There’s been a lot recently about how digital transformation and automation are cornerstones of a robust business recovery. But why is this the case? How exactly do they help a typical small or medium-sized business (SMB)?
These are the things we covered in a recent webinar with Steve Roberts, Vice President of Sales, SMB & Nationals at SAP Concur and Christopher Blunn, Partner at Haines Watts, a national chartered accountancy practice. Christopher primarily works with owner-managed SMBs so he understands the time and resource pressures they’re under and how digital transformation can make a difference.
What is Digital Transformation?
For many people, digital transformation is simply about digitising documents that used to be paper-based or working out how to take manual elements out of business processes. Christopher’s sense is that this is missing a trick. For him, it’s about looking at the entire business process from end-to-end for every department. It’s understanding how to get all those processes talking to each other and how they can be made to work more efficiently and effectively, whether people are at home, in the office or on the road. By speeding up the processing of information in this way, business owners are equipped to make more informed and timely decisions.
Why Do I Need to Engage with Digital Transformation Right Now?
Of course, digital transformation can seem like a lot of work. And for many business owners, it will seem like too much to engage with right now because they already have far too much on their plate. Both Steve and Christopher acknowledge this reality. They also acknowledge that change is always hard.
However, Christopher’s experience is that businesses that have taken the time to work on streamlining and digitising processes see the benefits very quickly. Digitisation has been a long time coming and it’s rapidly moving from being optional to essential. If digitisation is going to enable the survival of a business, then it needs to be embraced quickly so the rewards can be seen sooner.
To take the finance function as an example, in a paper-based world, it might take 21 days for finance to get sight of an invoice, which is just a few days before it needs to be paid. This is a challenge when there needs to be much more control of cash flow and a detailed understanding of the financial health of the business. Automation speeds up this process, gives information in near real-time and delivers the reporting information businesses need to make decisions much more quickly. It enables them to be proactive rather than reactive.
Steve’s experience is that many businesses recognise the importance of digitisation right now. They are seeing the challenges of implementing it in the same way as removing a plaster – there may be some short-term pain, but it’s something that has to be done quickly and the benefits will far outweigh that pain.
What Are the Key Features of a Successful Transformation?
At the end of the conversation, Steve and Christopher discussed best practice for businesses considering digital transformation.
It’s easy to think it’s a project that IT needs to lead, but it’s worth bearing in mind that IT teams may not be close to the day-to-day finance processes that are being transformed. So while they need to be involved in terms of back end functionality, department managers who have an understanding of the processes involved need to take a lead too.
This taps into another essential – making sure you bring key stakeholders with you. Steve highlights research that suggests the optimum number of stakeholders that need to be involved. Too few and there isn’t enough buy-in to see a successful transformation. Too many and decision-making becomes too hard, which leads to paralysis.
Finally, both agree the value of working with an external consultant who can take a step back, identify the pinch points, look at the opportunities and help businesses commit to a process of change. Experts such as Haines Watts and SAP Concur are experienced in helping businesses to embrace the benefits of automation.
Hear All This and More
If these insights have whetted your appetite, you can hear everything Steve and Christopher had to say in their 30 minute conversation. Listen to the webinar Digital Transformation and Automation: How Exactly Does It Aid Business Recovery? or visit our Business Insights hub for other webinar topics that may be of interest.