Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions are some of the groundbreaking technologies promising notable changes to the business economy. Consequently, several small and midsize businesses (SMB) are engaging in digital transformation initiatives to unlock true digital value.
While digital shift is a hot topic in boardroom discussions, most SMB runners fail to understand its meaning thoroughly. The basic mistake they commit is deploying technologies without any reasonable cause and not forming a relevant, sustainable strategy. They get enthusiastic about the technologies and adopt them without understanding their long-term usage and effect on the business.
Digital is always on the move, making SMBs feel overwhelmed. As such, they need to be accurate on the fundamentals instead of over-sophisticating an already challenging transition.
This article digs deeper into eight digital transformation mistakes SMBs should keep at bay.
Vague Goals for Digital Transformation
Most SMBs have a confused and blurred vision for digital transformation as they cannot define relevant specifics or build a coherent strategy. While entrepreneurs boast intent and a stack of innovative projects, they cannot specify the reason behind the digital transformation.
When the goal is not set, and key performance indicators (KPI) are not mutually agreed upon, business persons will have a distorted view of the problem they want to fix. As such, they end up investing in the wrong technology, which could disrupt the entire digital journey.
SMBs must perform the upfront hard work to create a well-articulated, easy-to-understand digital transformation plan with specific, measurable, and feasible goals. Moreover, the process should begin at the top and then scatter across the enterprise.
Setting Unrealistic Deadlines and Milestones
Having a plan at hand is quintessential before commencing the digital transformation journey. SMBs must be clear on what results they expect, for instance, better overall workplace efficacy, increased profit margins, or streamlined complex operations.
Irrespective of the goals, being unreasonably bullish from day one and creating concrete deadlines to accomplish them will always backfire. C-suite executives must understand that digital transition is a “marathon,” and not a one-off affair. The entire process will take time, effort, and numerous risks to come to fruition.
To keep digital transformation on track, SMBs should define milestones and interim goals to gauge its impact in due course. As a result, they can better manage the deliverables and clearly understand the transitioning pace. Moreover, organizations can adjust their strategies (if necessary) and avoid getting overburdened with deadlines.
Enterprises should keep the larger picture at the center while shifting to a digital-native ecosystem rather than celebrating short-term gains and wins.
Ignoring In-house Staff Training
One of the digital transformation mistakes that SMBs often commit is falsely assuming that their workforces are already tech-savvy. However, that is not the case every time, particularly regarding new corporate-grade VDI solutions built to scale and might not be easy to use. An underskilled workforce poses a significant long-term risk.
The C-suite often believes that a quick demo or intro of the technology will do the trick, following which employees will learn it themselves. No matter how skilled employees are, the senior management must keep them and their handling of digital solutions on the watch.
As employees are already versed with the traditional platforms, they will likely resist the foreseeable digital transformation. Hence, SMBs must invest in well-structured training programs laden with quality documentation to instill confidence in their employees to work on business applications.
Not Bringing Employees Onboard for Digital Transformation
Any SMB is about the stakeholders who contribute to overall growth, the most critical being the employees. They will feel insecure and intimidated due to tectonic changes to their work environments. As such, before diving into the ocean of new-age technologies, it is crucial that these stakeholders can swim. The success of the entire transformation rests upon employees’ involvement in digitalization.
This is where chief executive officers (CEO) play a pivotal role. First, they must demonstrate to employees the digital tool and its benefits, and be approachable. For instance, if the reason driving the transition is slumping revenue, CEOs must convey the same. Then, they should explain to employees that digital transformation can equate to higher payscale and better career opportunities.
Also, CEOs can single out early adopters who can help their co-workers with using the tool and boost their morale.
While all businesses create a sound strategy, most do not pass it down. Employees are more likely to hop on the transformation ride when they know not only the logistics involved but the “why” behind the move. They need to cultivate a sense of purpose to build loyalty and enthusiasm for the cause.
Communication and transparency are paramount when it comes to triggering digital transformation across the board. Otherwise, employees cannot fully leverage the technology and transition smoothly.
Considering Digital Transition a One-off Event
Often, SMBs assume that digital transformation is a one-time setup, results of which will persist for ages. Digital evolution is a never-ending procedure as some new innovator surfaces every other week (or month).
Business leaders fall into the mental trap of believing that their job of digitally transmuting their organizations is done. Such thinking can make them lax and miss out on effective methods that could considerably benefit their enterprises.
Digital transformation is never a destination, as per general belief. It is a dynamic process where SMBs are constantly on their toes to encounter the challenges of the fast-evolving market conditions.
The purpose here is to become a flexible business that can keep pace with changes rapidly and is ready to embrace (appropriate) technologies as soon as they emerge without any resistance.
Planning for Digital Transformation too Far in Advance
Going digital is more about doing than planning. SMBs can get involved in endless loops of analysis paralysis, which hinders the transformation initiative. Excessive planning for the digital transition initiative can increase the odds of inaccurate assumptions or the inability to predict future needs.
To tackle this, SMBs should institutionalize lean startup mindset at every corporate rung. Lean startup mindset prefers experimentation to a top-down strategy. This approach rapidly and iteratively builds an innovation to become a minimum viable product (MVP) that businesses release to customers. Then, they refine the innovation based on customer feedback.
Not Offering Internal Operations the Automation Touch
No matter how far SMBs go to integrate prominent technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT) or AI, they cannot achieve desired outcomes until they automatize the processes within the firm.
Digital transformation starts from the inside, automating how teams collaborate and organizations move away from legacy business models. Introducing a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, for instance, is one of the best ways to streamline internal corporate operations.
CRM software logs all the internal tasks, builds logic networks, and decodes customer-related data earlier stored in spreadsheets. If executed properly, CRM platforms can help automatize several routine and crucial tasks.
While rolling out CRM software, determining the most suitable feature set is pivotal. Most SMBs do not leverage the complete feature sets and only introduce tools based on recommendations by competitors’ business developers. However, blending a CRM with automation tools can help save money than purchasing a product companies will not fully utilize.
Paying No Heed to KPIs
If SMB owners do not have pre-defined relevant metrics to quantify their results, they cannot measure the growth. This could sabotage the whole digital transformation journey.
As the shift to digital is an enterprise-wide application, businesses must define KPIs that will consider all organizational aspects. Case in point:
- Digitizing operations KPIs: Measure business sustainability, time saved in completing manual processes, and employee productivity
- IT uplift KPIs: Measure reduced costs, new solutions, and the revenue of tools
- Digital marketing metrics: Measure user lifetime value, the number of leads generated, return on marketing, and client acquisition
- New ventures KPIs: Measure new launches and access to markets
Getting Digital Transformation Right
Over the past few years, SMBs across continents have accelerated their shift to digital. However, a venture as colossal as digital transition will never be a straightforward path. In addition, the chances of facing multiple barriers to success will be high.
Businesses have to dodge a slew of mistakes and sloppy waters while focusing sharply on the end goal. That said, they can either succumb to cutthroat market competition due to subsequent fears or embrace these challenges and collectively find solutions to script a success story.
By getting the basics right and implementing a crystal-clear roadmap tailored to business needs, SMBs can reap the benefits of digital transformation.