For some business leaders, the term ‘digital transformation’ may be bordering on becoming buzzwords. However, for many small and medium businesses across the globe, a digital-first approach to how they operate is a way of life. And those who invest in and embrace technology were able to react to the seismic disruption of 2020 quickly, effectively and efficiently.
And it will be those digitally advanced businesses that are going to be able to handle any potential future volatility.
For Koda Capital, explains Founder Andrew Rutherford, having a robust technological infrastructure that’s continually developed and invested in has enabled the business to react and change direction quickly.
“We already had a remote business continuity plan, which enabled up to 20 people to work remotely, but in late 2019 we’d upgraded that to give everyone simultaneous access to all of our data file systems. We also consolidated and integrated our telecommunications and video conferencing services to communicate from any device or any location, seamlessly.
“Having this in place, in addition to our cloud services, meant that, as soon as COVID-19 hit, we could take our laptops home and continue working remotely. So from that perspective, nothing had changed.”
Salesforce’s latest Small & Medium Business Trends report, which was compiled in the early days of the pandemic, showed that 46% of respondents believed technology influenced their organisation’s ability to stay open and in business. It’ll be interesting to see if that figure has changed when the next report is published – I’d imagine it’s safe to say it will have.
While no-one could have precisely predicted what 2020 held, businesses can predict some form of disruption will come along at some point, and a proactive approach to preempting the impact of whatever may come along is a key quality for a resilient business.
Sometimes, however, there are signs that you need to get ahead of the game. For Yvonne Timson, Chief Operating Officer at Community Vision – an organisation that provides disability and community care services in Perth – changes in funding, in addition to the scrutiny that came with the Royal Commissions, provided those prompts.
“We needed to look at the business through what would be a normal business commercial lens to generate efficiencies,” she says.
“Our systems and our technology was a logical place to start.”
Changing of the guard – the importance of change management
Community Vision began a significant digital transformation project, and a visible day-to-day impact was changing from rostering its 180-plus staff on paper to iPad.
It was met with some resistance.
“They’ve gone from being confident and organising their own day to suddenly being directed to the work and the information,” says Yvvone.
“There was fear. You get the conspiracy theories from the staff that we’re only doing it to check up on them, while some customers were wondering why we were using this technology to provide a personal care service – in some people’s minds, it doesn’t automatically connect.
“One thing I knew from previous change management, however, was the need for internal training – that training was how we built trust with the workforce. We trained them, took in their feedback and, once they saw the benefit to how they were working, the aptitude to change increased dramatically.”
Investment in training – from both financial and time perspectives – is critically important when planning a digital transformation project, and it can’t be underestimated.
Another key ingredient for a successful digital transformation project is a culture that embraces a modern way of working. Technology can enable many things, but the mindset of the organisation has to be able to adapt and embrace those opportunities.
For Koda Capital, says Andrew, the autonomy and self-determination needed to adapt to and thrive in change are ingrained in the way the business works and team culture.
“Our philosophy is that as long as you’re meeting the needs of our clients and meeting our compliance obligations, we don’t care how or when you’re working. That really helped people go from working in a physically colocated office to a digitally enabled collaboration environment at home.”
“Our philosophy is that as long as you’re meeting the needs of our clients, we don’t care how or when you’re working. That really helped people go from working in a supervised office to a purely unsupervised environment at home.”
Digital transformation – more than just buzzwords
While some business leaders may think ‘digital transformation’ are just buzzwords, Andrew says it’s a non-negotiable for organisations in all areas of business.
“In all sectors, you’re dealing with people who are digital natives. They expect the providers they’re dealing with to be absolutely online and to offer very high levels of security, and very high levels of convenience.
“In addition, the reality is if you haven’t done that digital transformation, if you haven’t moved online, if you still rely on email, you’re exposed to the risk of cybercrime.”
“For us, there’s a lot of intergenerational wealth transfer, so a lot of the 60-, 70-, 80-year-old clients we’re dealing with today will pass things on in five, 10, 20 years to their 40- or 50-year-old children, or their 30-year-old grandchildren, and they all have a level of expectation around digital.
“If we didn’t have the technology we have, there’s no way we’d have as many clients as we do today.”
Learn why more than 2,000 SMB leaders and owners across the globe are prioritising digital transformation. Download the Small & Medium Business Trends report.
Read how SMBs are putting customers at the centre of their business in our first article for our SMB Trends series.