Digital Transformation Challenges Small Businesses Face

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

Going digital is becoming an absolute priority for businesses trying to keep up with the modern consumer. Organizations that wish to stand out and be one step ahead of their competition are adopting new technologies across all internal and external departments to enhance their productivity and generate even more revenue. But many small businesses don't have the luxury of being able to afford the same level of digital transformation as larger companies. If you are thinking of making the shift for your small business, these are several challenges you must face and overcome: Only planning for the short-term A digital transformation is a long-term investment. Yet, some companies only plan for the first three to five months. In these types of cases, adoption is relegated to simply being a project task, which can threaten to undermine the money and time poured into the shift and the organizational disruption that the company had endured. CMS Wire also highlights how at the end of digital transformation initiatives, businesses make the mistake of not foreseeing and planning for project fatigue. Given how digital transformation involves so many people over a long period, exhaustion across the company is inevitable. End users will be left to adhere to the changes when the company reaches the go-live date and the external players are gone. To avoid this, you must ensure that you have dedicated sources in place so end users are properly equipped. Otherwise all the hard work done will quickly unravel. Lack of initiative Many companies fail to undergo a digital transformation from the get-go simply because of an apprehension on their part. In fact, some delay it up to the very last minute, and only implement new technologies when the competition forces their hand. Dustin York, a professor at Maryville University's online communications program, highlights a classic example of a company that failed to take the leap and lost everything because of it. Speaking to Information Week, York pointed to Eastman Kodak's struggle with the arrival of digital trends, which stemmed from their failure to be the pioneers of digital photos. They already had the tools and potential public support due to their reputation, but they were afraid of what digital would do to their company. If you happen to have an opportunity to introduce disrupting tech, don't hesitate too much before diving in. Kodak was too fearful to pivot to digital, so they were left behind by their competitors. Lack of expertise Sometimes, even if you have a plan to move towards digital transformation, you may still experience road bumps simply because you don't have the expertise and technology to push it through. Former SME and GOV consultant Ryan Raiker points out that companies new to the digitization process should seek out people with the skills that can assist them with coping with the challenge. Businesses, especially small ones and those just starting out, don't always come with the necessary expertise, making it all the more challenging to follow the roadmap they created for themselves. It is therefore of the utmost importance to hire an external consultant, so you can proceed with the digitization process the right way. As mentioned by Tess M. Adams in a previous post, hiring professionals does not only save you time, but it can also save you money and your reputation. It’s a short-term investment that will have a long-term impact on the success of your business. Budgetary constraints Digital transformations for small businesses sometimes go on the back-burner because of insufficient capital. Since SMEs are entities that prioritize cost and margin pressures in order to focus more on sales and sustenance, making it much more difficult to find the initial funds to finance the process. But businesses have to keep in mind that while there are budget constraints now, undergoing a digital transformation is not impossible. In fact, embracing a digital transformation is a good way to work around limited budgets in meeting the essential needs of scaling your business. For instance, while the key task of marketing may seem daunting considering the info-saturated news feeds of target audiences, it’s arguably easier to do in the digital age of remote work, online learning, and outsourcing. Forged under the remote conditions of the digital migration of education, today’s marketing and branding experts are trained to blend strategy with advanced technology, which has made them highly in-demand. For those who worry about being able to afford such an expert, the good news is that the competition has meant that you can find freelance specialists within your budget. An example of this demand is how top institutes now offer their marketing degrees as 100% online courses. The online bachelor’s in marketing degree at Maryville University teaches graduates the strategic, financial, and operational skills to be a social media strategist or a demand generation specialist. This makes them just as qualified as those with a regular degree. Even though you would be outsourcing, if you pick the right candidate you would be bringing in a wide skillset to your operations. The ability to easily outsource is just one of the many ways in which digital transformation has democratized spaces for communication for small enterprises. And with the right specialist by your side, whether full-time or part-time, you can easily pivot with the digital transformation in your own markets and industries. Outsourcing growth-essential tasks is just one way to work around budgetary constraints. Don't put your business at risk by plunging in and not thinking about budget issues – especially when there are plenty of workarounds in democratized digital spaces. It's best to develop a plan that includes several phases carried out over several years, so you can have more time to incur capital and invest in your long-term digital transformation.

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by Athena Cady

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