see it is a blend of quick wins and long-term projects with one important thing helping to charge the path: data. Small businesses should begin to focus on the data they receive from each project. This data will help their businesses to better understand their customers, partners, and employees so they can design better digital initiatives, processes, and products as they become more and more digital.

Digital transformation is proving to be an unavoidable undertaking for every business but fortunately, it’s one that pays off. A Harvard study found that top digital transforming companies posted higher gross margins and more income filtering to the bottom line than slower digital adopters. And for SMBs, a study found that small businesses that invest in technology are 18% more likely to experience revenue growth.

SMBs should not shy away from digital transformation. In fact, they should be ready to embrace it more than anyone. With the right strategy and smart project management, SMBs can quickly move forward into a digital future, while seeing business growth, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.

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