Read any report or study into how businesses can remain competitive today and you will come across the recommendation of ‘digital transformation’. Technology is now a growing part of our economy, attracting worldwide investment. According to the government, the UK tech sector attracted £6.3 billion in venture capital investment in 2018. It is therefore no surprise that they are keen for businesses to undergo digital transformation.
While many may have been resisting these changes, focusing on the simpler aspects such as going paperless, the pandemic changed everything. When the first lockdown hit, the crucial role that going digital can play in the survival of your business became abundantly clear.
While some businesses could continue operating with just minor adjustments, others were left scrambling to get the right technology in place. Even those who thought they were well prepared saw how “optimized automated systems in areas like supply chain management broke down when faced with rapid shifts in both demand and supply”. The pandemic also changed the way most of us work. According to The Workforce Institute at UKG, “the pandemic propelled 87% of the UK workforce into new ways of working underpinned by digital technology”.
But as businesses recover from the pandemic, focus needs to shift from digitalisation that can save your business, to how going digital can GROW your business. The main areas of focus right now are on integrating:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Internet of Things
- 5G connectivity
- Cloud computing
But what are the benefits of digitalisation? How can it help your business to grow?
The benefits of going digital
Digitalisation offers opportunities to improve speed, convenience, and efficiency. The benefits of these are multi-faceted and far-reaching, particularly when you consider the huge volumes of data it can also provide a business. However, here are a few of the major benefits:
Better insights – Data from digitalisation offers you many opportunities for better insight. It can reveal ways to improve business efficacies as well as allow you to offer your customers a more personalised experience.
Improved customer experience – Not only can customers receive a more personalised experience and take advantage of better customer service thanks to technology such as chatbots, but they are also increasingly expecting the convenience of a digital experience. For example, a review on e-commerce in the wake of Covid-19 found that it now accounted for 31.3% of total retail sales, up from 20.3%.
Employee experience – While remote working is not possible for all employees, and it doesn’t suit everyone, many found it far more convenient and flexible. It also saved on commute times. This kind of flexibility has been high on employees’ wish lists for some time. Going digital allows you to offer this to many of your employees. Not only that, but digitalisation can often improve their work too, making it simpler or giving them access to what they need when they need it.
Increased productivity – Going digital can improve productivity in all areas of the business, making it far more efficient. This covers everything from robust supply chains which are powered by technology to automated marketing campaigns that are more targeted and personalised.
More profit – The sum of all these benefits is that it creates more profit for a business. It can also open more opportunities for you, allowing your business to grow.
But if there are so many business advantages to digital transformation, why have more not taken bigger steps towards it? That’s because it’s not without its challenges.
The challenges of going digital
Just like any other form of change, going digital can be difficult. For many, it involves cultural change. While the pandemic forced these changes on employees and they may well be more open to the idea, learning how to do things differently, to implement and use emerging technologies, can be daunting. It might surprise you to discover this also applies to your IT staff who need to move from a mentality of using what’s available to creating something new for your specific needs. As well as the right training, staff need the emotional intelligence to cope with change.
It's also possible that you’ll need to recruit new staff who have the right skills to develop your digitalisation. This comes with its own challenges with talent shortages in the technology sector.
Then there’s cyber security and data protection. Back in 2017, The Economist claimed data was now the world’s most valuable asset. In March 2022, the government published its Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022. This found that 39% of businesses had experienced a cyberattack in the last 12 months, with 31% of these businesses estimating that they were attacked at least once a week. The challenges of protecting a business from a cyberattack can leave many reluctant to go digital.
There is also the cost involved, not only in cyber security, training staff, and hiring new talent, but also in implementing new technologies.
However, the benefits of digitalisation still far outweigh the challenges. But where can you get help and support in making the change?
How Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce can help
Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce is a trusted source of support and advice for local growing businesses. We understand the challenges you face, including those of digital transformation. One way we can help you is with advice regarding available grants and funding, which are not always widely known. These can help you overcome the financial challenges faced with going digital. Not only that, but our network of businesses includes those within the technology space. When you need advice or support, we can connect you with those in the know and help you find the talent and training you need.
Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce is here to help and support you overcome all these challenges so that your business can grow and thrive. If you’re looking to go digital to grow your business, discover more about our membership packages here.