Article written by Garsen Naidu (Country Manager Cisco South Africa)
Our global economies resilience has been tested this year. All companies, both large and small, have felt the weight of the past year’s drastic changes. Unfortunately, however, this surreal experience has been felt more by smaller companies. With technology now becoming a default setting in multiple economic sectors, it is only fit that small and medium businesses (SMBs) adapt to our rapidly changing world. 86% of SMBs “strongly agree that technology is changing the industry” – whether it be retail, media or law.
At Cisco, we know that SMBs don’t have to be an expert in technology to transform your business. All one needs is a partner who puts you and your business first. Therefore, we have made it easier for SMBs of all sizes to manage their technological requirements and actions via these simple 7 steps:
Step 1: Develop a three-year digital technology roadmap
Transforming your business digitally is not an easy task. Furthermore, it is not a quick on either. Therefore, it is important to create and set a digital transformation plan that can evolve within the span of three years. Each action executed should be tested, evaluated and re-executed to maintain excellence of service from your business. It is through this process that an SMB will be able to analyse which tactics strengthen their business technologically. Furthermore, one’s digital technology roadmap must be aligned to your business goals with expansion in mind.
Step 2: Prioritise the critical business processes to automate
Similar to the first step, this step forces you to acknowledge which actions and/or systems need the most attention when digitally transforming your business. The difference between step one and two however, is the fact that step two focuses on the ‘heart’ of your business. Fundamentally, what sustains your business process. Examples like:
- Launching a new product(s) and/or service(s);
- Delivering better customer experience;
- Improving financial forecasting and
- Improving operations & service delivery
will demand a much more detailed digital strategy compared to that outlined within step one. This step will most likely take much longer to process, action and evaluate due to its core function for your SMB.
Step 3: Evaluate and right-size the technologies to invest in
Small and medium businesses need to invest in technologies like cloud, mobility, data analytics and cyber security to differentiate themselves and become more efficient. With many businesses now operating remotely, this action is, in fact, unavoidable. To begin this process one must start with a realistic budget and scale up accordingly as time progresses. This step, once more, can be easily aligned to step one and its butterfly effects.
Step 4: Invest in digital talent and skills
A digitally equipped business will not survive without a strong operational team. Therefore, it is important to attract skilled individuals and focus on employee training to upgrade skills.
Step 5: Find the right technology partner for your journey
As mentioned prior, no one needs to be a technology expert to transform your business. However, if you lack in-house IT expertise, it will be worthwhile to look for a partner that offers consultancy and project management services. By finding a partner, you will not only balance the workload between two parties but also provide yourself with the opportunity to understand other necessary technological skills. This will act as a ‘give and take’ opportunity where each partner will educate the other on their expertise; which allows the opposing parties to upskill one another whilst running a successful business.
Step 6: Keep up with industry trends and best practices
With the world constantly changing around us, it is important to stay updated on the current (inter)national affairs and engage in imperative events and conversations. Examples include:
- Attending technology events and webinars;
- Participating in digital forums and
- Using product assessment tools to guide your buying decisions within the business.
Step 7: Simplify, start small, learn and scale
There is a common misconception that one needs to invest in complex and expensive equipment/services so as to run a successful enterprise. This, of course, is not the case when wishing to invest in technological advancements. When wishing to advance your company, it is important to choose technology that is simple, secure and reliable, and that can grow with you as your business grows.
It is clear that our new reality will present itself with new, fun and most definitely complex challenges. However, by investing in a resilient and open-minded mindset, any business (or any person) has the potential to evolve.