Lots of small businesses have “gone digital” by using devices and apps to do things smarter, faster and more efficiently. No real surprises there, after all you’d expect many small businesses today to use digital technologies like computers, laptops, and increasingly, tablets and smartphones. After all, in our always-on economy your customers expect you to be readily contactable, and mobility devices are a great way to be in touch, wherever your location – work or home.
In fact, digital technologies can benefit your business in a broad range of areas including cost reduction and improved customer service.
The Sensis e-business Report 2015 showed that 88% of small businesses have a computer; 63% own smartphones; and 87% have broadband internet access.
Unfortunately, the survey also showed that only 17% of the businesses who were online had a digital business strategy. Hmm. That could spell wasted opportunity to fully gain the potential of going digital.
Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to go digital to help you build the right digital strategy for your business.
PREPARE TO PLAN
Before you launch your business on the road to a digital future, it’s an idea to take stock and consider where it will take you. To do that you could start by scoping what your budget will allow.
Also, you could create a list of the core business processes that you’d like to make more efficient through digitization.
Yes! Online Magazine recently spoke to innovation expert Dr Bruce McCabe about what he thinks are the best ways for small businesses to go digital. He outlined the following, based on more than twenty five years advising both corporations and start-ups:
“You have to make an evaluation of what aspects of your work can be outsourced and what can be automated digitally,” he says. “And because small businesses are so resource-deficient, the game is always to see what you can leverage and what you do well.”
“Small businesses should concentrate on defining that really well and then consider: ‘How do we use technology to both multiply what we do best and take away the burden of all the other things we don’t wish to do?’. Then automate the processes that’ll clear the way for you to concentrate on what you do best.”
“For example, if you’re good at direct selling then it’s about maximising time on the road and automating the processes that keep you in the office; take away the administrative burdens elsewhere,” McCabe says.
GET THE SKILLS IN THE DOOR
It takes a particular skill set to ensure you maximise the potential benefits to be gained from process improvement through digitization.
As many small businesses can find it hard to afford external consultants, it’s important to get the right employees and staff in-house.
“An investment in people pays back ten times over,” McCabe continues. “If you hire the right person with an interest and knowledge of technology they can help you expand and make the right decisions. That pays back much more than doing the research online and doing it all yourself.
“In fact, the biggest mistake every small business makes – particularly micro businesses – is doing it all yourself and not getting other people involved early enough,” McCabe says.
GET YOUR HEAD IN THE CLOUD
Cloud computing is an important part of the digital environment. Cloud is much more than simply another IT term. It’s more a paradigm shift in the way businesses deal with their IT requirements. By using cloud computing, you’ll get IT services delivered over the internet. This means you save on the cost of buying and maintaining the hardware and software in-house.
“Cloud is the ‘400 pound gorilla’,” McCabe explains, “Laptops, smartphones and tablets – all these things are force multipliers that allow a small business to punch well beyond their weight. With cloud, there’s nothing stopping a small business from renting whatever computing power they need for as long as they need it.”
What’s more, the outlook is bright for further business process improvements for small business. McCabe says we’re just at the start of a whole raft of benefits that cloud can deliver.
“In the future we’ll see much more processing of image, voice and audio that will integrate with other services all over the world,” he says.
“I think it’s the most powerful and most exciting opportunity for small business. Plus, small businesses are agile and can learn from mistakes and move on. This is their advantage over larger enterprises,” McCabe says.
This article is the first in a series that will help you explore ways your business can become more productive with digital technology including cloud computing, social media and productivity apps.
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