Top tips for digital transformation

Dec 6th 2017 

How your business can grow, stay ahead of the competition, and still save on costs.

As the Googles and Amazons of the internet go from strength to strength, it’s all too easy for SMEs to consider the digital world a battleground for the big boys.

But think again. A recent IDC white paper, The Road to the Digital Future of SMEs, found that small to medium enterprises account for 51% of employment and 46% of turnover in the UK economy. As IDC puts it, smaller businesses, “are the cornerstone of national economies”. So, it’s hugely important SMEs embrace the digital future and don’t get left behind.

That can be a daunting prospect. We know because we’ve helped dozens of businesses like yours transform and grow. Let’s look at five things you can do to ensure your business thrives in the digital age.

Play to your strengths

IDC found that 88% of SMEs rightly see customer relationships as a key differentiator.

Digital technology offers a way to capitalise on this unique aspect of small to medium enterprises. The white paper states, “…investments in customer interaction tools such as CRM and social technologies, and in dig data/analytics, can play to their [SMEs’] strengths. These solutions are all available from the cloud, which highlights the importance of having excellent and dependable connectivity services.”

There’s also been a huge shift towards businesses charging customers for rich experiences rather than just goods or services. Think Disneyland, where the parking and food are the goods, the rides the services – but what customers are really paying for are the memories.

SMEs that realise technology offers a way to do what they do well, only better, will be prepared for the digital future and to create improved, more engaging customer experiences.

Transform with tech

One of the most surprising findings of the white paper was that 45%[i] of UK SMEs view IT as a necessary cost rather than a driver of competitive advantage.

IDC believe a change in attitude is in order for SMEs to truly benefit from the vast opportunities offered by digital transformation. As the white paper says, “View technology as a key driver of competitive advantage, rather than a necessary cost or risk…SMEs that leverage digital technology to drive competitive advantage see the return in business results.”

Indeed, the numbers stack up: The paper found 48%[ii] of large SMEs see ICT as an enabler of business growth, with some 41%[iii] of this segment managing to grow their revenue by more than 10%.[iv]

Clearly SMEs need to wake up and smell the success that comes with digital transformation. It offers a massive opportunity to increase competitive advantage. And that opportunity needs to be seized.

Look to the future

In security matters the white paper found SMEs were refreshingly switched on. 98% were starting to invest or planning to invest in security, which makes a lot of sense with the stringent requirements of GDPR coming into effect next year.

However, SMEs were shown to lag behind in embracing the next wave of innovation, namely big data/analytics, AI and virtual reality. The white paper says, “It is precisely these technologies that can play a crucial role in helping SMEs learn even more about their customers and provide a customer experience that is much more intuitive and immersive than it is today.”

Spend less, do more

One of the ironies of an ultrafast business broadband connection is that it usually enables SMEs to achieve more for less outlay. This is all down to the efficiencies that come from, for example, using VoIP for telephone calls instead of analogue lines.

Not all SMEs are aware of such advantages, although we are doing our best to shout about it.

In fact, IDC found just 35%[i] of SMEs saw IT as an enabler of business efficiency. The white paper says, “This means that the bulk of UK SMEs could find themselves not well positioned to grow their businesses in a world shaped by increased competition, not only from SMEs that do embrace ICT as a growth driver, but also from non-UK companies both small and large in a world where technology shrinks physical distance and barriers to entry.”

In short, digital transformation can drive competitive business efficiencies and reduce costs.

Connection, connection, connection

SMEs operate in a global marketplace of 24/7 business. To succeed in this increasingly dynamic, disrupted world, a fast, secure and reliable internet connection is imperative and should be top of all SME priority lists.

The final paragraph of the IDC white paper sums up the situation perfectly: “Speed, security and scalability will be essential to cope with growing business requirements and enable SMEs to stay nimble, flexible and close to the customer and market. Connectivity will underpin everything in a cloud-centric world. SMEs should look for a partner that can help them take their business to the next level in the digital future.”

If you’re looking for that trusted partner, perhaps Virgin Media Business can help. Find out more about Business Broadband.

[i] Business Population Estimates, 2016
[ii]DC EMEA DX in UK SMEs SURVEY, 2017
[iii, iv, v, vi, vii, viii] Ibid.

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