Blog May 15, 2019

A Digital Transformation Roadmap for Small Businesses

Today, the notion of digital transformation is typically associated with large enterprises with a conventional organizational structure. Such companies often find themselves under growing pressure from younger, smaller, and more agile competitors, which forces them to rethink the old ways of doing business.

In this race for customers and market share, they suffer from inherent inefficiencies stemming from the use of disconnected software products, lack of a unified workflow, and decision-making based on outdated or incoherent data. Businesses willing to survive and thrive inevitably come to realize that their very existence depends on their readiness and willingness to change through a process that is digital transformation.

Such digital transformations can involve anything from automating key business processes to a complete overhaul of the organizational structure to address emerging challenges better and faster.

A Small Business Perspective

The perception of the small business, on the contrary, has always been of an innately flexible, responsive, and tech-focused environment that never required to be transformed — only scaled. However, in reality, small businesses might often experience the same sort of problems as their enterprise-level counterparts.

The lack of knowledge, understanding, and the right tools to start the most important metamorphosis in their history often leave otherwise promising businesses on the brink of extinction, being outrun by more resolute competitors.

Most SMB owners are wary of embarking on the digital transformation journey for a number of reasons:

  • Many of them simply don’t have the knowledge in this field and are justifiably cautious about spending their limited resources on experiments with modern technologies.
  • They might not be psychologically ready for constant change and adaptation, since digital transformations are not completed overnight and are deeply iterative processes that hardly ever stop.
  • Businesses are often reluctant to join the transformation club for fear of investing more than the project can potentially yield in the short run.

However, choosing the right platform and the right partner can effectively mitigate these risks and secure a desired outcome.

How to Recognize Your Time Is Up

Before plunging into details, it is important to understand that digital transformation is not equivalent to launching a website or starting a corporate Instagram account for better digital marketing – these attributes are a norm these days.

Transformation is meant to change every aspect of doing business: from supply and inventory management to omnichannel sales and marketing, from the use of innovative technologies and cloud computing to integration with external systems. In plain language, digital transformation is a multi-faceted effort aimed at adapting to the reality of the digital age while staying ahead of the curve and maintaining the highest level of customer loyalty and service quality.

So, what are the red flags that must go up for you to finally realize that the time has come to take action? Depending on the type of your business, those signs can come in all shapes and forms:

  • Are your conversion and sales numbers consistently dropping?
  • Is your market share consistently shrinking?
  • Do you have difficulties scaling up?
  • Do you feel unable to cope with inbound customer feedback?

These and other problems can be manifested through audits or acknowledged based on historical records and gradually deteriorating business reports.

Your Steps to Digital Transformation

Going back to the practical side of things, the approximate structure of a digital transformation project looks like this:

  • Identification of system bottlenecks and existing process flaws
  • Project planning, resource allocation, creation of a RACI matrix
  • Collection of feedback and requirements using internal resources and external experts
  • System and process design
  • Implementation
  • Control and evaluation

Once you’ve reached the last step, the process can be repeated again and again until you achieve target KPIs.

Now that we know what digital transformation entails process-wise, the main question is: are you ready to make the first step?

Assessing Your Readiness for Change

Digital transformation projects can vary broadly in terms of scale and complexity, depending primarily on how far a company has fallen behind the technological zeitgeist and how far it is ready to go to catch up.

A very rough classification of businesses by their openness to the idea of digital transformation would look like this:

Legacy organizations

Companies that have not started any digital transformation initiatives and are still using conventional business models not backed by modern technologies. Nearly half of these businesses have no plans to do so whatsoever due to the lack of expertise or understanding of their potential next steps.

Aspirers

Companies who have already started digitizing some of their business processes and implementing contemporary methods of doing business.

Opportunists

Companies that have embraced a new digital strategy and are steadily transforming their business.

Disruptors

Companies that have completed their digital evolution and are now enjoying the benefits of improved efficiency, reduced costs, diversified revenue streams, better scalability, and data-driven decisions.

If your organization does not fall into the last category, there is definitely room for improvement. Note, however, that the success of such an undertaking – especially in case of a small business – rests on the company-wide adoption of the new model.

The decision should not be a top-bottom one, and every key employee and stakeholder should get a chance to express their concerns and suggest improvements that will later be woven into the general action plan. At the same time, your employees should not feel that the upcoming changes will jeopardize their jobs and functions within the organization, as surveys indicate that internal resistance is one of the top challenges that leaders have to deal with when initiating digital transformation projects.

Be honest, be outspoken, and make sure training is in place to keep employee motivation high.

Partnering Up with Professionals

As a small business owner, you are obviously very knowledgeable in your domain, market, and customers, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be solely responsible for the execution of your digital strategy. The best option here is to hire an expert consultant with a track record of planning and executing digital transformation.

Here are just a few examples of activities that can be a part of a business digitization project:

  • Redesign and integration of siloed legacy applications or their complete replacement with modern cloud-based and globally accessible platforms. For a real-life example, read how ITSTEADY took a luxury hotel operator through such a transformation in our case study.
  • Automation of staple business processes for highly-efficient, lean operation.
  • Empowering employees with mobile devices and software.
  • Implementation of chatbots, live support tools for instant interaction with customers.
  • Deep analysis and rebuilding of the existing website for improved usability, user retention, higher conversion, and ease of navigation.
  • Switching to cloud computing for scalability and shared access to data and services required for your business.

These are just a few typical examples of changes that bring tangible value to SMB’s. In reality, the number of possible solutions and their combinations is virtually endless. With the right team of digital transformation consultants, you will be able to address your key pain points and start a steady iterative process of continuous improvement aimed at reshuffling your business paradigm and making technology and data the prime determinants of your long-term success on the market.

Choosing a Digital Transformation Consulting Partner You Can Trust

At ITSTEADY, we help our customers overcome the fear of making a leap of faith and guide them through the process from day one. Our diversified technological expertise enables us to come up with the most cost-efficient, appropriate, and scalable solutions to our customers’ problems.

In addition to digital transformation consulting, we offer a full range of software development services, from database design and optimization to mobile application development and cloud enablement of legacy applications. Our experts use Microsoft’s tried and tested platforms to help businesses utilize their potential to the fullest and get ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

We understand that digital transformation is a long (sometimes, life-long) process of change, assessment, and refinement, and do our best to build lasting and productive relationships based on trust and a proactive approach to getting things done. If you want to learn more about our capabilities, hear some relevant success stories, and give us a chance to come up with a clear action plan for your own business waiting to be transformed, all you need is to drop us a line and request a call.

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