Investing in digital technology is one of the top priorities of Swiss SMEs today, yet many of them are still lagging behind when it comes to digitalisation.
In 2016, 76% of SMEs surveyed ina study by PwC Switzerland believed that digitisation would radically change the market in the next five years. This was before the arrival of the coronavirus crisis, which greatly accelerated the digitalisation of companies. However, the pandemic has shown that many Swiss SMEs are struggling to digitise, as evidenced by the difficulty of some companies to cope with teleworking or the neglect of online commerce.
This can be due to various reasons such as a lack of financial resources, time or digital skills, but also to reluctance to embrace digital transformation due to a lack of knowledge on how to make such a change. Customer experience, online shop, automation… with all the different digital solutions available, it is not easy to know where to start. Especially since digital transformation implies a real re-evaluation of one’s business in the digital age.
Indeed, if digital transformation concretely consists of implementing digital technologies within a company, it is not simply a matter of putting in place a digital solution, such as an online shop, but it actually represents a whole reflection on the company’s business model and the different aspects of its organisation.
Digital transformation can, among other things, change the way data is used within a company, or change the way interactions with the customer are conducted. The nature and extent of this transformation depends on the company concerned, as each company has its own needs, resources and approach to change. Some of them simply need to readapt a given sector of their activity, while others require a complete restructuring.
The evolution in digital technology must therefore be carefully thought through before considering, for example, the adoption of a new tool. To be truly effective, it must be implemented as part of a defined digital strategy and not in a hurry. It is then important to ask the right questions and establish an action plan.
Here are 5 important steps to establish your digital transformation strategy:
1. Carry out a diagnosis
Thinking about digital starts with a detailed examination of the different aspects of your business. Before considering any changes, it is important to know exactly what your current situation is. This involves, on the one hand, carrying out a diagnosis to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of its business and, on the other hand, assessing its degree of digitalisation, also called digital maturity.
It is necessary to define the functioning of the company by asking the following questions:
– What are the existing processes and infrastructure?
– What tools are being used?
– How is the data used?
– How is information communicated (internally and externally)?
– What are the modes of interaction with the customer?
It is also about assessing the performance of the different levels of the activity and highlighting recurring problems that tend to hold it back. What are the different issues that keep coming up? What do employees regularly complain about?
The assessment of the company’s degree of digitalisation completes the diagnosis, with the company’s current digital progress serving as a starting point for future digital transformation. Self-assessment indices are available online to measure the degree of digitalisation of one’s company, e.g. by assessing the state of digitalisation of processes or sales departments.
Together, these assessments will provide a holistic view of the company’s entire business,highlighting current issuesthat will inform the entire future digital strategy.
2. Define an objective
Once the situation is well defined, the next step is to define the objectives of the digital transformation. What is the company trying to achieve: reach a new market, improve the customer experience, accelerate its growth… ? What are you trying to achieve: reach a new market, improve the customer experience, accelerate your growth? What are the issues you want to address: too many data entry errors, too many late payments, lack of visibility of your brand…? What problems do you want to address: too many input errors, too many late payments, lack of visibility of your brand, etc.?
It is not a question of digitising everything, but rather of judging which solutions are relevant to one’s situation.
Thus, this stage of the reflection leads to other more specific questions:
– Which sector(s) should be digitised?
– Which operations should be supported by digital technologies?
– Which tool(s) should be adopted?
Establishing a plan with the objectives to be achieved and the possible solutions to achieve them will serve to delineate the optimal level of digital transformation for your situation. This will avoid future unnecessary costs due to either a digital transformation that is more extensive than necessary, or a digital transformation that is too weak and does not bring about real change, or the choice of obsolete digital solutions leading to a flawed transformation.
3. Define your deadlines
With targets set, another question arises: how long do we want the transformation to take?
The time given to digital transformation will also inform the choices in the digital strategy to be adopted and the implementation of tools and processes. The transformation can be segmented into different stages according to the objectives to be achieved, the processes to be put in place and the solutions to be integrated, with different time frames for each.
As digital transformation is a process, it will not happen instantly. It can last for several months or even years. This aspect accentuates thethe importance of making the digital transformation today, to be ready for a future where digital requirements, such as QR codes or e-invoices, will be increasingly present to the point where companies that have not migrated to digital solutions will not be able to operate.
This length of time can be a source of frustration for those wishing to see instant results from digital transformation, but although the process takes time, this does not mean that no benefits will be seen as the process unfolds.
Of course, the duration of the transformation will depend largely on the extent of the changes required. If it is a question of integrating a new tool, rather than completely overhauling the structure of operations, then the duration will be less important.
Another point to bear in mind is that digital transformation evolves with technology. Consumer habits and working methods will continue to change over time, so there will always be new things to implement or learn, making digital transformation a continuous process.
4. Define your resources
Once the objectives and deadlines have been established, it remains to calculate the budget required for the digital transformation according to the objectives to be achieved. The extent of one’s digital transformation is unsurprisingly dependent on the resources available, so one’s digitalization strategy may need to be readjusted depending on the budget. The resources that can be mobilised will determine which solutions to turn to in order to address the issues identified, as well as the level of priority of the different problems to be addressed.
If the question of budget represents an obstacle to digital transformation, the flexibility of digitisation and the wide choice of digitisation solutions give the possibility of adapting its strategy to the available resources. It is also possible to divide the transformation into several stages, to introduce it gradually and avoid spending too much at once.
5. Consult with your team
Digital transformation affects the company at many levels, making it a collaborative process. Involving the relevant sectors and employees in every step of the reflection process is essential. Everyone has their own contribution to make, whether it be in highlighting areas for improvement in the way the company operates or in proposing new ideas and solutions to make work both more efficient and more enjoyable.
Consulting with your team throughout the project is also important to gauge their mood for the upcoming changes. Are they rather motivated or unconvinced? Are they worried about having to change their working habits, are they afraid of being replaced? While involving them in the project, reassuring reluctant people and presenting them clearly with the benefits to be gained from the transformation will help to prepare them for the changes in order to experience the transformation smoothly.
Risks if there is no change.
The pandemic has highlighted the difficulties brought about by a lack of or too low a degree of digitalisation for Swiss SMEs, which are therefore unable to respond to new regulations and market requirements and to customer demands. And if delays in digitalisation do not always penalise today, they will certainly do so tomorrow. In the digital age, where digital tools play an increasingly important role, anticipating the digital transformation allows us to calmly welcome the many changes to come.
Whether you need to completely restructure your business or simply better develop your online presence, digital transformation is not always an obvious step to take. The best way to approach this major project is to ask the right questions: a diagnosis of the situation, well-defined objectives and associated deadlines and resources, and a committed team will guide the reflection on the digitalisation of the company.
Would you like to benefit from expert digital advice to design and carry out your digital transformation?
MCA Seed Academy offers internal audits or training sessions to guide and support companies in their digital transformation. The experience of MCA Seed Academy consultants in the entrepreneurial world and their knowledge of processes and new technologies will guide you in the choice of a digital strategy and solutions adapted to your company for a successful digital transformation.