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How can Digital Transformation serve SMEs? Pt.2

Ross Harling Mar 28, 2019 12:00:00 AM
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Are SMEs in a digital transformation ‘sweet spot’?

It’s not just cricket bats and tennis rackets where you find a sweet spot. Sometimes firms find themselves in a particular situation, quality, or combination of factors, that is the best or most effective possible for their goals and objectives. In periods of major change, one of the obvious advantages for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is that they are more homogeneous, usually less complex and more motivated to increasing value.

Therefore, it is likely that the focus for improving the take up of digital technologies AND adopting new management procedures will fall on SMEs.

Why SMEs?

The principal reason is that SMEs are the largest employers and producers of national wealth. On a collective basis, even a relatively small growth in SMEs quickly adds employment.  And, unlike global corporations, SMEs are far less likely to up-sticks and move their H.Q. to a more advantageous location.

“This is for everyone” – Sir Tim Berners-Lee The World-Wide-Web was invented 30 years ago this month (March 1989) and this famous quotation from its inventor is equally applicable to many of the new digital transformation technologies. As is his less famous statement: “It’s not about connecting computers, it’s about connecting people”

Historically, most SMEs were denied the top-to-bottom enterprise systems that corporates invested so heavily in. The eye-watering costs of such hardware and software were worthwhile if only micro-savings could be achieved from every one of millions of transactions each day.  The corporate goals at the time were not transformation or industry disruption but profit tracking and cost optimisation.

At last, the SME playing field is leveling

3 building blocks of digital transformation have opened up the availability and cost of vastly superior digital systems for SMEs: Cloud, Rapid Application Development and Software as a Service (or SaaS).

  • The Cloud means unlimited computing power and storage is available to anyone with an internet connection, anywhere, and on a ‘pay-as-you-need’ basis. So, no more finding cap-ex for servers and software, then worrying about installation and maintenance charges. Anyone with the simplest smartphone, tablet or another device can now access the Cloud via Wi-Fi and mobile networks.
  • Rapid Application Development (RAD). Gone are the days when a programmer had to become proficient in obscure technical languages. Then spend months overcoming limitations before partially meeting business needs. The I.T. mantra of the time was “You can have a solution good, quick, cheap. Just pick any two.” Now ‘Natural’ languages with simple logic like “If this happens, then do that” means anyone can describe what they want a computer application to do.
  • Software as a Service (SAAS): Combining Cloud access with faster easier RAD tools has created avalanches of new software, ranging from very simple ‘Apps’ to industry-strength SaaS products. Almost all are available instantly for low monthly subscriptions, or even free for restricted features or trial periods.

So, every business, small or medium, can now have as much computing “power-on-demand” as the biggest corporation.  Anyone can try out the 2.8 million Android Apps, the 2.1 million iOS Apps and every form of advanced business software from the 280,000 SaaS companies. You may already be using leading SaaS products like Office 365 and Salesforce without realising how much more is available.

Tailoring all of this to fit with the way your business works used to be a big expensive headache. Now there is a vast choice of SaaS products and most comes with standard interfaces. Components can be joined together, even if you have ancient ‘legacy’ software that still provides useful functionality. The magic ‘glue’ that allows this is called ‘APIs’ or Application Programming Interfaces. Cheap off the shelf APIs such as can literally glue together millions of software combinations. And if there isn’t an API that’s suitable, plenty of specialist companies will write one for a very low fee.

If you would like to understand how digital transformation applies to your business, and how you can embrace this new wave of technology read about our digital transformation services here, or get in touch.

In next weeks blog post we explore how SMEs have already benefited from Digital Transformations against big corporations.

Former CIO, Ross Harling, has helped numerous organisations with technology-driven business transformations. He has received numerous Business, Ethical and Environmental awards for his work in this and other fields. Since 2014 Ross has also been an Expert Evaluator for the European Commission on Business and Technology Innovations.