Practical tips on Digital Transformation for small and medium business

Digital Transformation is an overused buzzword these days. At the same time, there is a very specific and pressing problem behind it that many businesses face now. The problem is exactly as Lewis Carroll stated in the Alice in Wonderland: “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

The reasons for that are a few, but most relevant is the race of competition in sales and service leading to the escalation of customers’ expectations. When competitors put a smoother online shopping experience and provide low-cost service options, the business using form-based ordering and relying heavily on call centres staff to service are falling behind rapidly. Transforming business, sales and service models, IT infrastructure, processes, and staff – is not a change that can happen overnight. Depending on the ambition, such changes may span over months and even years.

While bigger companies have resources and skills to address this issue, small and medium businesses sometimes get stuck. The common problems seem to be:

  • Lagged understanding of the need to act and required focus on it – when is it the time or what can wait?
  • Prioritisations of the problems to solve – what to attack first and how much to bite.
  • Lack of resources (like money and time) and skills to start and deliver – who can do this?

When working with our small and medium business clients, we guide them and work through the following stages of Digital Transformation journeys:

Understanding the current position, the desired target states and the journey that faces the business.

The first step here is for senior management and stakeholders to realise that even growing sales numbers and customer base may not be sufficient reasons to continue BAU. Unlikely competitors moves come unnoticed, but what may be less obvious is the change of the customer attitude and expectations that lead to the competitors of the business having more new customers and lower operating costs.

Once the current picture of the business and the market strategy crystalises, the gap between these become apparent. The goal to bridge looks unpaved, complex and seems unattainable. There is not enough people and skills, neither there is enough money to cover that all. And this is exactly the point where many get stuck, paralysed, and just don’t move.

The trick here is not panic and keep moving. This is where the next step comes in. 

Practical tips:

  • Know your market – customer and competitors – and the dynamics. Be brave enough to realise and accept that you may start falling behind.
  • Get the right leadership to discuss the problem and form the goals.

Breaking one big problem into a series of smaller ones and biting the right size first.

The only way to manage complexity is to break it down into smaller parts. Building a house is complex, but it’s made of earthworks, foundation, frame, walls, roofing, electrical, plumbing, sewer etc. Each of these pieces of work is simpler than “building a house”, but all together they lead to the outcome.

Similarly, the transformation journey is not one giant leap, but a series of directed changes. Moreover, as the environment doesn’t remain stable, it’s a series of continuous changes. In other words, the transformation journey never really ends so one can stop and relax.

Once the long path is split into smaller steps, the most critical element is what to start with. Common sense suggests starting with solving the most painful problems when the outcome would be most game-changing. While this makes sense, this may be… too much to bite as a first step. The most painful problem to solve may be the most difficult one to address and without a good team who went through the difficulties of success – it may not be a lost battle.

Practical tips:

  • Break down the target “paradise”, “blue sky” vision into smaller iterative changes 
  • Choose a problem to solve first made the difference,  but not the most complex one 

Form the right team and find the right partner to deliver the changes. 

So, another critical element is where to find the right people. While any business has the subject matter experts who possess the best knowledge of the business and market, they may not have the experience to drive the change process and unlikely be the experts in the technology (remember, this is digital transformation?)

Based on our experience, and what’s aligned with the commonly reported success criteria, the team needs to be multidisciplinary including business experts, technology experts, customer experience experts and change leaders. Unlikely that would be ready in-house, so engaging with the right partners in the technology and delivery would be essential.

When it comes to the partners to work with, of course, everyone wants the best. The definition of “the best” may be a bit more tricky – would the best in fashion design be the best for agricultural business? Also, can you really afford top consultants with the daily rate of $4,000 and more who you’d need to work with you for a year, for example?

So, the right skillset and the range of the fees you can afford are important.

Should you then go shop for cheaper rates? When some companies offer very low daily rates (like $500 or even less), you may end up with a much higher actual costs and longer delivery times just because good skills don’t cost cheap. 

Technomancy is a small, hand-picked local team of experts in the technologies powered transformations and we offer competitive daily rates – get in touch with us here for a free conversation on your needs and advice.

Practical tips:

  • Ensure the in-house knowledge is leveraged, do not outsource your business expertise.
  • Find a partner that would be best for YOU. Get in touch with us, of course, to know more!
  • Form a cross-functional team and empower it!

Take the first step, complete it, measure the outcomes and take the next step.

Now you should have all the needed the goal, the team, and a plan – to move your business one step forward. This first step – project or increment – may not be an easy one and a lot would be learned.  Once complete though, you’d have two important results – the outcome you were after and the team with experience and relationship capable to deliver even a bigger change!

Here it’s important to focus on outcomes, not the formal scope or budget constraints. What would be better for your business – achieve the goal with a higher price or longer time or completely miss the point with technology not fit for the task?

Practical tips:

  • Deliver the first change, be ready to learn
  • Focus on the outcomes rather than deliverables and the long-term perspective rather than one-time hit
  • Measure the outcomes, celebrate success, and don’t stop.

The Digital Transformation journey is not something to be afraid of but be prepared and well equipped to take. This is also more of adventure as rarely everything goes as planned and a lot will need to be adjusted on the go. At the same time, it’s achievable, your competitors are already walking it and with the right partners and teams, anything can be achieved.

What is your challenge to solve? Share it with us and reach out – leave a request in the form or email at  

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