By PJ Bishop, Vice-President: Services, Sage Africa and Middle East
For the past few years, small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have felt pressure from every direction. A global pandemic followed by the war in Ukraine, high inflation as well as widespread supply chain disruption. SMBs are turning to digital technology, specifically cloud-based business solutions, to grow, stabilise, and future-proof their businesses in this difficult context.
Digital technologies create better employee experiences that drive satisfaction, helping SMBs improve retention and attract the best talent. They also enable companies to reach new customers and enhance relationships with existing customers, employees, and suppliers. They allow businesses to transform and streamline how they operate daily.
The cloud is a good enabler, allowing SMBs to access real-time data anywhere and anytime. Moving towards as-a-service consumption gives SMBs access to technology that is as flexible, scalable and reliable as the solutions large enterprises use. It liberates SMBs from capital expenditure on tech and the treadmill of updates and refreshes while allowing them to benefit from the latest solutions.
We're already seeing this with the rise of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and an ongoing trend of businesses moving their on-premise financial and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to the cloud. These cloud-based business solutions provide fast and easy access to real-time financial data, which SMBs can use to make decisions. In addition to ensuring compliance, these tools must allow them to access financial and operational data with automated alerts and capabilities such as scenario planning.
Yet, embracing technology is not as simple as deciding to do so. There are several barriers that can slow an SMB's journey to a digital utopia. The good news is most of these are knowledge-based and behavioural, which means there are practical ways to break them. Here are three obstacles to digital transformation and how to tackle them:
1. Not knowing which solution to use
The rapid evolution of technology and the abundance of products and vendors can lead to decision paralysis. It's also hard to decide when you don't know what measures to consider when weighing up your options. To break this barrier, internal stakeholders should consider what's important to the business in the short and long term. Factors to consider include price, the potential return on investment (ROI), and the complexity of implementation.
2. Unlocking the value of data
SMBs can access rich data from various internal systems and external sources like social media platforms. But many lack the expertise to effectively use this to drive business decisions, understand current performance, or impact customer relationships. This is a good reason to consider investing in software that lets the business tap into and make better use of its data. Look for solutions that automate reporting and offer out-of-the-box dashboards to turn data into insight.
3. Driving end-user productivity and adoption
Even if a business has already adopted some shiny new tech, enabling people to use it effectively is a challenge in itself. If they don't know how to use a new system, they may revert to old ways or struggle to become productive. It's key to dedicate time and effort to train employees to use the tech and follow new processes.
Digital tech is the key to SMB growth and resilience
Businesses stood up to a global pandemic and more recent economic challenges, which proves how critical digital technologies have become. As SMBs adopt more technology, they can supercharge productivity and strengthen their resilience, enabling them to thrive, whatever future challenges the market throws at them.
Sage exists to knock down barriers so everyone can thrive, starting with the millions of Small and Mid Sized Businesses served by us, our partners and accountants. Customers trust our finance, HR and payroll software to make work and money flow. By digitising business processes and relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, banks and governments, our digital network connects SMBs, removing friction and delivering insights. Knocking down barriers also means we use our time, technology and experience to tackle digital inequality, economic inequality and the climate crisis.