Why Digital Transformation is Critical for SMBs

You don’t need anyone to tell you business is changing. You feel the pressure every day. It’s been said that you either lead, follow or get out of the way. Put another way, you either drive change or be driven by it—you decide. IT is the catalyst for business transformation in our digital age. In a world hungry for deeper intelligence, enhanced customer experiences and greater agility, you are sitting in the IT driver seat and can lead the charge for digital transformation and ultimately, business success.

The stakes are high. Cost, complexity and technology acumen remain obstacles for many organizations. Companies that don’t keep up with digital transformation could go out of business or be absorbed by a competitor within four years. Just think what might have happened to the corner video rental outlet or local bookstore chain if they had gotten on the digital bandwagon. How might those businesses be different today if they had adopted a better digital vision?

Business winners aggressively seek innovation and leverage technology for competitive success. And the numbers support this. According to Harvard Business School, digitally optimized companies perform better with higher gross margins and earnings than their less digitally advanced counterparts. While only 18% of technology IT budgets were earmarked for digital transformation in 2016, it will account for a whopping 28%  of budget in 2018.

While companies are leveraging new digital competencies to revolutionize product and service delivery, it is important to remember that digital transformation is more than a technology initiative. It represents the potential for real organizational growth by fundamentally changing business processes, customer experience and business agility.

Gaining Operational Efficiencies

We all know that increased operational efficiency can improve business results. So, we eliminate redundant processes, manual procedures and information silos. But one of the fastest ways to improve efficiency and innovate your business is through technology. Collaboration tools, mobility applications and access to real-time information will help your staff work more efficiently. But perhaps even better, you can also deliver services and products to your customers more quickly and effectively.

Let’s say you have employees who work from home or remote office locations that aren’t connected to your primary network. Did you know that newer technology makes it extremely cost-effective to put all of your employees on a single network? Implementing a cloud-based office suite, collaboration applications and gig-fast fiber connectivity are other good first steps to improve operational efficiency and move your company further along in your digital transformation.

Enhancing Your Customer Experience

Improvements in customer engagement are another important component of a company’s digital transformation. How can you leverage technology to make it easier for your customers to interact with you, and perhaps even more importantly, how can you enhance the customer experience so that your customers want to interact with you more often? It’s not just how quickly you answer your customers’ calls, but can you also solve their problems in a single conversation? Can they go online or use an app from their smartphone to purchase or get the answers they need? Identify where in your business processes you can leverage technology for better service, quicker ordering and faster delivery. Consider how more agile networks, better security or cloud computing could improve your customers’ experience and give you a competitive edge. For example, if your company provides Wi-Fi connectivity to customers, leverage their usage data to better understand their interests and buying habits. Or leverage cloud services to efficiently implement customer portals with self-service tools that improve the overall customer experience and buying process.

Business at a Faster Pace

Once you’ve achieved efficiency and customer experience nirvana, then it’s time to ramp up your innovation. How can technology enable faster product innovation so that you can more quickly seize market opportunities? Intelligent applications can help you evolve your network and cloud instances in a near real-time basis, making it easier to respond to customer demand, implement new services and explore new revenue streams. Let’s say your new product takes off and your website is bombarded with online order requests. Can your technology scale to handle the revenue influx at a moment’s notice or will you lose orders because your potential customers see spinning hourglasses or, even worse, your entire site goes down? Business-agile networks give you the power to prepare for and respond to scaling customer needs. You are more readily prepared for almost any scenario. Agility means being able to respond to anything … including power outages, storms or potential security breaches. Today, there are economical network and IT service options available for SMB companies to help you manage network agility, redundancy and security. It’s easier than ever before for a mid-sized business to have agile growth and redundancy plans for its network, applications and data. You can scale up and down at a moment’s notice to match customer needs or changing seasonal demands, all without a massive budget and a cast of thousands.

In summary, a business that is digital-ready can dynamically align with the ever-changing needs of the customer and better seize market opportunities. That means having IT networks, applications and communication solutions that promote agility and faster time to innovation, better security and greater operational efficiency and simplicity.

CenturyLink has the right technology to innovate your business. Visit centurylink.com to learn more.