The advantages of more efficient workflows, more cost-effective processes and higher customer satisfaction will silence even the harshest critics of digitalization. However, smaller companies often have inadequate strategies for dealing with digital transformation and therefore often lag behind in fulfilling their potential.
This can be partly explained by the fact that there is a generational gap in SME owners when it comes to digitalization: While start-ups by digital natives adapt more naturally to new developments, the majority of SMEs in Europe is still owned by people who are 50 years and older and struggle with a digitalization strategy due to the Digital Skills Gap. Large companies are implementing the digital transformation more consistently than small ones – but this may also be due to the increasing need for such tools, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic or reasons such as a growing number of employees or measures to reduce costs. However, a survey among German managers by Randstadt shows, that just under one in four small businesses with fewer than 50 employees have newly adopted digital tools, and another 22% have increased their use of these tools. Here, too, the pandemic has noticeably increased the use of digital tools, but for many the creative use of digitalization at large is not on the top of the agenda.
Here, we have to differentiate between digitalization that allows optimizing workflows and processes and a creative digital transformation that creates the opportunities to implement creative ideas and thus enhances your service or product.
Consultant Kai Bösterling in his blog (only in German) points out the pitfall of putting digitalization before creativity and getting lost in the technicalities of solutions rather than using the technologies for realizing creative ideas. A good digitalization strategy therefore is paramount if you want to improve your business. Bösterling suggests to ask questions such as: How can I give an analog product a digital platform, maybe even a community? And how can I create a digital service world around an (analog) product to make it unique? And to transform buyers into loyal, long-term customers?
Similarly, web producer Meinolf Droste suggests asking specific questions to arrive at a digitalization strategy that works for your business:
• What can we do really well?
• What digital products or services can we offer in addition?
• Can such products even replace our traditional products?
• Do your competitors already offer such products and services?
• Is there a danger that your analog products will disappear from the market?
But even the best of digitalization strategies is of little use if the employees affected by it do not or cannot get on board. It is therefore important to keep your employees and their skills in mind to make sure they can contribute and adapt to the processes. Encourage them to think outside the box and to develop new ideas! Who knows, maybe you already have an expert among you!