The mobile and digital revolutions generate each year millions of articles, studies or opinions by journalists, academics, gurus, consulting firms and think tanks that either predict what should be the future evolution, or identify and describe in depth best business practices in each context.
In all this literature there is a clear bias in favor of large companies, who typically are the subject of most headlines and case studies. Moreover, they are often the only ones that can implement the very resource intensive tips, taking considerable associated risks.
For example, the most prestigious headers on management and technology in 2015 have recommended incorporating digital profiles such as the Chief Digital Officer. But... how many SMEs can assume the cost of incorporating this position into their organization to keep pace in the digital age?
So, in this post we would like to outline 5 digital resolutions that small and medium enterprises should consider in 2016; but in a scale adapted to their reality, which is very different from that of large multinationals.
This post is also available in Spanish.
5 digital resolutions for SMEs in 2016
1. Meet and talk with your new digital customers
The experts we mentioned before often ignore SMEs in their analysis of the new digital economy, but all of them agree on an issue that applies to every company, regardless of size or sector: customers have changed.
The talks are on the extraordinary proliferation of digital natives and the increasing weight of the Millennial generation among consumers. In short, the change can be summarized in two fundamental variables: customers are increasingly connected and they expect more personalized products, services and communication by companies.
Multinationals can allocate large budgets to know and meet the expectations of these new customers, which SMEs can't do. However, they have other tools to study the behavior and demands of their new customers. One of them are social networks, which offer an affordable way to start conversations with customers and access this valuable source of information. However, the key is not limited to the conversation, but drawing conclusions from it that help make relevant business decisions and to be able to implement them.
2. Take advantage of the digital environment and the digital talent
SMEs often focus the opportunities of the digital environment solely from the perspective of marketing and sales: how can a SME be visible and easily sell online. That is certainly a dimension to consider, but not the only one, and not necessarily the most important for many companies, for which the digital challenge offers great opportunities in terms of business development.
For many SMEs, the hyper-connectivity and the lack of boundaries on the Internet is an extraordinary opportunity to find partners with whom to gain size, complement their value proposition or venture into new markets: highly valuable shifters which can be activated easily by sharing content or interacting with other users in a professional network.
At the same time, SMEs can take advantage of a fact that often goes unnoticed: not only their customers have become digital natives, many of their employees have too. Super-connected employees raise a great opportunity to increase efficiency, even in the smallest companies. It also allows deploying human resources policies with affordable costs, through which SMEs can achieve greater commitment and retain increasingly demanding talent.
3. Use the new ways to access alternative funding
The new universe of Fintech is made by companies that target a majority of SMEs, offering them new ways to access credit, different than those offered by banks. The advantages of these new alternative ways of getting funding are: speed, ease of access and cost efficient.
It is important that in 2016, European SMEs pay even more attention to what these equity crowdfunding or crowdlending platforms have to offer. Access to financing is a key vector of development in the digital economy for small and medium enterprises, and they should take advantage of it.
The progressive sophistication of these platforms, which are also increasingly regulated, has allowed them to diversify their offer to SMEs. The latter can not only use them for getting loans, but also for soliciting credit lines or discounting invoices and promissory notes.
4. Digitize and streamline processes with electronic signatures
Digitization appears often in articles on the new digital economy as a key process to ensure the survival of any companies. For SMEs it can be a vague concept, often associated with high costs and that raises a big question: where to start?
An easy step that can help begin the shift toward full digitization is to incorporate an electronic signature tool, which brings online the signing and management of contracts and/or authorizations.
By implementing an electronic signature solution like the one Signaturit offers, characterized by its simplicity of use and its strict compliance with the European regulations, any SME can start soliciting signatures and signing and storing signed documents online through any email service provider. Thus, processing contracts or documents only takes a few minutes, and the archive of all signed documents can be accessed from anywhere.
5. Leverage the cloud and the data analysis
Even the most revolutionary changes can be successfully implemented by any small or medium sized company, if managers know how to adapt them to the reality of their size, sector and market.
Moving large areas of a company to the cloud, using data analytics to take business decisions or having a structure to protect a company from cyber attacks are big decisions in the case of large companies. For them, these decisions require large budgets, quite a lot of time and dedicated resources. But in the case of SMEs, each of these changes can be accomplished without signifying an unrealistic cost, a big distraction from what really matters or the need to hire new employees.
The use of the cloud can begin by creating a free profile at Dropbox and systematizing the management and access to certain documents through this platform. Data analysis to make better decisions can be started by spending two or three hours a week collecting and analyzing metrics through Google Analytics, or by using social networks management tools like Hootsuite or Buffer. And to prevent cyber attacks, SMEs can get very inexpensive services, specialized in providing greater security to the digital operations of this kind of companies.
No matter how small your company is. The best of new technologies is that they are available to everyone without involving high risks and costs. So, in 2016 SMEs should get on track and maximize the opportunities these technologies offer to become more agile, efficient and competitive in their businesses.
This post is also available in Spanish.
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