Plan Like An Enterprise, Scale Like A Startup: The Tech Dichotomy Of Small And Midsize Businesses

Penny Delgadillo Valencia

Part 4 of the “Road to Digital Transformation” series 

Small and midsize businesses are walking a thin line when they consider adding new technology to their digital arsenal. Being fast and agile is now essential to compete in today’s rapidly-changing market, but firms also need to think like an enterprise, taking a long-term look at their business needs and changing consumer demands as they develop their digital road map.

A finance leader recently reminded me how true this is. During a sales visit, my contact explained that the firm had outgrown its legacy accounting tool. They decided that it was time to find a new finance solution that connected accounts payable and receivable as well as financial reporting to the rest of the business to engage better supplier and customer decisions. The conversation quickly evolved into a planning session for a growth platform that may be needed five years from now. While a responsive point solution may have been the order of the day, a solution that can scale and grow could provide more long-term value.

From enterprise collaboration, CRM, and commerce solutions to the Internet of Things, advanced business networks, and business intelligence, investments in software resources continue to grow among small and midsize firms. And, significantly, non-IT executives, like my client, are empowered to lead the conversation and find the answers that will inevitably influence their final purchase decision and long-term business success.

Senior leadership and IT management take the lead in building a digital future

Great products and services may drive business growth – but behind the scenes, technology is powering it all. According to the IDC InfoBrief, “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” sponsored by SAP, executives at small and midsize companies are paying attention to this reality. The research shows that multiple leadership roles are shaping the conversation and decision making in technology investments. Meanwhile, smaller businesses tend to rely less external influencers such as software vendors, cloud service providers, and channel partners.

groups influencing technology purchases by company size

Source: The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by SAP, 2017. 

As they engage online tech communities, research through the Internet, study a wealth of software research and analyst assessments, and consider word-of-mouth recommendations, these leaders are increasingly knowledgeable about what their business needs and where to find it.

For example, business owners who wear most of the hats in day-to-day operations are likely to have the final say and purchase authorization. In mid- and upper-market firms, these decisions may go to line-of-business senior managers who are looking to improve a particular aspect of their organization.

Why firms should go beyond quick fail cycles and ROI to measure digital success

The more leadership becomes empowered to make their own investment decisions, the more I sense impatience with value realization. Fail cycles are dramatically shorter. Plus, the desire for immediate ROI is dictating the success of most implementations, which is why I think IDC found that 42% of firms prefer to use cloud solutions.

I caution my clients from being too hasty in their assessment of their investment’s success. Technology alone will not make their company more efficient, globally expansive, and industry disruptive. It takes time to rally people, processes, and partners around the technology and make the best use of its capabilities. Plus, running a business in this ever-evolving marketplace means encountering unexpected changes and often disruptive innovation.

Senior leadership needs to plan for any possibility that may come their way. With a digital roadmap, small and midsize companies can assess how the new investment impacts the existing infrastructure. At the same time, a level of architecture flexibility and openness is needed to accommodate growth and enable technology-driven innovations in the future continuously provide a shopping experience – digital and physical – that is frictionless and effortless for every customer.

To learn how small and midsize businesses are digitally transforming themselves to advance their future success, check out the IDC InfoBrief “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation: How Small and Midsize Companies Are Applying Technology to Meet Key Business Goals,” sponsored by SAP. Be sure to check every Tuesday for new installments to our blog series Road to Digital Transformation.”

Penny Delgadillo Valencia

About Penny Delgadillo Valencia

Penny Delgadillo Valencia is the Senior Vice President of Global Audience and and Strategic Partner Marketing at SAP. She is responsible for the organization’s transformation into a world-class global audience marketing function, and oversee teams responsible for end-to-end engagement with line-of-business, industry and technology buying audiences, including thought leadership, campaigns and programs, services and support, and influencer relations.