Am I ready to go digital?
Check whether digital transformation will meet the unique needs of your business by reviewing the digital maturity of your business using the following steps:
Before deciding to take your business into the digital world, assess its current situation to estimate its maturity and understand whether the business, including its processes and people, is sufficiently prepared to go digital.
These questions will help you assess whether you are ready to go digital.
The assessment can be performed with the following steps:
Identify your strategy and business goals
— What is your business strategy and how does it fit your digital vision?
— How innovative are your digital plan and strategy?
— Do you have the necessary internal or external resources to implement the digital transformation of your business?
— Are your business culture and practices open to digitalisation?
Identify the business areas to digitalise and your business targets
Once you have developed your business strategy and direction, identify the areas and processes that should be digitalised.
The first step is to ask to what extent your business is already using technology – from simple solutions to sophisticated software – to improve the following business areas:
— reducing cost of goods sold – for example, through e-commerce sales
— reducing total lead time
— improving efficiency of supporting or administrative functions
— reducing costs of supporting or administrative functions
— reducing inventory on hand
— increasing revenues through additional services
— improving the customer experience
— improving the employee experience.
You can develop and prioritise your digitalisation approach based on the level of existing technology that supports key business areas and targets. A common approach is to start by identifying quick wins: those areas that will bring significant business impact and are relatively easy to implement. After these, implement your own list of priorities depending on the available resources. Try to focus on smaller changes first and engage your employees in transformation early on before proceeding with more complex initiatives.
Estimate the resources you have
Every significant change and transformation of the business and its operating model entails engaging your team and the available resources.
Before going through business-wide digital transformation, evaluate your internally-available resources.
• The initial steps include assessing:
— Does your business have the necessary competencies to perform digital transformation?
— Are your current employees enthusiastic about carrying out the necessary changes?
— Will the digitalisation of your business mean you need to acquire new skills or talent?
• When assessing your available resources, ask:
— Do you have investment or financial potential?
— Is your business collecting and keeping necessary information: do you have sufficient data on customers, suppliers, production lines, machinery, systems, products and services?
— Are your business decisions and decision-making processes based on the available data or long-held common practices?
— How is your business positioned compared to competitors within same industry or field when it comes to the resources or competencies required for digitalisation?
— What is the status of IT support in your business? How well integrated are your IT support tools and software with your business, operations and processes, and do they collect sufficient data?
After performing the current assessment and evaluating the available resources, you should have a clearer picture on what changes are needed when transforming your business model into a digital one.
Successful digitalisation of your business means not only having the right tools and data, but having the right organisational model to properly execute business operations. It also means paying attention to more than simply serving your customers. Businesses that successfully go digital implement business-wide transformation with a whole new set of capabilities all focused on delivering an outstanding customer experience across both the digital and physical worlds. Here are some key steps to building a successful business model.
What is takes to build your digital capabilities
To address these new digital challenges (faster business cycles, new risks and the need for business-wide integration), you need business-wide governance surrounding your digital initiatives. For example, you can acquire new digital skills by actively recruiting employees skilled in areas such as mobile technology, analytics and social media. These new employees can help existing employees develop their digital skills through training and mentoring.
Digitalisation also means creating a business strategy that starts from the outside in. True digital transformation starts with the customer and works inwards, connecting capabilities to ensure that every part of the organisation is built around delivering great customer experiences. This is about far more than putting the customer first. Empowered by digital technology and a wealth of information, modern consumers can compare, share and shop 24/7 and your business needs to adapt to this.
• Benchmark yourself against your peers, competitors and industry or sector leaders. Based on your position and industry trends, try to predict future trends and use your digital capabilities to deliver superior products and services to your customers.
• While using technology to deliver an outstanding customer experience, nurture your in-house aptitude and culture towards driving innovation, leanness and agility.
• Assess which capabilities you cannot find or build internally and source them externally.
• Use technologies and solutions that are already established to speed up the digitalisation process.
• Customers take the expectations created during their best online experiences into all areas of their lives. Your business needs to meet the expectations set by other businesses then set new – higher – expectations by capturing, analysing and acting quickly on any insights you derive from customer data.
• Adopt the same communication platforms your customers are using. Your business should be active and available on their preferred social media platforms and other channels.
Determine the processes and roadmap for digital redesign
Consider the following on your roadmap to successful digitalisation:
— selecting appropriate, stable and reliable IT solutions and technology
— investing in digitalisation and technology
— aligning business and digital strategies
— focusing on innovation and growth, fostering a culture of innovation.
