Digital Transformation: A Reality Check For Small And Midsize Businesses

Pedro Patricio

Part 6 of the “Thriving in the Digital Economy” series

Whenever digital transformation of any kind is mentioned, small and midsize businesses are frequently left out of the conversation – but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening for them. In fact, a recently released global report from IDC, “Thriving in the Digital Economy: How small and midsize enterprises are adapting to digital transformation,” sponsored by SAP, cites that over 42% of small and midsize firms worldwide are actively engaged with digital transformation to automate functions, derive real-time insights, and optimize processes for performance gains.

According to the report, the software that is most commonly used by small and midsize businesses includes:

  • Collaborative software for employees to share documents and calendars (54.6%)
  • Customer relationship management software (50.1%)
  • Analytics and business intelligence (43.6%)
  • E-commerce and online order taking and billing (38.3%)
  • Enterprise resource planning solutions (37.7%)

Despite its disruptive impact worldwide, digital transformation is still at the embryonic stage at many small and midsize businesses. The IDC study revealed that a smaller percentage are using leading-edge technology such as planning and coordination solutions (33.3%), advanced business networks (25.9%), and the Internet of Things (23.0%).

How deep and connected does your digital transformation need to be? While technology is a hallmark of running a digital business, the technology chosen to reimagine a brand is best determined by a clear digital strategy that supports change and innovation.

6 steps that can put you on the path to digital transformation

The world is going digital – regardless of a company’s size, industry, and location. As a small and midsize business, here are couple of things that you can do now to start growing, competing, and succeeding in a digital world economy:

1. Prioritize your company’s (and customers’) needs

No matter how smooth your operations, there’s always room for improvement. That’s the beauty of digital transformation: You can focus just on the technology you need to provide everything your customers crave, employees need, and suppliers want. And while your wish list may be as long as a young child’s Christmas list, each item can be prioritized based on potential value and opportunity.

2. Leverage cloud technology

With cloud deployment models, your small or midsize businesses can afford technology that was one reserved for large enterprises. At your disposal, there is an arsenal of hosted services accessible through a Web browser and a secure internet link and enables realization of critical benefits quickly. 

3. Collaborate and connect everything

To serve your customers’ needs, a number of processes within your value chain will be outside of the company. As a result, a collaboration strategy and platform that maximize interactions with suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders are fundamental. You can add more technology steadily over time to address current business requirements, future opportunities, and an ever-changing customer base. The key is keeping every piece of existing and new technology connected to a digital core, throughout the infrastructure, and out to the edge of your network. 

4. Embrace the expertise of your workforce

Take millennials, for example. Commonly known for living a highly digital existence, employees from this generation have insights into user experiences and technologies that can help get work done. Also, by being more digital-driven, the digital transformation in the company will go at a higher pace and a new culture will be built.

5. Invigorate support and incentives

Ask for advice from your IT support team and/or secure a third-party technology solution partner that has implementation expertise and can mitigate obstacles for you along the way. More available than ever, there are technology manufacturer incentives and government programs designed specifically for small and midsize businesses.”

6. Celebrate your wins

Digital transformation is a journey, and technology is always evolving. While you reinvent your business, celebrate quick wins and achievements of any size as you progress. 

While changing how you run your business can be one of the hardest things to do, it can also become a pivotal moment that will likely create new opportunities for long-term success. Now more than ever, digital transformation is the secret to propelling a brand forward and protecting it from being outperformed by a disruptive competitor. The trick is getting there first by knowing where you’re heading.

Get ready to embrace everything the digital economy has to offer. Check out our blog series “Thriving in the Digital Economy” and the IDC study, co-sponsored by SAP, “Thriving in the Digital Economy: How small and midsize enterprises are adapting to digital transformation.”


Pedro Patricio

About Pedro Patricio

Pedro Patricio is global vice president of Commercial and Channel Sales at SAP. His specialties include business strategy, management consulting, business development and leadership.