Effective Digital Transformation strategies for SMBs

Mansoor Sarwar, Regional Technical Director at Sage Middle East, shares his thoughts on how SMB’s should embrace right business management solutions to usher in digital transformation.

Mansoor Sarwar, Regional Technical Director, Sage Middle East

In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), artificial intelligence, automation, and data analytics are proving invaluable. The innovative use of technology has the potential to jumpstart productivity and efficiency – even for small and medium businesses (SMBs).

However, many SMBs are still trying to find their footing and not get left behind. It is largely due to their belief that implementing such technologies is too expensive and they lack the right talent to carry out the change.

Therefore, the right business management solutions to facilitate digital transformation are necessary to enable SMBs to reap the benefits of Industry 4.0.

It’s important to bring all business functions together – purchasing, sales, customer service, financial management, etc. – to enable business leaders to create a unified system. A smart business management solution should be able to effectively manage finances and cash flow by offering easy control of the business anytime, anywhere. It should also enable collaboration among colleagues to share the workload, and automate processes wherever possible to improve efficiency and reduce the burden of admin tasks.

Compliance is another ever-present concern for SMBs, especially in the GCC region, which recently introduced value-added tax. Choosing a business solution that can align processes with local regulations is critical.

Future-focused SMBs can identify the right solution for their needs through developing a winning Industry 4.0 strategy that focuses on four pillars.

The first pillar is getting the right people to support the business. Industry 4.0 commands a significant skill shift to explore the full potential of new technologies. And experts don’t need to be full-time hires – contractors are also an option for SMBs, as they provide expertise on demand.

Next is connecting with the right software partners to supply and support integrated systems that link the core functions of the company – inventory, production, sales, accounting, and finance. Most business software is equipped with business intelligence – it’s not exclusive to larger enterprises with bigger budgets. The software pillar is key because it can help business leaders make more informed decisions that impact the bottom-line and deliver on customer expectations.

Thirdly, Industry 4.0 is about humans and machines working together in sync, so updated hardware plays an essential role in digital transformation. Even the most advanced technology is only as smart as the device on which it is deployed – be it a mobile phone, tablet or PC –   so SMBs should invest in hardware that will help them increase productivity. If budgets are an issue, upgrade the most important hardware first, then gradually replace the rest on a schedule that works for the business.

Finally, connectivity is the cornerstone of any Industry 4.0 strategy. Without it, the Internet of Things wouldn’t exist, while artificial intelligence and automation would face severe limitations. A fitting analogy to understand the potential of connected data is to compare it to a power source that drives innovation the same way electricity revolutionized human lives in the past.