Can Your Company Survive in a Digital World?

Digital Collaboration
Tom Solid

Tom Solid

In the world of business, everything is being influenced by the digital revolution. Technology and the internet have either contributed to the explosion or disruption of businesses around the world. There’s almost no business out there today that can get away with not being digital, at least, not for long. “Virtually every Forbes Global 2000 company is on some sort of digital transformation journey.” -Michael Gale, partner at PulsePoint group and founder of Strategic Oxygen. When I say “going digital”, what exactly does that mean?

Digital can have many facets, but for the interest of this article, we will narrow it down to two: internal business operations, and having an online presence.

Inside a company, there are things like files, workflows, and communication that can benefit by moving from paper to digital. Transitioning your internal files, systems, and processes to a digital format can increase your bottom-line by reducing errors and increasing efficiency. Having an online presence through a website, social media platforms, and email marketing can make the difference between success and failure in a business. As more and more consumers turn to the internet for socializing, entertainment, and shopping, businesses will have the opportunity to connect with these potential clients and become a part of their “online” world.

To give you an idea of how this might play out in a real business we’ll look at an old-school insurance agency:

This type of business is run by an insurance agent who gets customers by running ads, cold-calling, and referrals. They have a brick and mortar office where clients come to learn about insurance policies, sign documents, and receive customer service. This office has paper files containing all of their customer information. There is no system for internal communications or a systematized workflow that can be accessed from a centralized location. This results in less-than-optimized operations as each employee does their own thing (and they usually only communicate or collaborate when something has gone wrong).

Now compare this business to an insurance agency with digitized operations and an online presence:

Digital insurance agencies can still get clients through ads, cold-calling, and referrals, but the bulk of their customers come from online searches. They can still meet clients and sell in person, but they can also close sales and sign documents online. And the same can be said for customer service, making payments, and the client’s ability to view their insurance policies in real time.

Since file storage and internal operations are digitized, information and processes can be accessed in seconds resulting in more efficiency and fewer mistakes.

So what does this mean for the future of brick and mortar businesses?

Since so much of our commerce is shifting to the digital realm, does this mean you can’t have a brick and mortar business?

No. It just means that in order to stay competitive, you need to have a streamlined system that increases efficiency for your business, and convenience for your customer. You also need an online presence for marketing, sales, and customer interaction.

The old way of throwing out some advertising and tracking average monthly sales has merged with sophisticated systems like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. These highly specialized programs can track the journey of individual customers; from their interactions with your brand on social media, to how often they purchase and which payment method they use.

Businesses use this highly focused data to create loyalty programs and reward their best customers with coupons and special promotions. They also use the data gathered from CRM software to help predict income trends and make the needed adjustments.

A CRM is only one of many digital advantages businesses can use in the quest to become digital.

So what does this mean for the future of brick and mortar businesses?

  • Digital file storage systems with search functions
  • Calendar and scheduling systems
  • Task apps and programs
  • Customized email systems that integrate with calendars and task lists
  • Digital document signing software
  • Virtual meeting programs
  • Invoicing and payment software
  • Accounting software and programs
  • Inventory Management System with integrated Point-of-Sale software to coordinate ordering supplies, receiving shipments, and maintaining in-house stock
  • Webcam-Enabled Monitoring systems to ensure security and employee compliance
  • In-store iPad kiosks and tablets to streamline the customer ordering process and increase credit card privacy
  • Using social media to engage with customers
  • Optimized website with responsive customer service and detailed FAQ
  • Comprehensive Analytics

This huge list of possible digital upgrades a business can adopt is only a fraction of what is available.

The seemingly endless applications can leave a business owner feeling completely overwhelmed. Being unclear on where to start, many companies make half-hearted attempts at integrating digital into their business, only to abandon it later.

How can a company begin to make the transition to digital as painless as possible?

By far, the most important step a company can take in the digital transformation journey is to hire a specialist to analyze the company’s needs, draw up a plan for which software and programs to use, and implement the transition with the company’s current OS and employee workflow.

This specialist can be an in-house Chief Digital Officer, or an external company that specializes in helping companies transition to digital. Each option has advantages based on the size of your company and the size of the job.

The CDO or digital transformation company will analyze the needs of your company and then draw up a plan.

Here is a brief outline of what this process might look like:

1- Analyze the workflow of the company. Look at the available software and create a workflow that is easy for your team to use and adapt to.

2- Digitize paper files and create a reliable backup schedule and location.

3- Select specialized software and programs for your unique business needs such as: a CRM system, inventory management system, collaboration software, etc.

4- Digitize processes such as inventory, invoicing, ordering, and receiving shipments. Automation in these areas reduces errors and increases efficiency.

5- Choose the online components to your digitization. This includes a website, online ads, email marketing, online marketing, and engaging with customers through email or social media.

6- Analyze the company’s security needs, to protect customer information and internal communications. For example: Be aware of which apps and software use cloud services for storage. Avoid those options if cloud storage goes against your company’s privacy and storage regulations.

Conclusion​

The final component of the move from paper to digital inside your company is giving special attention to the attitudes and habits of the employees.

Most people resist change. This includes employees who can be deeply attached to their personal systems and processes.

When team members resist change and refuse to adopt new systems, workflows, or technology, they can sabotage the best laid plans at digitizing your company, and leave you more frustrated than before the transformation began.

Special attention, care, and training must be given to your employees to make the transition smooth.

This can include personalized training in software and workflow systems, dedicated meetings to hear employee concerns, and brainstorming sessions with employees to help them feel like they are a part of the process instead of victims of change.

Adding emerging technology to an existing business can be a big job. But the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. With the help of a skilled CDO or a digital transition company, and a committed team of employees, it can be done.

You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your company is up-to-date and operating at the current level of technology.

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