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How Small Businesses Can Plan for a Digital Transformation

As competition between small businesses gets fiercer, companies seek ways to innovate and increase the value for their customers. For many, digital transformation is at the heart of their efforts. But the endeavor comes with its fair share of challenges — time investments, experimentation with new technology, company-wide cultural resistance to change, budget restraints, and more. Probably the biggest concern we’ve seen, though, is: where to start?

We’ve found that many small businesses just don’t know what their first step should be. Our consultants sit down with clients to uncover the most efficient path forward. We focus on solutions that deliver a good return on investment and a high adoption rate.

At the end of the day, though, we follow a simple blueprint:

Step 1: Identifying Top Priorities

First, you’ll need to understand and outline your goals and objectives. This strategy development is not just a plan for the future but also serves as a process of reflection and learning for your company. We recommend focusing on one high-level goal at a time to ensure you navigate the process thoroughly. Consider the following examples:

  1. Making a workflow more efficient (through automation or new technology)
  2. Meeting a customer need (through a digital offering)
  3. Reducing manual workloads (through automation and enhanced data flows)
  4. Offering remote capabilities (through migration of one or more systems to the cloud)
  5. Improving customer insights (through machine learning capabilities and better analytics)

These are common goal structures for small businesses pursuing digital transformation. You should, of course, customize them to align with your organizational strategy and overall business goals.

Step 2: Identifying Technology to Support Your Goals

Once you have clarified your list of prioritized goals, you can work on a step-by-step process to achieve each one. You’ll need to determine if any off-the-shelf solutions can help you achieve your goal or if you’ll need a custom-built application.

There are pros and cons to each. Off-the-shelf tend to be less expensive, highly focused on a specific problem, and backed by social proof, but they do constrain your capabilities. Custom-built solutions can align with your exact goals, are scalable, and provide ownership over the final solution, but they often take more money and time to deploy.

Digging into the differences between the two options can take some time and research. We can help you explore that if you need some help. Contact us to kick off our conversation.

Be sure to choose a path forward that works best for your organization. Take into account your speed to deployment, cost, management requirements, and ultimately, goal achievement. These decisions are crucial. If you put in significant time and budget but don’t ultimately meet the goal you set in the first step, you’ve made a crucial error.

Infrastructure Considerations

For many small businesses, digital transformation represents a shift from on-premise to the cloud. This requires an investment in infrastructure changes in addition to new technologies.

A good first step is a lift and shift, the process of moving an existing solution from an on-premise server to the cloud, typically with few changes to the actual technology outside of its hosted location, with the plan to update its core features at a later date.

For small businesses in more advanced stages of their digital transformation or for those who need a completely new digital application built, consider developing it directly in the cloud.

Low-Code Considerations

Small businesses often kick off digital transformation by building solutions on low-code platforms like FileMaker and Salesforce. Easily customized with an experienced development team, these platforms come with built-in features that address many core business workflows and processes. They allow for rapid prototyping of strategic new business models that can be deployed at scale.

For example, how dependent is your small business on a system like Microsoft Excel?

As a database within scenarios of limited users and smaller data sets, Excel performs just fine. But when you increase the numbers of users and data points to fit your business processes, Excel begins to stumble and trip up.  We see many businesses overworking the system to manage various core functions, like database management, task assignments, visual project workflows, and in-depth data analysis. Most people across a small business are familiar with the tool and understand the workloads and processes underlying its particular use but are pained and held back by the basic features and inability to scale. They know they can improve operations with a better tool; they just aren’t sure what to try next.

The beauty of low-code solutions is that you don’t need your staff to possess deep coding skills to manage your finished business solution. You can build a highly customized application with an experienced partner, and then your team members manage it with just a bit of training. Learn more about low-code solutions for your company.

Step 3: Creating a Culture of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation isn’t a linear process with set phases to complete one at a time in sequential order. Digital transformation initiatives often involve many different stakeholders and require teams to collaborate from all over your company. It’s important to get this buy-in from department leaders and influential team members in your company to encourage the adoption of newly implemented tools and excitement for future solutions.

This is why we encourage you to start with smaller, singular goals you can quickly achieve as a team. Working toward a big, lofty goal often leads to a lot of frustration and possibly even giving up altogether.

Once you get through your first digital transformation assessment, prioritization, and complete that first project, you will surely see more and more possibilities.

Keep your staff involved in the process. It is their knowledge and insight that will help keep defining more potential solutions and benefits. Since you have mapped out the people, process, and tools, your next step is to maintain your list. Finalizing Integration

Integrating Digital Transformation and its components into a company’s business practices can seem like a daunting task at the onset. Keep in mind that digital transformation is about more than just changing technologies. A successful digital transformation also means changing how you use technology, implementing steps to help your small business, and adopting new ways of thinking about and interacting with customers.

In the end, it’s about making your business more agile, competitive, and sustainable.

Choosing Your Digital Transformation Partner

We help small businesses implement digital transformation solutions specific to their business needs. We can even train team members to manage the system themselves. No extra developers required. Whether you choose to leverage an existing platform or want to build something custom, our team can help you choose the best path forward. Contact our team to start your digital transformation journey.

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