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Why Digital Transformation Matters Even for Small and Medium Sized Businesses



“The Internet is the future of the business world” is something that you can hear on every corner. However, I would have to disagree with that statement.

The digital transformation of small and medium-sized business is something that is happening right now. It’s nothing to do with the future. While you are reading this article, there are probably hundreds of new, cost effective technologies emerging somewhere which SMB owners can utilize to transform their businesses. Playing field is being leveled with the big businesses.

Are Europeans more talented entrepreneurs than South and South-East Asians?

If you ask European entrepreneurs what is the most important thing for their business, more than 60% of them will tell you – digital transformation. Even the smallest barbershop has its’ own Facebook/Instagram page and website, and are using at least an accounting software like Quickbooks to keep their financial records. We won’t even talk about the larger startups and which digital advantages they are using.

People from South and South-East Asia are equally talented as people from Western Europe. The main advantage of European entrepreneurs is that they are using the benefits of digital transformation as early adaptors. They simply know that using digital will reflect on the effectiveness of their business positively. They experiment with new technologies, take the risk of failures, and learn from the mistakes to move faster to the next stage. We, on the other hand, spend a larger amount of time evaluating the pros and cons of various tools we can use and worry more about the price we have to pay for the tools than the benefits we reap.


Why should SMB owners become part of the “digital world”?

There are many reasons how digital can help them to improve their business. We will divide them into 2 different groups:

· Improvement of business processes

· Digital marketing and advertising


Let’s explain them shortly.

Improvement of business processes

Digital transformation will allow you to improve human resource management, simplify business processes, do better accounting or any other kind of process important for the productivity of your business.

You know how tough it can be to handle everything on your own. You know how costly is it to hire talented human resources to delegate some of your work as a business owner. Knowing all these, why should you hesitate to invest some money in automating some of your business processes with technology?

It doesn’t matter how big your startup is. From my experience, it is easier to adapt to new technologies to improve your business processes when you are small. Once you grow big, once your staff gets used to doing things in a certain way, it becomes much difficult to challenge the status-quo. Cultural resistance from the staff is one of the biggest barriers for digital transformation at bigger business organizations.

Digital for marketing and advertising


Currently, when we talk about digital advertising, in Sri Lanka, we have over 7.5 million internet users. It is a large number of people amounting to more than 33% of the population, right? So, why shouldn’t you use that advantage?

Digital allows you to reach to your audience a lot easier than before. There are 6.2 active social media users in Sri Lanka. About 5.7 million of them are mobile users. Imagine how much time they are spending on Facebook, chatting with friends.

This is an advantage you have to use. If you find a proper way to reach them and grab their attention, you can get some amazing results!

Even more important thing for you is that you can reach any part of the country. It is just a myth that only urban people are active Internet users. There are so many digital users in rural environments.

For example, there are entrepreneurs that want to offer products to people from rural places. They don’t have to travel anymore to those parts of the country thanks to digital marketing. The only thing they need to do is to target that audience through their marketing campaign.

Start your “digital journey” with small steps
The first tip is that digital won’t bite you. Many people are afraid to start their digital journey because it is something new for them. They are not sure if they are capable enough to adapt to a new way of working. Believe me, there is no reason for that.

Still, there are several different things you should start with. They represent an excellent introduction to this "dangerous" world.

Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Slides

Does it sound scary? Maybe it does. The truth is, it is not anything scary or complicated.

Thanks to Google, entrepreneurs can now create documents, share spreadsheets and analyze data in a lot easier way by collaborating through Google Docs and Sheets.

By adapting to Google Spreadsheets (which comes free with every Gmail account) you can cut down on hours and hours of time you otherwise spend in maintaining various versions of Excel files among many people in your business. It’s a great collaboration tool to share information, work on simple projects.

Something I am sure you like the most is the fact that usage of Google spreadsheet is completely free. Of course there is an upgraded G-Suite for business with much more advanced features, but as a starter you can simply activate your free Google Docs and Google Drive service.

Google Hangouts and Skype

If you are a small business with regional outlets, how much time and money you waste for having meetings with your branch office staffs? Simply by using Google Hangouts or Skype, you can cut down on travel time and save lots of time and money.

And then there are businesses that simply need to contact people from all over the globe. Large telephone bills are something we would all like to avoid, right? Well, that won’t represent a problem anymore.

The only thing that you need to have is a good Internet connection.

Make Social Media Accounts

Making a Facebook page or an Instagram page is easy as that. You just need to name the page you want to make, to add necessary pictures (preferably logo of your company), some basic information, and the party can begin.

As we already said, there are more than 6 million active Facebook users. Instagram is a bit less popular, but definitely a powerful advertising tool. It has 1.1 million active users on a monthly basis.

Ask yourself, how many people are you able to reach offline? More importantly, how much time you need to spend to reach to those people? Answers to these two questions will give you clearer answers on why you should make the digital transformation of your business.

Conclusion

I encourage you to start with your digital transformation as soon as possible. Don’t hesitate because there is nothing to be afraid of. There are so many opportunities that are waiting for you to use them. Digital transformation is not a monstrous complicated process, as it may sound when people talk about this in big business conferences in Colombo. In fact most of those discussions about Digital Transformation are not practical for emerging markets like ours, and most of the speakers have not even tried those complicated technologies by themselves.

Instead of getting carried away by buzzwords, make a commitment to yourself to start small. Do experiment, most of the tools are free and there are good tools which you can subscribe for less than $20 per month. It may sound like costly, but the saving it brings you in simplifying your business processes is much more valuable than that.

Are you ready? What is the reason you didn’t start before? I would like to hear you!

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