SMB’s Guideline to Embrace Digital Transformation

In my last blog “3 Reasons Why the Google and SAP Collaboration Benefits Enterprise Customers“, I came to the conclusion that “enterprises big or small will benefit from having access to the latest disruptive technologies and innovations” which will enable them to “use and analyze big data in real-time […] to identify new business opportunities.”

But how to embrace today the technology that will bring success tomorrow? By taking the IDC InfoBrief “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals” into account, I would like to share my personal top 5 thoughts with CIOs and CEOs out there in the SMB area.

1. Integration Is Key

Point solutions for e.g. CRM or ecommerce might have the most immediate impact on a SMB’s current business needs. Only if those solutions are integrated, however, and if they share and update information in real time with each other based on a common platform (like SAP Cloud Platform or Google Cloud Platform), an enterprise’s business objectives (e.g. acquiring net new customers and minimize customer churn) will be best supported by the chosen technology.

2. Business Process Optimization Does Not Stop At Enterprise Borders

An investment in a technology solution will have a much higher impact if an enterprise (be it large, small or medium) extends its scope by looking further beyond company limits. What do I mean? Well, if an enterprise is using the latest and greatest technology solution – on-premise or in the cloud – to only improve internal processes, the enterprise is probably missing a huge business opportunity by not getting the most out of this technology investment. Looking beyond internal processes by having customers and business partners in mind – this opens new ways to e.g. increase sales revenues, as well as it improves customer/partner loyalty and provides competitive advantages.

Customer-facing processes in sales and marketing most likely benefit the most from digital transformation. If, as an example, an e-commerce system tracks the consumer’s interests (while browsing the company’s website for a specific product) and shares this information in real time with the CRM application, marketeers can instantly react, and include this potential buyer in a personalized email campaign which offers a real-time promotion discount of 10 percent, for instance.

3. Think Big – Start Small

According to the results of the IDC survey, 50% of the surveyed firms lean towards off-the-shelf solutions which require modest fine tuning to achieve performance objectives. As the IDC InfoBrief also describes, firms typically are in favor of quick and easy projects with immediate impact. At the same time, it is critical that the chosen technology solution be capable of fulfilling future business requirements, support a SMBs growth strategy or be flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions. Small businesses might become medium businesses, and medium businesses might become large businesses with local presence. Large enterprises might become global players through acquisitions. This is what I mean by “Think big – start small”.

4. Learn From the Past on the Way to Digital Transformation

Looking back at the research, a total of 41% of the surveyed SMBs expect their past experiences to help them with the implementation of future technology solutions. Key lessons learned: more training, more time allocation, and a higher budget.

5. Third-Party Services Are Key to Achieving Expected Outcomes

We all know from our private lives that the decision-making process for buying a new car or a simple gadget like a smartwatch, for instance, can become quite time-consuming and involves different parties, be it your wife or husband or your financial institution if you need credit for the new purchase. If we compare this to an enterprise’s purchasing decision for a new technology solution, you can imagine that this is probably far more complex and typically involves many stakeholders to ensure that the chosen technology fulfills the company’s present and future requirements.

As the complexity of the topic and the potential impact of having made the wrong decision can be immense, senior/LoB management and IT management of SMBs more often see the value of external third-parties like software vendors, cloud service providers or other technology firms. For example, working together with third-party firms, small- and mid-size companies can develop mid- to long-term business strategies based on the latest disruptive technology innovations.

My Opinion: Get Back To the Core Strength of Small and Medium Sizes Businesses

SMBs typically have the ability to fully adopt disruptive technologies much quicker than larger firms due to either the size of their organization or simpler internal processes. This massive strength should be tapped into to create competitive edges. Bring all parties within your company to the table and rethink business processes, or even models. Think outside the box, start incrementally, and integrate on a large scale!

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