Follow these steps for each core and supporting process of your business. Also, bear in mind that there are some industries where abstaining from the digital world could put you out of business. For example:
Retail – competitors offer a wide selection of products and services online
Dining – restaurants now routinely offer deliveries and takeaways online
Hospitality – businesses need to be visible on large platforms to attract customers.
• When choosing new IT systems or solutions, opt for those that have already proved to be stable and reliable when used within your sector. This is especially important for customer- or client-facing solutions as trust and reliability are important factors in your relationships and technology can influence these.
• Be ready to invest in technology even if, in the early years of adoption, doing so cuts into your margins. In some sectors, failing to invest in e-commerce could put you out of business in the long term.
• Your business strategy and business goals should be clearly defined and your IT approach and strategy need to complement them.
• Once you start implementing technology and IT solutions, work continuously on fostering in-house, business-wide innovation and a technology-driven culture. Make sure that solutions are used for their correct purposes. Focus on data-driven decisions. When implementing solutions, take the approach of “adopt not adapt”, meaning that if any of your processes are not properly set up or inefficient, adopt new technology-driven processes and do not adapt the technology to your way of doing things.
• For example, if you are considering implementing accounting software which is available to you in a fully-functioning, immediately-usable form once installed, adopt your internal accounting functions, processes and logics based on the software’s set-up and logic. Avoid adapting software to your internal functions and processes as this may generate more complex processes and additional implementation costs.
Establishing an online presence
Today an online presence is essential for most businesses. Not having an online presence is simply no longer an option if you want your business to have a healthy future.
• When creating successful online business focus on the following:
— Create a simple, attractive and reliable online store.
— Consider any tax and legal regulations with respect to running the online store.
— Don’t disregard logistics, as this is an extension of your service to the customer.
— Ensure your business has a professional digital marketing strategy.
— Be aware of the skill sets and know-how required to open and operate an online store; if necessary, seek external help and support in these areas.
Utilising third-party platforms
When taking your business to the digital world consider offering your products or services on some of the global market places established by leading companies such as Amazon, eBay, Airbnb, Uber, Deliveroo and Wolt. This is especially useful if you are operating in retail, or service sectors such as food delivery, taxi services or rental accommodation. To provide a sense of the market potential, some of these platforms offer you access to half a billion active customers, and all you need to do is complete their simple sign up process. Typically these sites are trusted third-party resellers whose reach is incomparable to what small businesses can achieve on their own.
Explore other third-party platforms specific to your industry, such as Airbnb and Booking.com in the hospitality industry, or Uber, Bolt and BlaBlaCar in the transport sector, and those popular with customers in your region or country, to attract local customers, such as Njuškalo in Croatia.
Mastering social media
Social media is a ubiquitous tool to communicate with, acquire and maintain customers, but the true strategic insights come from delving into unstructured data to deeply understand customer needs, and then making structured and insights-led decisions for success.
With around 1.71 billion monthly active users on Facebook, for example, the information offered is diverse, rich, and there to be mined in order to deeply understand customer needs and expectations. Not only does it open your business to global customers, but Facebook has interesting tools and guides which are publicly available at the Facebook learning directory (you can filter resources for the small business). The resources range from advertising, measuring ad performance and targeting audiences to promoting local businesses and more.
When developing your social media strategy, consider:
• Customer experience
Do our customers have good experiences through social media?
How can they be improved?
• Customer care
Is our customer care program valuable and do we track this?
Do we regularly turn negative experiences into positive ones?
Are we aware of what our customers are saying about us?
Do we act on this information?
Do we use social media to change or improve our connection with our customers?
• Customer incident management
Can we move quickly to address customer issues when they have high visibility and are impacting our brand?
Also consider how to select the most suitable social media platforms.
Building your team’s digital capacity
As you adapt your business model, you will need to ensure your business has the right digital capabilities and continuously builds on them. Your team’s digital capabilities will be especially important in situations where the business faces disruption or increased use of flexible working arrangements.
Digital expertise will be vital to businesses not only in running their future operating models but in ensuring they evolve as technology advances.
• Five technical skills will become increasingly important to driving growth:
— data assimilation and collection: your team having the capabilities to collect and analyse large data sets
— emerging technology specialisms: employees with skills in understanding and implementing emerging technologies
— cyber security
— scenario modelling
— a digital transformation mindset.
The last three are necessary to successfully drive change within your business.
• Equally important are softer skills, such as empathy, persuasion and emotional intelligence. Some businesses have not traditionally prioritised these as their core capabilities, given their business focus, but your employees should possess these skills to address the deeper level of customer focus expected of digital businesses. These skills will become very important in businesses where automation advances the business focus towards solving complex problems and developing highly-tailored customer-centric experiences.
