Adapting to the ongoing digital era is no longer optional for small businesses seeking rapid expansion, but rather a necessity. In previous years, small businesses used digital transformations to maximise operational efficiency, revenues and profits, ultimately propelling the business to the next stage of the enterprise ladder. Recent developments with the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed the small businesses that resisted digitisation, aggravating the already visible digital segregation in the SME playing field.
A CISCO study surveying 2,030 SMEs across 8 geographical regions confirms that digitisation is the right way forward for small and medium sized businesses seeking recovery and growth amidst the global business disruption in 2020. With 44% of digital-resistant businesses on the brink of shutting down, whilst 46% of small digitised businesses are thriving, ambitious SMEs are being increasingly directed towards digitising their operations, as it has proved as an answer to secure proliferation and business continuity.
According to a report by the European Commission, 90% of small businesses think that they are lagging behind their competitors in digital innovation - a stunning figure for an issue which has seemingly clear and data-backed benefits. Why are SMEs holding back from digitisation? There is an interplay of factors addressing this question such as the inability to budget the change, uncertainty in strategies for digitisation and inefficient execution of digital initiatives. In fact, McKi suggests that inadequate budgeting is the primary obstacle of small business’ inability to drive digital innovation, advising SMEs to reconsider their budgets and invest in digital technology to reap their growth benefits.
What should research-based SMEs look for when considering implementing new software? In this article we will provide tips in selecting software that can aid in the process of scaling, focusing on important areas such as benefits of cloud computing and user-friendliness.
Setting the direction and planning the digital transformation at scale
A digital strategy is a fundamental component of an organisation’s business strategy. BCG estimates that 90% of digital leaders have integrated digitisation into their strategic planning. Transformations are intrinsically difficult but digital transformations are even more difficult due to uncertainty and lack of clear direction. In the world we live in, success never comes for free and obtaining value is never easy. Before embarking on this challenging journey, businesses need to devise an organisational strategy addressing the following questions:
- Where does the value of digital transformation sit in your organisation?
- How is digitization going to affect the ways the organisation will operate?
- What will drive the new business model?
Detailed planning of business strategy through management team’s effort to establish a clear change story for digital transformation is the highest success factor for a business seeking change. Strategising innovation cannot rely on previous data and successes experienced by an organisation. Instead, the new path has to be paved through careful thought and time put into continuous collaboration with the senior management team working through the best ways of implementing digital innovation.
Companies who drive digitised innovation want to divert away from current stagnating business models towards a flexible, agile and collaborative environment, where digital culture is intrinsic. For research organisations, changing the way data is managed can be the first step towards embracing this diversification. Engaging in new technologies which allow businesses to combine collaboration and technology is one of the tools which will help businesses achieve organisation-wide values.
Employ flexible and adjustable software
The point where strategy flows into execution can be obscure when experimenting with new ways of operating the company. Looking for ways to implement digitization, first consider the nature of the business and what is important to enable its rapid growth. A small company or a startup operating in a research-based environment will be going through various adjustments and significant changes in operations, management, sales etc. as it progresses through its development ladder. Such companies need to employ digital technology that will be flexible and adjustable enough to follow the business during times of change.
For R&D businesses looking to expand, converting to a centralised data environment that offers a suite of features applicable to the different operations of your business is advisable, as it allows flexibility and potential to grow.
Use intuitive software for ease of use and quick onboarding of new team members
Another factor that is often overlooked by SMEs is the importance of user-friendliness of software. When evaluating centralised software systems, consider how much of your employees’ time will go into the platform on a day-to-day basis and how much of that is due to actual workload, or due to clunkiness of the software. Modern, future-facing software companies spend a large number of resources on continuously improving the UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) and making their system as easy to use as possible, ultimately saving your employees time and frustration.
A modern and intuitive software interface also matters when you are hiring and training new team members. To make onboarding of new members as seamless as possible, design your software suite to be easily taught or to be intuitive to the point that it does not require tremendous effort to train up new staff.
Use Cloud-based and remotely accessible data management systems
According to a KPMG study in Germany, 64% of life sciences companies have acknowledged the benefits of cloud computing and already apply cloud solutions in their daily IT operations.
Cloud-based solutions are a good way of ensuring reliability and availability of data for people working remotely or across different teams. Using cloud-based solutions for data storage can improve the performance of infrastructure while reducing the cost of doing business. You can access this article to find out more about the advantages of cloud storage versus on-prem and off-prem solutions.
Evaluate the change
The majority of company-wide transformations aren’t successful. So, how does the senior management team beat these odds and come out on top? Seeing the big picture is one of the keys to success. A question to ask here is:
- Where is the organisation going to position itself within the industry ecosystem post-digitization?
During the execution of the strategic plan for company-wide digitisation, it’s important to set the criteria for evaluating how the initiatives are performing. For a research organization, this can be tracking productivity, research output or commercial sales. Adequately assessing the time needed to meet the proposed evaluation criteria is also key for finally reaping the benefits of scale.
Labstep is a provider of scientific data management software for R&D organisations across industries (Biotech, Pharma, Biology, Chemicals, Agriculture etc) who need to manage, capture, share and use data effectively.
The Labstep platform is an end to end flexible research environment that connects your notebook, inventory, applications and data in one collaborative workspace.
To learn more about Labstep’s lab inventory management module, get in touch. Contact us or book a demo today.