The business tech that helps SMBs compete with enterprise companies
When you think “leveraging technology as a way to dramatically improve business workflows,” you tend to picture digital systems of the Oracle and SAP type, which involve complex, multimillion-dollar, years-long implementations and creakingly slow deployments. In other words, the kind of resources small businesses just don’t have.
It’s important to overcome the perception that digital transformation is too complex or unnecessary for smaller organizations. Fast-growing companies sometimes wait too long to invest in technology initiatives. But business technology has been democratized, and it’s available to businesses of every size.
Small business-sized technology can offer tremendous reduction in workflow friction – which is one of the best ways for any company to not just compete, but to grow. Speed and agility are absolutely critical to any company, but particularly for small businesses. The right technology tools, such as those that enable digital transactions can remove the friction and complexity of doing business manually.
That means you can streamline your business, boost your customer service, improve how your partnerships work, and make internal operations a breeze for your employees, freeing them to do the work that matters most to your bottom line. Embracing small business technology also frees up resources, which can be put toward other business initiatives.
Implementing tech, SMB style
Now that software services have been shot into the cloud, they can be deployed easily, without the help of a dedicated IT staff. And because small-scale deployments can be implemented faster, requiring less selling across departments and making it easier to vet and acquire solutions, your business can start seeing gains sooner.
Testing becomes a matter of designing a use case, deploying it fast, and deciding if it works for your company, before you move on to another solution, or embrace it wholeheartedly and deploy it company-wide – for instance, e-signature tools.
Make sure you build a process that can scale as you grow – and fast-growing companies should adopt digital transaction tools as early as possible to build processes that are bulletproof from the start: If you design your strategy so there’s no manual involvement, and build your processes correctly right from the start, you’ll be able to scale seamlessly.
If you have a good process and then enable that streamlined workflow with digital tools, communication is more transparent, timely, and accurate, and you can get the most from your interactions with partners and customers.
Customer-facing technology levels up
Companies often put off customer-facing system overhauls because internal processes can often feel more urgent. But when it’s time to tackle your business’s digital transformation, you should be starting with customer-facing systems and using those processes as a blueprint for your internal systems. Why? Because ensuring that your customers have the most seamless, engaging experience offers the most immediate results, which directly impacts your bottom line.
Sales is the killer use case for technology like automated document-based processes. Implementing a seemingly simple initiative like eliminating printed contracts and wet signatures in favor of e-signatures can slash the time it takes to finalize most contracts. And obviously, when you eliminate delays in the sales cycle, you make customers happier and you boost your revenue, and your growth. Because if your customer can get a transaction finalized quickly and seamlessly, they’ll leave happy – and be happy to come back. That means major competitive advantages, from a relatively easy business technology upgrade.
Business partnership boosts
Growing companies rely on partnerships to build their resources and expand their reach. Redesigning your partnership workflows by leveraging small business technology makes you a better partner. Digital communication technology offers efficient, dramatically more secure ways to interact with other businesses, for issues from change orders and master service agreements, to compliance documents, IP licensing, nondisclosure agreements, and more.
It can reduce approval processes, slashing unnecessary steps, help you keep track of the paperwork and the communication floating through your network (and let you know where you need to step in to push things along) and offer faster turnaround times, which means more efficiency, a better competitive advantage, and more finished projects faster – which makes for a satisfying ROI for your digital investment.
Transform internal operations
You need to be agile – and that happens when you stamp out manual workflows, procedures that rely on paper, and the ancient method of taking data from one system and rekeying it into another. When you implement technology to accelerate processes things like billing and collections, while actually reducing errors and manual mishaps, you see immediate financial results.
But there are sticklers for the old ways, folks who cling to their work habits, so transforming internal processes can sometimes mean the need to push against a certain amount of resistance. The best way to combat that is choosing a test project that offers a quick and easy win – something brutal, like the eternal on-boarding of new hires, can be simplified significantly. You also have to be clear and keep communication channels open at every stage – from idea through implementation and learning – to get everyone on board, and keep them there.
Start your digital transformation journey
Digital disruption is a thing, and it’s creating new opportunities in every industries. The lucky thing is that smaller companies that stay agile can have a major advantage, and be able to take advantage of those shifts more quickly and to greater effect. Designing good processes early on, and implementing technologies that help make those processes more scalable, can give small businesses the edge over more established competitors.
It’s time to design a road map of small digital transformations you can bite off to drive big improvements – they’re the changes that are going to propel your business forward, and they’re easier to implement than you think.
Learn more about CenturyLink’s range of small business solutions including cloud applications and business internet.
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