• Finally, the leaders and business owners will need to master an additional range of management skills including responding with agility to change and risks, driving a diverse workforce and fostering collaborative alliances with external and third-party providers.
The need to quickly develop a workforce with the right mix of these skills can be challenging for many businesses. Competing head on with leading technology firms, either on compensation or rewards, or in terms of employee experiences is a challenge even for established players.
Most businesses face three major obstacles when building a digitally-capable workforce. Addressing these will require innovative thinking and significant changes to existing practices.
• Upskilling at speed: build internal digital learning sessions or learning academies, or send your employees to third-party providers for training. This will be very helpful with specific manufacturing technologies or specialised platforms that already have structured training available such as Booking.com or Airbnb.
• Upskilling a multigenerational workforce: implement reverse mentoring for leaders, digital apprenticeships and the use of ambassadors or influencers. This is useful to many traditional SMEs where older generations of owners and leaders are not used to running the business in the digital world.
• Incentivising staff to develop a broader range of skills: build a framework of hard and soft digital skills, link those skills to a range of roles and use them to map career advancement. This will encourage employees to build their capabilities.
Learning professionals in businesses have a critical role to play in enabling the digital transformation that established businesses need to achieve. Winning in a technology-led world calls for the best digital capabilities to drive success.
Learn how to collaborate and work with employees using digital tools
As businesses move to working remotely, their people need to adapt to working together while apart. Migrating to virtual meetings, workshops and conferences means adapting to new ways of getting things done. Explore the available options such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and WebEx for internal use and Facebook for external use, in order to optimise the online experience for you and your customers. Identify employees who understand the need to work across the entire organisation, are familiar with the importance of going digital and are able to work well in that environment.
While it may be tempting to search for ever more digital technology and tools, it is entirely possible to achieve excellent collaboration experiences using the existing tools within your organisation. To have successful virtual meetings the focus should not be on the tools themselves but on how to best manage the tools for successful outcomes.
See these templates for more information on digital collaboration - How to run virtual meetings and
Useful tools and software
Make the most of the available tools and solutions to support your business processes, documents and everyday operations when digitalising your business.
• Advanced integrated systems can help organisations design business processes that minimise costs. Risk management is a fundamental component of any large system implementation, regardless of whether applications are standard enterprise resource planning (ERP) packages, such as SAP, PeopleSoft or Oracle, or custom-built to meet specific business requirements.
• When implementing new integrated systems, speed is key to profitability. As a result, there may be the temptation to neglect security and effective controls when designing and implementing them. This oversight can lead to inadequate process controls and high levels of security risk, or other system failures. Always emphasise security even at the expense of speed.
How can I manage business documents and processes?
When managing your business documents and processes, rely on electronic documents and channels where possible.
• Use existing digital platforms and tools to manage documents. Make the most of the resources available, such as Excel, data management systems, ERP systems, and so on.
• Consider digital tools and software for your business processes. Here are some types of system along with popular choices:
SAP SCM, Oracle SCM
• Discuss with your clients, customers and vendors how relevant documents should be signed, obtained and what kind of signatures are allowed, such as scanned versions, digital signatures, and so on. Check what legal requirements are applicable.
• Take advantage of online banking options and mobile technologies to carry out your transactions where possible.
• Establish digital processes. Use existing tools and software where possible, or search for external or third-party providers:
— customer management → storing key details and behaviours of your customers
— warehouse and inventory management → keeping track of your inventory and utilising this as a base for inventory planning
— digital online customer onboarding processes → if sophisticated tools are not available, utilise simple solutions like e-mail onboarding and internal databases.
If your business is already using sophisticated digital solutions and software, you may consider blockchain technology for small businesses. In certain cases, blockchain or digital ledgers offer the potential to provide faster and more secure transactions, streamline and automate back-office operations, and reduce costs.
Green and paperless – a sustainable solution
Going paperless helps businesses become greener and document management software assists them in becoming more organised in the process. Combining environmental and paperless goals can create a stable and smooth work environment that both employees and customers will appreciate. Reducing paper consumption has a huge impact on the environment and significantly reduces carbon footprint.
Digital documents, email and optical character recognition (OCR) technology allow you to reduce the costs of filing, retrieval and data entry, and eliminate the costs of ink, paper and associated labour. These savings can really add up and lead to an impressive and substantial return on any investment.
Identify small actions that can have a large impact on your business in the long run. For example, employees saving receipts digitally can become a great habit for a company going paperless. “Be green, keep it on the screen,” signatures in email messages can be a way of clearly communicating your environmentally-friendly stance to your customers.