While talk of digitisation and automation abounds, the reality of how to fund and implement new technologies is often lost on business owners, writes Cisco’s Jason Brouwers.
You’ve seen and read about the benefits digitisation can deliver to your business, but your initial research has shown that you can’t simply install generic software and watch your business become more modern, agile and competitive.
In fact, your business must overcome a series of barriers and transform itself before genuinely becoming digitally enabled. You need to change your culture, approach and technologies to place digitisation at the core of your business model.
The far-reaching change associated with this approach may not be easy to implement. For example, you may encounter resistance from longer-term employees used to doing things in a certain way.
However, taking the steps required to embrace digitisation will enable your business to connect people, process data and things to provide intelligence and actionable insights.
Better decision-making and streamlined processes
These insights and intelligence will inform decision-making that delivers positive outcomes for your business. You can also streamline and accelerate processes while increasing productivity by reallocating employees to higher-value work.
A lack of understanding in the small to medium business sector has demonstrated a reluctance to deploy transformative technologies, despite the rich productivity rewards they offer.
A recent Cisco survey revealed that only a low share of SMEs in Australia are properly harnessing true telecommuting technology and considerably less than half have the technology to allow employees to undertake remote working.
You may be tempted to put digitisation in the ‘too hard’ basket, but a head-in-the sand approach will cause your business to lose market share and relevance to competitors that have embraced digitisation.
Cost and lack of expertise top digitisation obstacles
So what are the key barriers that businesses like yours face in implementing digitisation? Some of the key obstacles are:
- The cost of using technology to adopt digitisation to the same level as larger businesses
- Lack of in-house technology expertise and resource
While most businesses believe increasing use of digital technologies would deliver benefits, nearly the same number feel it would be too expensive to use technology to harness digitisation in the same way as their bigger competitors.
Furthermore, about half of businesses feel they are restricted by a lack of internal expertise, research or knowledge. These barriers can limit small to medium businesses’ ability to properly formulate and execute digitisation plans.
For example, more so than ever, business owners and managers understand that an increased reliance on digital technologies will also elevate the risk presented by a cyber security breach.
A recent survey conducted by Zurich found while SMEs are more aware of the cost and damage of such a breach, most are not doing enough to protect themselves.
So how can your business and others overcome these obstacles to realise the rewards of digitisation?
Tailored ‘set-and-forget’ solution can address these challenges
The answer may lie in deploying a tailored solution that packages the building blocks of digitisation for easy deployment and operation within your business.
This solution should allow your business to easily set up, manage and monitor new technologies; adopt a secure network and products that protect data, users and the business itself; and enable provisioning, reporting and insights across a range of devices from a single dashboard.
Those already harnessing the advantages of digitisation are enabling employees to connect while on the move or out at branch locations or sites.
They are also enabling employees to work with colleagues anytime from anywhere, coordinate and complete activities with extended project teams, meet online with customers and vendors, and compute securely with business and custom applications.
Considerable financial and productivity benefits
Embracing digitisation can unlock a range of benefits for SMEs, according to analysts such as PwC and Deloitte. Collectively, these include billions of dollars of private sector output, while individual businesses that lead in embracing digitisation can grow revenue, create jobs, export products and services and innovate at rates considerably faster than their less advanced rivals.
Furthermore, each step a business takes on its digitisation journey delivers measurable benefits such as revenue increases, growth in customer base and team expansion.
The advice for small to medium businesses, such as yours, are clear. Embracing digitisation to remove communication barriers between people, improve collaboration (which improves the quality of inputs and ultimately delivers better decision-making) and accelerate business delivers measurable benefits.
You can provide a better experience for your customers, and engage your internal team more effectively while improving productivity and meeting the challenges of a fast-moving market.
Jason Brouwers is the managing director of Cisco's Partner Business Group.