With a global pandemic pushing organisations towards hybrid workplace models, digital transformation strategy for small businesses has been pushed to the top for the first time. In fact, as many as 76 percent of small businesses may rely on digital technology to operate now. While initially, the adoption of new technology may have been ad hoc in nature, as we look towards a new hybrid workplace, this presents an opportunity for small businesses to create digital transformation strategies that will support smarter ways of working into the future.
Benefits of digital transformation
Some people in your business may still be asking why you should implement a digital transformation strategy for small businesses. Aside from the obvious need to enable remote workers to achieve their business goals wherever they’re located, there are numerous other benefits to digital transformation, including:
- Increased efficiency
- Increased productivity
- Reduced environmental footprint
- High return on investment
- Improved workplace safety
As well as the direct benefits to your business, digital transformation is also necessary simply for keeping pace with your competitors. While this has always been true, COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation trends, meaning whole industries are moving rapidly ahead all at once. So now’s definitely the time to take action.
Challenges of digital transformation
It’s worth noting though, that while digital transformation has been fast-tracked, you can still expect to face some challenges as a small business, including:
- Employee resistance
- Lack of quality data
- Lack of an overall digital transformation strategy
- Lack of internal digitisation expertise
- Limited budget
None of these are game changers though (we’re about to solve some of them!), and in fact, they’re fairly common amongst small businesses. If you find yourself facing any of these challenges, see our blog for ways to overcome them.
Digital transformation strategy for small businesses
1. Create a team
Who is going to drive your digital transformation strategy in the business? Obviously IT needs to be involved, but it’s also worth including people from different departments and levels of your organisation. Business silos can hinder innovation and prevent you from shifting focus quickly, so involving a broad range of people will ensure your digital transformation strategy meets the needs of the whole business from the start.
2. Identify your budget and time
There’s no doubt about it, one of the biggest problems small businesses can face in their digital transformation journey is limited money and time. Work out what you can reasonably commit to now, dollars and hours, and create your strategy around this. Just remember, in the uncertainty of COVID-19, you may have to have some flexibility and invest slightly more now to keep operating tomorrow.
3. Identify key areas for transformation
What are the most pressing issues for your business? Is it serving customers without a physical shopfront anymore, or enabling employees to collaborate remotely? In all likelihood, you’ll have a number of key issues that you’re facing right now, as well as some less demanding problems. List them all and then work out what your short-, mid- and long-term priorities are.
4. Consult with staff
Digital transformation involves a major shift in the way your organisation works, making people critical to the success of your efforts. Consulting with staff should give you key information, such as staff work needs and challenges, where employees are losing the most time in their day due to poor processes or technology, and how customer experience can be improved. Not only will this help clarify your priorities further, but it will also help staff understand why digital transformation is necessary and how it will benefit them.
5. Consider your future needs
Digital transformation isn’t a one-and-done kind of process, but an ongoing push to improve your business operations through new technology. So while it might be easy to only think about your current needs, if you want to get the most benefit out of your strategy, you’ll have to look towards your future as well. What growth rate are you currently experiencing? Where do you expect/want to be in 5 years? How will new technologies, such as NBN or 5G, impact you? How are your customers’ needs and expectations changing? These are just a few of the questions you should consider.
6. Get expert guidance and support
While a large business may be able to engage digital transformation consultants, this isn’t feasible for every small business. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have access to guidance or support. Leveraging vendors for their expertise will not only help inform your strategy but will also identify the best providers to help achieve your goals.
7. Partner with the right tech/service partners
Finally, with all the information you’ve collected to create your strategy, it’s time to choose technology and service vendors to come on your digital transformation journey. Forbes recommends that small businesses look for vendors who:
- Understand your industry or business model
- Provide insights on your customers
- Invest in technology, including machine learning
- Have robust integrations
- Prioritise customer care
- Challenge you to drive change
Building a resilient and productive hybrid work environment requires the right hardware, software and processes. Download our Smarter Workplaces Guide for a step-by-step strategy for implementing an effective hybrid work model that equips your employees to work anywhere, any time.