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  • Writer's picturePJ Stevens

Successful Digital Transformation for SMEs is crucial

There are plenty of headlines, articles and stories – many based on experience – that state change is difficult, expensive and emotional. Many websites still note that ‘80% of change fails’, whilst othersstate that failure rates for digital transformations can range from 50% to 84%. Prior to covid McKinsey &Company suggested ‘that around 70% of digital transformations fail to reach their stated goals.’

We can deduce that the odds of success when it comes to delivering change, including digital change or transformation are not in your favour.

However, we know how to tip the balance back in your favour with our five-step EXACT process, tried and tested at Cranfield. So if you’d like help, do ask.

In the meantime, leaders of SMEs can improve the likelihood of successful digital change by taking several proactive steps, including:

  • Define and agree clear objectives and a comprehensive strategy for digital transformation that aligns with your business goals. Identify the areas of your business that can benefit most from digitalisation and prioritise initiatives (and resources) accordingly.

  • Seek buy-in and support before embarking on any change, particularly key activities such as digital transformation, from senior leadership and key stakeholders within the organisation. Leadership commitment – or sponsorship - is crucial for driving change, allocating resources and ensuring the project moves forward effectively.

  • Invest in training and upskilling your workforce to enhance digital literacy and proficiency. Provide opportunities for employees to learn new technologies, tools and methodologies that are relevant to their roles. Ensure leaders have enough understanding to take ownership as there can be no abdication of overall responsibility.

  • Create and foster a culture of innovation and experimentation where employees feel empowered to explore new ideas, take calculated risks and challenge the status quo. If employees are afraid to try and fail, then your project will certainly fail. Encourage collaboration and cross functional teamwork to drive innovation across the organisation. Culture and collaboration are often key ‘hurdles’ for clients when we use our business diagnostic, called the Management Attention Explorer, and clients are often under prepared to attend to these hurdles.

  • It can be tempting to do a big-bang change, with ERP, but most SMES are far better to begin with small-scale digital initiatives or pilot projects to test ideas, gather feedback, demonstrate value and build up skills and belief. Once successful, gradually scale up initiatives to other areas of the business.

  • Prioritise initiatives that enhance the customer experience and address customer needs and preferences. Leverage digital technologies to personalise interactions, streamline processes and deliver seamless omnichannel experiences. This type of focus can save you time and money and drive up customer satisfaction and referrals.

  • Adopt agile methodologies such as Scrum or Kanban to facilitate iterative development, rapid prototyping and continuous improvement. Agile approaches can help SMEs adapt to changing requirements and market conditions more effectively. SMEs are often better placed than larger businesses to innovate and move quickly, and Scrums can be great fun too.

  • Harness the power of data analytics to inform decision-making and drive business insights. Collect and analyse relevant data to identify trends, opportunities and areas for optimisation.

  • Implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data and intellectual property from cyber threats. It might sound obvious, but not everyone does, and even less do it well. It's useful to stay informed about relevant regulations and standards related to data privacy, cybersecurity, and compliance and ensure that your digital initiatives adhere to these requirements. These things not matter until they really do matter.

  • My colleagues and I are big fans of clients collaborating with technology vendors, industry partners, advisors and ecosystem stakeholders to access expertise, resources and opportunities for innovation. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in your network – both in and outside of the business – so use it. Leverage partnerships to accelerate digital transformation efforts and access complementary capabilities.

  • Agree and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure the success of digital initiatives and track progress over time. Regularly monitor performance against these metrics and adjust strategies and tactics as needed to optimise outcomes. By following these general and often recognised strategies and best practices, SMEs can improve the likelihood of successful digital change and position themselves for long-term growth and competitiveness in the digital economy. If you would like a more tailored approach, showing precisely where you need to focus your attention and resources, we can help you with that. Book a call in today -

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