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article imageWhy small businesses need to consider digital transformation

By Tim Sandle     Aug 3, 2017 in Business
Digital transformation may be more associated with major corporations, but small businesses are rapidly engaging with the process in order to remain competitive. Digital Journal assesses the trends.
Digital transformation is a wide-ranging term; in the context of small businesses is generally refers to the process of adapting or overhauling current business processes to incorporate digital strategies and technology into the company. This includes adopting new devices so that employees can work remotely; issuing mobile apps to improve internal communication; going paperless through digital data capture; putting more services on-line; using big data analytics; and meeting the consumer half-way through offering on-line payments and the means to make payments either on-line or directly through contactless payment systems.
In this article we look at five of the emerging trends and strategies of small business to consider adopting. This is the first of a three part series from Digital Journal. The second article looks specifically at the advantages to businesses from mobile payment technology; the third article looks at a specific innovation involving a synergy of digital payments and invoicing services.
Sam Churchill
READ MORE: Small businesses adopting mobile payment technology
Many small businesses are looking at automation. An example is using databases to capture information to make the searching for information faster. Here artificial intelligence and machine learning can make this process faster. The advantages of automation allow employees to focus their attentions on more skilled tasks, and on activities that will bring in revenue or lower operating costs. An example of software that can help lower the administrative burden is Julie Desk, a personal assistant based on artificial intelligence who schedules meetings by email.
Data analytics
There are various analytical programs to assess data and allow business make better informed decisions. This includes looking at market share, rivals, and consumer trends. Artificial intelligence platforms help with this process, making recommendations based on customer data and for areas of potential growth by analyzing sales data. According to Louis Columbus, tech contributor for Forbes: "Machine learning is proving to be efficient at handling predictive tasks including defining which behaviors have the highest propensity to drive desired sales and marketing outcomes."
Abstract data image. Photo by Angela Grammatas  Noiszy.
Abstract data image. Photo by Angela Grammatas, Noiszy.
Angela Grammatas
Going paperless
By going paperless, Small Business UK reports, small businesses can become more efficient, avoiding mislaid paperwork or mistakes that can arise from illegible handwriting. Mobile data solutions allow information to be quickly be entered into the system and then shared with the wider business. This improves communication and increases opportunities for collaboration.
Virtual office
Solutions like cloud productivity platforms, including Microsoft Office 365, allow employees to work and collaborate at peak proficiency without wasting time. In addition, documents can be accessed at any time from any working environment. Such cloud solutions also affect the changing world of work. The concept of the workday being 9 to 5 and the office being a place with four walls is no longer the norm; many many employees want to work at different times and in different locations, and many businesses, especially those that trade worldwide, wanta 24-hours-a-day operation.
Cloud computing use has grown by 112 percent in the past year
Cloud computing use has grown by 112 percent in the past year
stokpic via Pixabay
Meeting customer expectations
Customers are expecting faster services from business, according to Microsoft Business, and are often expecting to engage with businesses digitally, from communication to making payments. Customers are also expecting faster services, round-the-clock services and faster deliveries of goods. It is only through digital platforms that business can meet these expectations. Customers are also a rich source of data for the business and many smaller businesses fail to collect and use enough customer data. Such information can help develop the business to meet changing customer interests and expectations, such as which channels customers want to engage with (such as going on-line, via mobile devices or even accessing services or paying for goods by smartwatches).
READ MORE: New approach to digital payments and invoicing
Small businesses should take care not to rush in and adopt technology for technology's sake; this could lead to inefficiencies warns the company Canon. Before adoption, businesses should evaluate technology on the basis of:
Clarity: The technology should be for a precise reason, answering a direct need.
Simplicity: The solution should allow for less time to spent on IT management, not more
Security: The technology should maintain a top level of security.
Reliability: External service providers must guarantee a specific level of service.
Sustainability: If the platform becomes obsolete, the data must be able to be removed and used with another system.
File Photo: The Red Balloon office - an example of an open plan  Bullpen -style office
File Photo: The Red Balloon office - an example of an open plan 'Bullpen'-style office
Veronica Therese
These are important considerations for any small business and they open up new possibilities. Digital technology, to a degree, levels the playing field for small businesses versus larger corporations and opens up new possibilities for growth.
One immediate driver for small businesses is the adoption of mobile payments, which have been taken by by around a quarter of small enterprises. The second article in this series looks at the trends and technologies in more detail.
More about Small business, digital transformation, Finance, Business
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