Change and uncertainty have been constant themes for nearly every business since the start of 2020. It’s hard to find an industry or sector that has not had to navigate at least some small-scale transitions due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many business were prepared for a pivot to an online-heavy operational model. But, many more were not.
There’s no shame in the realization that your enterprise may not have been immediately ready to adopt a more digitally oriented business model. It’s hard to predict a once-in-a-century global crisis. But, now that you’re in the thick of it, what can you do to ensure that your operation is optimized for the new economic reality we are all experiencing?
Let’s discuss some keys for a successful ramp up to digital business operations.
The coronavirus had definitely provided the impetus for a digital transformation in many industries. But, the truth is, the transformation has been going on for a while now. Around 70% of businesses were expanding their digital capabilities in one way or another when the pandemic struck.
Not everyone was hitting their transitions out of the park, however. In fact, a full-scale digital transformation is hardly assured of success. According to research by the consulting heavyweight McKinsey & Company, less than one-third of organizations undertaking a large-scale technological upgrade succeeded in improving performance over a meaningful period of time.
There is good news for small business owners, however. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees were 2.7 more likely to report a successful transition compared with organizations with 50,000 employees or more.
So, what can you do to maximize the success of your business’ digital transformation? Our friends at McKinsey offer these five suggestions:
- Provide capable, digital-savvy leadership
- Build for a workforce of the future
- Empower and encourage your team to work in new ways
- Upgrade to digital tools for day-to-day business operations
- Communicate frequently via traditional and digital channels
Let’s explore these in more detail.
If you are running a successful small business, you obviously have a capable leadership team in place already. That said, if you’re looking to improve your digital infrastructure, you’ll likely need some help with the “digital-savvy” part of leadership. This probably means looking outside of your organization for help.
You can go about it in one of two ways. You could create a “chief digital officer” position and hire an experienced manager for the role. The other options is to engage a knowledgeable and trustworthy IT firm to help you through the transition.
Either way, you’ll need to empower and smooth the way for your C-suite hire or the IT team you contract. Which means consistent communication to support their efforts. More on this later.
An investment into new technology is great. But, it won’t make a difference on its own. You’ve got to have employees who know how to use and make the most of your new digital tools.
Getting your team to explore and utilize new tools is easier when you have a few employees who can act as integrators and early adopters. Look for members of your team who know the technical aspect of your business and understand the potential impact of the tools and technologies you are looking to add.
Empowering Your Employees
Change is difficult. Period. It’s human nature to keep on doing things the same way we always have. To grease the wheels of change, you need buy-in from your team.
One way to get a positive reaction from your charges is to solicit input about specific ways that new digital tools can help support their work. This sets the right tone during the planning part.
Once new processes and tools are put in place, it is imperative to reinforce the new behaviors. One way to do that is by providing continuing education opportunities. Another one is to encourage employees to explore, take risks and fail with their new tools.
Adding the Right Digital Tools for Day-to-Day Operations
Through their research, McKinsey identified three important considerations when adding new digital tools:
- the application should make information accessible throughout the entire organization,
- the application should empower your employees and your business partners to easily reach data-driven insights,
- standard procedures should be revised to include the new digital tool
As said before, internalizing new ways of working is not easy. But, if your employees understand the impetus for the changes being made, and the direction in which these changes are taking the company, they are more likely to successfully adopt their new digital tools and procedures.
To that end, it’s important to get your team together in-person to discuss your digital optimization plan before it gets going. As the changes are rolled out, continued check-in conversation between employees and their managers can help to keep implementation on track. Periodic communication from management via email or remote company town halls (via Zoom, Slack, etc) providing updates throughout the process will keep your team up to date on developments and help them keep track of progress.
Priorities for a Digital Transformation
Now that you understand the keys to a successful digital transformation, how should you proceed? We asked our team of IT experts for advice. Here’s what they said.
Make a Plan
This sounds obvious. But, how many businesses had to scramble to get business operations online when shutdown orders came down in mid-March? This reaction wasn’t unusual. IT needs often get de-prioritized unless something major goes wrong.
The rush in March, necessitated by COVID-19, made resources and equipment scarce. It’s can still be difficult to track down needed equipment, like laptops and servers.
For a smooth transition, make a plan before the need arises.
Decentralize Your Network
Cloud computing and applications are a smart and financially manageable way for small businesses to move their operations online. There are other advantages to decentralizing your business network. For one, you minimize the risk of your network going down from a single point of failure. For example, if your on-site servers go down, a cloud backup can keep your network operational while the problem is addressed.
Whenever you add points of access to your protected network, be it from cloud applications or from your workforce working remotely, you provide more avenues for cyber attacks to reach you. That doesn’t mean you should hunker down and shut out the digital world. It does mean that you should take the necessary security precautions.
Logic dictates that if you’re going to be relying on more digital processes, you’ll need to bolster your digital resources. This includes everything from ordering more laptops for your remote employees and upping your internet connection to implementing a more robust firewall and increasing your network monitoring capabilities.
Beacon Knows Digital Transformation
Need a reliable partner to help you through your digital transformation? The BITS team is here for you. Get in touch today to discuss your digital operations goals.