Published in The Business News on May 1st, 2023
For many, a digital strategy is as simple as deciding how many computers you need to buy for employees. Others incorporate a much broader scope, including things like customer facing systems, competitive analysis, and cybersecurity risks. Obviously, goals fluctuate a lot when you are looking at an enterprise financial firm, versus a small manufacturing shop. But the core principals should be consistent.
Everyone starts with a goal. You may be a smaller business today, but are you hoping to grow? There is no law stating that you have to grow. I know a lot of people, who are very comfortable in a lifestyle business, wherein they are getting everything they need in life, simply by sustaining their current levels. Awesome for them. Enjoy.
Others want more. We’re Americans and many of us have our eyes on the horizon, looking for bigger, better, faster, and richer. If you are one of those folks, you are driven by growth. Unless you own a technical business, growth may mean more machines or more employees, but it probably doesn’t consider the costs of technology, or the value to be derived from a digital strategy. That’s a mistake. Growth means cost, and growth without strategy means risk. Working to grow your company, without factoring in a digital strategy is like smoking your way through chemotherapy.
Your goal doesn’t have to be technical at all, but it should consider technical requirements. If you are a 10-million-dollar company and want to be a 50-million-dollar company, there will be technical investments along the way. As the business grows, you will need assets to support that growth. Does that mean internal infrastructure or cloud-based systems.
Where You Work
Does your goal include anything about additional facilities or employees working from home? How does travel factor in? That 50-million-dollar company may have customers outside of your current area. How will you handle that, technically? Remote workers and/or travel each present costs, risks, and rewards. Internal versus cloud-based systems is something to consider early. Laptops, mobile devices, telecommunications, and digital marketing also play into this scenario and must be considered in your growth/digital strategies.
What value do you want to provide for the customers of your 50-million-dollar company? Online access for your customers to order products, view invoices or collaborate? People love self-service options, that are simple to use and make their jobs easier. If that is something that your competitors are not yet doing, it could also give you a leg up in the marketplace. Taking a look at how your customer work and leveraging technology to make your business more appealing is a great use of technology. Consider sending a customer survey or simply asking them… “How can we provide you with more value?”
How about staffing for a business that is now five times larger? The struggle to hire is all too real these days and it will only get worse as your needs increase. If you are making sales to support growth but cannot hire to produce the products sold, you are asking for trouble. Can technology help here? Absolutely.
If we invest in automation, we could reduce the need for certain positions. Your digital strategy can also work to find efficiencies, allowing you to get more done, with less people. Do a process evaluation, to find out where your process times aren’t adding value, or where systems (or system upgrades) can improve efficiency.
Since we are talking about your people, let’s talk about training and hiring standards. Many businesses start because someone is good at something. As the business grows, employees are hired to handle the day-to-day activities of business, but not necessarily operations. Accountants, engineers, HR, IT… What are your standards for hiring? Valid ID, show up on time, a pulse?
You wouldn’t hire a carpenter, who doesn’t know how to use a hammer, right? You need to make sure that your employees are able to efficiently and effectively use the tools of the trade. Today, those tools are often computers, systems, and other technical assets. Those assets ARE THEIR JOB. Make sure that you are hiring people who are able to perform their day-to-day duties, given these tools. And, be prepared to provide your employees with training to keep them sharp and productive.
Most people see technology as cost, and it does cost money. The key is to insist on value for your investment and to evolve, as to take advantage of the opportunities created. Digital strategy is a necessary layer, on your business roadmap.