Today, most SMBs appreciate that digital transformation is a necessary evil if they hope to remain competitive and profitable in future markets. According to a recent survey, 64% of Australian businesses have a digital transformation project under way, and 9 out of 10 respondents consider digital transformation challenges to be an ongoing initiative.
It’s now a race to keep up, as those organisations that have implemented digital transformation are already reaping benefits. The same survey found that the main benefits of of current or previous transformation projects were:
- To improve operations through digital processes (67%);
- To create a standardised, agile digital platform for the organisation (44%);
- To gain a better understanding of customers (35%) and improve their experience through omnichannel (35%); and,
- To bridge silos between business units (33%) and data channels (30%).
Understanding that digital transformation is crucial to a company’s survival, however, is one thing – enacting it within your organisation is another thing entirely.
If you’ve got digital transformation in your sights, but feel like you can’t pull the trigger, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
Here are 5 of the biggest challenges SMBs face when trying to implement digital transformation, and how you can overcome them.
1. Employee resistance
We get it: change is hard. And transformative change is even harder. Digital transformation challenges by its very nature are disruptive.
Employees may not only have to get used to new systems and processes; their roles may change fundamentally, or even disappear altogether. So it’s easy to see why employees may be wary about the whole concept.
While it’s tempting to resign yourself to just leaving things the way they are – after all, the current systems and processes probably work “just fine” – this attitude will also resign your business to eventual and inevitable failure.
The last thing you want is to become another Kodak, whose internal resistance to change led the company to bury the digital camera (that they themselves invented!) to protect their film business, ultimately contributing to their own demise.
Is digital transformation scary? Yes. Odds are you’ll never completely erase employees’ fears and doubts. But you can allay them, with consistent and open communication, and careful stakeholder management.
Helping them understand why digital transformation is necessary, what benefits they themselves can reap from embracing it, and how they will be empowered to be an active part of the transformation, will go a long way towards securing their all-important buy-in.
2. Lack of quality data
At the heart of any successful digital transformation lies data. Without quality data, from which actionable business can be derived, there can essentially be no digital transformation strategy.
But many SMBs have to contend with trying to aggregate and leverage data that is located in a mish-mash of silos spread across the business. This can make businesses sluggish, and unable to respond quickly to fast-changing market trends.
SMBs in this situation may want to consider implementing technology such as an enterprise content management (ECM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, which can help by automating data gathering and processing, and storing data in a centralised location, allowing for better and faster decision-making, and a more agile business overall.
3. Lack of an overall digital transformation strategy
Digital transformation isn’t just about implementing technology in one or two departments; it’s about reimagining the way your entire business operates as a whole. Yet many SMBs fail to understand this; according to one survey, 38% of companies have an individual business unit or product line leading the digital transformation for their organisation or vertical.
Without a cohesive strategy that encompasses the entire organisation, any digital transformation efforts are unlikely to succeed.
When developing a strategy, the best place to start is with the customer. Ask yourself, how can you ensure that the customer experience excels right the way through their journey? Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, after all; they should be the lifeblood of your digital transformation strategy too.
4. Lack of internal digitisation expertise
It’s all well and good to be enthusiastic about digital transformation challenges, but enthusiasm alone won’t get you too far. You also need a healthy dose of talent and technical expertise to ensure digital transformation is implemented in the right way for your business.
If you don’t feel like you have the necessary expertise internally, you may want to consider hiring someone to lead the digital transformation charge. It’s also important to ensure your employees are given resources and training, so that they have the skills they need to adapt to more innovative ways of working.
Last, but not least, you must carefully evaluate any and all vendors – at the end of day, they shouldn’t be there to just sell you a product; rather, they should be a technological partner who understands your goals and is there to help you reach them.
5. Limited budget
Digital transformation doesn’t come cheap (though, if done correctly, the investment will pay dividends down the track).
When putting together your strategy, it is important to also factor in your budget, and adjust accordingly. While it can sometimes feel like things need to be done yesterday, there’s nothing wrong with splitting the strategy into phases spread over several months, or even years, if that’s what fits with your financial plan. Digital transformation is risky enough without the added stress of an overextended budget.
With a wealth of flexible and affordable technological solutions available, digital transformation is well within the reach of any SMB. What proactive steps can you take today to ensure your business is part of the revolution?
Are business silos holding your organisation back from maximum agility and productivity? Download our Breaking Down Silos ebook to learn how to overcome collaboration challenges and accelerate business growth in your company today.