Why digital transformation matters for smaller businesses

digital transformationIf you’re in a small or medium business in Australia, it’s pretty likely you’ve heard the term ‘digital disruption’ or been told to live in fear of being ‘Ubered’ by a start-up.

There’s good reason for this – digital technologies really are changing the world and fast – but they shouldn’t only be seen as a threat or only for the bigger end of town. Instead, they present a huge opportunity to solve everyday business challenges and regain the control and efficiency that led you to start your own business in the first place.

The process of evolving your business from traditional approaches to one more suited for today’s business and technology environment is called digital transformation. It might involve going from paper-based forms to electronic ones, meeting customers on social media rather than in a shop, allowing staff to work from anywhere, marketing with blogs rather than brochures, or moving your accounting system online as I discuss more below.

These might sound like daunting steps but they can all be achieved incrementally and cost-effectively. In fact, Microsoft has just published a report based on in-depth interviews with 30 Australian organisations called Embracing digital transformation: Experiences from Australian organisations. It shows that even big businesses such as Domino’s and Webjet are evolving their businesses through targeted projects rather than massive overhauls.

The beauty of today’s digital solutions is that they tend to be offered as pay-as-you-go subscriptions or for free. This means that you don’t need to be a computer programmer or even maintain your own servers and other IT infrastructure to use them.

A good example is online accounting packages. Once you’ve put your data into them, you simply access the system via any web browser on a PC, tablet or phone. At the same time, you’ll discover the practical advantages and cost savings that come with moving a core business function like accounting to today’s greatly expanded digital environment.

For starters, you and your team can access the accounts from the office, home or anywhere else with internet access. You can also share the system with your accountant simply by giving them a login. Because you’re no longer hosting the system on your own computers, you also don’t have the cost and hassle of maintaining your own hardware and security.

Most importantly, an online accounting solution automates basic bookkeeping processes such as entering income and purchase transactions. This saves time and therefore money. It can also let you decide whether to have a bookkeeper or financial controller work in your office or offsite, and whether or not you need to employ people directly or use one of the many new service providers who can now meet this need due to digital technology.

I hope you’re seeing the picture. Digital transformation is not a fancy marketing term; it’s about using the latest technologies to regain the freedom and profitability you have always wanted by being in your own business. At the same time, it is about ensuring that your business remains visible and engaged where its customers are in the online world. It’s also about offering the working environment that employees now expect.

If this piques your interest, our report provides a range of helpful examples and frameworks to help you move forward.

The report breaks down the digital transformation task into the core areas of engaging with customers, empowering your employees, optimising your operations and reinventing your products and services. It also covers some of the challenges you’re likely to come up against such as finding the right people to help you make changes, reassessing the culture and mindset of your business, and setting out a clear vision for the future.

You’ll see there’s no right path to digital transformation and it’s still very new for most organisations. As you consider your own way forward, I’d encourage you to engage with one of Microsoft’s more than 10,000 fantastic partners around Australia. They can give you a clear sense of what digital solutions are available, what might be appropriate for your business and how you can move ahead quickly and cost-effectively.

Finally, talk to us at Microsoft directly by commenting below or getting in touch with me at steven.miller@microsoft.com or any of my team. We’re very excited by the potential digital technologies offer to ensure you not only survive and prosper, but maintain all the great things that should come with owning or working within a small or medium sized business in Australia.

Download the full report: Embracing digital transformation: Experiences from Australian organisations.

Want to be referred to a Microsoft Partner to start your transformation journey? Call us on 1800 234 085.

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