Why going digital is key for SMEs amid COVID-19 and beyond

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses from varied industry verticals to reassess their business models. With social distancing and work from home being the norm, businesses have realised the inevitable need for adopting contactless operations for product and service delivery.

While authorities across the globe have announced swift measures to protect businesses including SMEs from perishing due to the economic impact of the pandemic, it is imperative for SMEs to endorse a digital approach for surviving and thriving in the post-COVID-19 era.

A question of survival

The ongoing pandemic has ascertained that digital platforms and tools can avoid a complete economic standstill for businesses in a crisis situation.  A significant chunk of SMEs who demonstrated their ability to swiftly adopt a digital approach survived in 2020 while others could not continue their operations and came to a grinding halt.

It is important to consider that while businesses vary in size and industry segments, going digital will prove to be a long term rewarding strategy irrespective of the differences. Digital platforms can empower SMEs to cut operational expenditures, automate business processes and considerably reduce the scope for errors.

Digital tools combined with an innovative strategy will also help SMEs become more competitive and better understand consumer behaviours.

The road to transformation

After a comprehensive detailing of ‘’why digital transformation for SMEs’’ comes the part of ‘’how to gear up for a digital journey’’ for small business owners. To begin with, SMEs need to redesign their business operations and zero in on mobility, data analytics, cloud and integrate these technologies across their processes. A credible, experienced technology partner in this regard can play a pivotal role in enabling an SME to deliver exceptional value to customers and thrive amid any crisis.

While SME heads have been sceptical about investing in digital solutions and strategies, the advent of the COVID-19 crisis has made it compelling for businesses owners to consider digital technologies to survive and evolve.

While transitioning towards a digitally powered business, SMEs should also look through successful case studies of businesses that embraced a digital approach and added value to their business models.

Small business owners should also focus on not just investing more but also achieving the full potential of their digital investment. A digital operational ecosystem will ensure that SMEs owners gain better insights, streamline employee operations and most of all enhance customer retention with better service delivery.

SMEs can also leverage Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms which were previously tailored for large enterprises only. With digitalization becoming mainstream there is a plethora of avant-garde, affordable ERP platforms available in the market today, customised specifically for SMEs. Enabling SMEs to integrate their key processes such as HR, finance, supply chain, e-commerce, etc., investing in an ERP platform will pave the way for small businesses to transform into an intelligent enterprise. With the ability to deliver from anywhere, anytime, SMEs can also largely mitigate the business impact of the COVID-19 era.

Ambitious initiatives like the Global Bharat Program unveiled by SAP to support SMEs in embracing digitalization via reskilling their workforce, enhancing business efficiency will also set the stage for a digital revolution in the small business segment.  The initiative will centre around transforming SMEs into future-ready businesses and tap on emerging, lucrative opportunities.

The future is digital

With the globe endorsing a digital economy, enterprises in the coming years will integrate digitalization in every aspect of their business. With cutting-edge emerging technologies including IoT, Artificial Intelligence, 5G, cloud computing, blockchain, Machine Learning, etc. reshaping the business dynamics, digital investment is not an option but a compulsion for SMEs today.

By Lakhya Pratim Baruah, founder director at Indigi Consulting and Solutions Pvt. Ltd


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