The digital transition takes place based on a company’s human and material resources. Explanation.
Digital transformation requires that an SME adapts its operations. Adjustments can be made to internal processes, customers relations and, sometimes, to the business model. In terms of processes, the company can, for instance, introduce computerized monitoring of production. Customer relations can be modified by introducing online ordering and maintenance configuration and management online.
If small and medium-size firms tend to have a greater ability to make rapid changes due to their small size, they possess fewer technical skills and have less time than larger firms. The question then is: what human and financial resources must SMEs mobilize? Here are some tips to make the most of digitization.
State of play with outside support
SMEs generally carry out an assessment of their degree of maturity (explained in the page Digitalization: a multi-step process). For that purpose, they can call on Swiss universities, on professional networks (umbrella associations, chambers of commerce and economic promotion circles) or contact digital consulting agencies and companies. Self-assessment questionnaires are also available online.
After evaluating the organization, the internal technologies and resources, SMEs must determine which new tools, machines, trade and skills are required to make the digital shift. This phase makes it possible to identify missing external resources. This gap can therefore be filled by the recruitment of new employees, the restructuring of the company or by purchasing new software or machines.
Before investing in the digital evolution of the company, it is necessary to calculate the impact of this process. The clarification of returns on investment implied by such a modification makes it possible to validate its necessity for the company. It is important that financials returns of the digital transformation process exceed its cost.
This investment varies according to areas to which digitalization applies. The digitalization process cost can range from CHF 10,000 if, for instance, it simply involves the purchase of a new software to several hundred thousand Swiss Francs if the digitization requires an investment in the installation of new machines or the recruitment of new employees.
The importance of training
In order to maintain the contribution of the digital transition of the company, it is imperative to update employees’ skills and knowledge. Given the speed of digital evolution, the obsolescence of employees’ skills is a threat to the attractiveness and competitiveness of the company. To pre-empt this risk, the continuous training of employees offered, for example, by Swiss universities in the form of conferences or workshops is necessary.
Sources: Articles in the SME portal published in the Actuel column, interview on August 2019 of Professor Cédric Gaspoz, Dean of the Institute of Digitalization of Organizations (IDO) and HEG-Arc.