Business Basics: How SMEs can approach digital transformation

29 July 2019

Every month, we explore another vital piece of business life, discussing key issues with industry leaders and esteemed professionals.

This month, we are speaking to Morgan Norman, CMO at Copper, a next-generation cloud CRM system business. Morgan is discussing the benefits and challenges of digital transformation for SMEs – analysing how it can be effectively implemented and how it should be measured.

Morgan Norman

This is what Morgan had to say.

To start with, can you tell us what digital transformation entails?

Digital transformation sounds simple; it’s the process of moving from physical processes to digital, usually online, methods. For example, many banking providers today allow you to scan a cheque with your phone, rather than taking it into a branch. Similarly, providers like QuickBooks allow you to do this with expenses by simply photographing your receipts and uploading them rather than filling out paper forms. Digital transformation makes life easier for users, but it can be complex for business owners. 

Turning tax digital

What benefits are there for SMEs looking to go digital?

While it might involve a significant amount of work to begin with, digital transformation greatly speeds things up. Your customers will be able to interact over email and web channels, rather than via the phone and postal systems, and they will benefit from greatly improved service. Quite often, new digital systems will also include automation – for example, automatically filling out details in a customer database from an email rather than prompting you to do it manually. Finally, digital transformation can also cut down on material costs, like paper, ink and stationery supplies, which is better for the environment. 

Digital transformation allows for the automation of tasks, which is sometimes viewed negatively. In what ways should SMEs look at automation as a positive?

Most of the negativity around automation is usually centred around the fear of artificial intelligence in various industries replacing human jobs – for example, autonomous cars replacing taxi drivers. However, the majority of automation that we see today simply removes hassle and administration from tasks for the customer or user. Many businesses have already started transforming digitally, so it’s usually a case of catching up with the status quo rather than doing something innovative and new. Embracing automation will enable you to make life significantly easier for your committed customer base.

making a digital payment 

What can be done to create buy-in from management so that changes can be adopted willingly?

If you have customer buy-in and take the time to discuss the benefits and costs clearly with the management team, you will be in a good position. Many digital transformation projects are launched without involving key stakeholders, which seems faster at first, but then rapidly hits problems as other teams raise concerns or their own intended goals and objectives. It may be time-consuming, but involving management from the get-go will give you a ‘clear run’ at the project when it kicks off.

Likewise, employee involvement is also important. What can you do to put them in a more direct position that also fosters change?

Digital transformation can make life easier for your employees, so it’s important to provide them with tools that can help them excel at their jobs. Involving employees during the consultation phase can both increase engagement and also bring new ideas to light. Another consideration is to embrace a bottom-up approach to software decisions as a way to ensure employees are engaging with technology that works for them. 

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If the business is looking to create a cross-functional project plan, what should be included to make things go as smoothly as possible?

Toward the end of a planning phase, it’s crucial to do a ‘team check’ to make sure you have all the right team members on board. You wouldn’t want to start this process without someone who has great project management skills or someone who can communicate success – or challenges – to the board. 

Talking through digital transformation

Once the digital transformation process has been put in place, what KPIs can be measured to ensure success and guide you towards making improvements?

Metrics will vary greatly depending on the project in question, but some important ones to consider are customer satisfaction, increased customer spend, decreased company costs and greater ability to be flexible. The first is of the utmost importance, and it’s crucial to stay in touch with customers afterwards to record their feedback and spot trends. This will, in turn, help you make new improvements.

A massive thank you to Morgan for his insightful responses. If you found his advice helpful, and you’re looking for further industry tips, be sure to check out some more of our related Business Basics guides and Q&As below:

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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