In today’s world, digital transformation is bound to be a topic of discussion for any business, regardless of industry. It has become an ambiguous term that gets thrown around at conferences and board meetings. Nonetheless, the ramifications of digital transformation are real and significant. So, what exactly do we mean by digital transformation?
“Digital transformation is the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.”
Digital transformation is a very broad term that can sometimes be intimidating, particularly for SMEs. When we think of digital transformation, we typically think of companies like Uber and Airbnb, who undertook genius, complex schemes to completely disrupt their respective industries. As the CEO of, for example, a small picture frame manufacturing company in Singapore, your sights may not be set that high. You may simply be content ensuring the survival and improving the profitability of your SME. But, this doesn’t mean that digital transformation doesn’t apply to you. Digitally transforming your business doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your business model, and can be done in small, incremental steps. You can start by automating certain marketing functionalities, and then progressively move on to implementing a CRM or ERP solution.
Most SMEs in Singapore recognize the need to undergo digital transformation, but according to the report from SAP and IDC above, 11% still have done little to apply new business technology. In an age where technology can make their jobs so much easier, what is stopping them? They may fail to see the need for new technology, or not have the right capabilities in place to undergo change. Some may have legacy IT systems in place that hinder transformation. Others may get overwhelmed by the plethora of new technology available, and simply not know where to start. For those who don’t know where to start, we have “3 Steps to Jump-Start your Digital Transformation”.
1. Secure Quick Wins
Each company seeking to pursue digital transformation has its own unique starting point. While some companies will have a high degree of ambition and seek a full transformation of their business model, most will simply attempt to increase efficiency by reengineering their existing business and operations. Regardless of how ambitious they are, companies should start with quick wins in the following areas: improving the customer experience, offering new digital products and services, and digitizing internal processes.
This is a stage that requires experimentation and a lot of trial and error with limited time and capital. For example, your business could offer a new online customer service portal, or try automating some of your online marketing activities. Maybe your business can attempt to generate leads using social media, or sell goods online. Whichever options you choose, speed is critical. When beginning their digital transformation, companies need to quickly bring their ideas to life and refine them as they go. While some initiatives may fail, it is important not to give up and maintain an experimental mindset.
2. Scale-up Successful Initiatives
Once your business has determined which digital initiatives work and which don’t, its time to scale up the more successful ones. Choosing which initiatives to scale up will be a unique process for each business, depending on its capabilities, ambition, and other external factors. Typically, SMEs won’t have the expertise in-house to launch a large scale digital initiative. So, the easiest and fastest way to scale up these initiatives is to utilize external talent, while building up internal capabilities over time.
As digital initiatives are rolled out on a larger scale, it is important for a company to create a “center of excellence” to organically cultivate digital talent in-house. Some companies are now even appointing CDOs, or Chief Digital Officers. While SMEs may not have the resources to create positions fully dedicated to digitization, there are easier ways to develop a digital mindset within the company. For example, you can set a weekly meeting with staff to discuss ways to digitally transform the company. Or, you can designate a team of employees to spend a certain amount of hours per week on digital initiatives.
3. Lead & Sustain Change
This is the final stage of digital transformation where a company goes full force into digital initiatives. It is important to note that not every SME makes it to this stage, as it requires a great deal of dedication. We can’t expect every business to be fully digitized, and many might be happy with gains made from a few small, successful initiatives. This point in the digital journey requires the alignment of all internal resources. Particularly, initiatives need to be driven by top management with full support and visibility from staff. The company also needs to make sure that its staff has acquired the right digital skills.
IT infrastructure is critical for a company to lead and sustain digital change. Digital initiatives require a great deal of data and much faster development cycles. Having strong ERP and CRM systems that provide real-time data are essential to support these initiatives. As IT plays a growing role in a variety of functions, companies need to breakdown the traditional barriers between IT and other departments to foster digital collaboration. In a digitized business, IT is the main driving force across all channels.
Need help with your digital transformation? Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
At Axxis Consulting, we pride ourselves in helping SMEs in Singapore and throughout Southeast Asia with their digital transformations through the implementation of SAP software solutions. We offer a range of solutions from SAP Business One (ERP) to SAP Cloud for Customer.