As the pandemic as highlighted all too well, there has never been a better time for firms to embrace digital, argues Paul Drake of software specialists Sapere.
With traditional ways of doing business thrown into chaos and social interactions kept to a minimum for much of the past 18 months, it became clear that there was a major market for software to fill the void.
Digital solutions have always had the capacity to make life easier, and never more so than when businesses found themselves operating in a strange new world of distancing and lockdown.
A simple example is the ability to sign forms and paperwork electronically; while this isn’t new technology, the adoption of digital solutions such as this has escalated over the course of lockdown.
The sharing of information also became a priority for businesses working remotely; with access required by all parties at all times, software helped to keep everything in one place.
Electronic document repositories, such as SharePoint and OneDrive, make it easier to find information, and businesses have had to find better ways of sharing this electronically.
Planning for a digital future can help companies of all sizes to streamline their workflows, create jobs,
generate new revenue streams – and gain that all-important competitive edge.
However, there is scope for digital transformation far beyond the sharing of office-based needs of sharing documents and CRMs.
As we saw, the arts, hospitality and leisure industries were particularly badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As all three rely on face-to-face contact and large gatherings, most such businesses have been closed for long periods over the past 18 months. Sadly, the impact will have been too great for some, and they will never reopen.
However, digital solutions had a part to play in this industry too, with live streaming, virtual audiences and online exhibitions all being utilised to allow some activities to continue in some regard.
One such example is the Tees Music Alliance, which develops and promotes live music events in our region and found itself at a crossroads during the pandemic.
The venue had been forced by Covid-19 restrictions to put a stop to its live events, which provide the organisation with its main source of income.
With traditional streaming options being too expensive, the team at TMA were looking for a cost-effective solution to allow them to share concerts safely, without the need for costly equipment or running costs.
The solution they found allowed them to stream live music to paying customers and generate much-needed revenue for the business.
Beyond the pandemic, such technology will allow them to continue to stream events anywhere in the world, boosting revenue in such a way that would have been unthinkable before Covid-19 made them think outside the box.
Change from the top
With the race to digital transformation continuing, in many cases borne out of necessity, one change I think needs to happen is tech experts being given a seat at every company’s table.
Small businesses, in particular, don’t tend to have the traditional boardroom setup, instead having relevant experts on the board to offer advice when needed.
For example, they may well have an accountant to advise them on the financials and an external HR expert to help with staff. However, they won’t have a digital expert to recommend the strategic digital direction of the business.
Therefore, for a business owner to understand what digital solution they need and how to implement them will be a huge challenge – and implementing the wrong solution can be almost as detrimental as doing nothing in the first place.
Because while it’s never too late to embrace new technology, I would never recommend rushing into buying any solution without understanding how it will fit with the rest of the digital applications already being used by the business.
However, while there is little doubt that the pandemic has led to a greater uptake of the digital solutions that are already available, it hasn’t necessarily translated into greater innovation.
While the companies that were already on board with digital may have fared better at the start of the pandemic, whatever firms choose to do is better late than never.
The benefits of adopting the right digital solution at the right time can enable a business to be more agile, ready to face whatever the world throws at them, and this will only increase once things get back to some form of normality.
That’s why a digital strategy needs to be built into every business, new or old, to truly harness the opportunities presented by advances in technology.