Digital transformation is just something for big business, right? Erm, no! In fact, it is not entirely true that larger organizations have the lead: many of the early movers were the disruptive startups that were digital from the offset. In fact, it is digital that has enabled them to become disruptive and forced their larger competitors to respond. Today, as more businesses and consumers move to digital technology, it is more important than ever for SMEs to consider how digital transformation can help them stay relevant and competitive. Here we will examine why.
Response to change
Changing consumer behavior, the evolution of new ways of working and the constant emergence of new technologies mean that SMEs need to adapt consistently and rapidly to change. Not only are more consumers moving online; they demand digital services that deliver better customer experiences. Meanwhile, employees are increasingly looking to work with companies that allow them to work flexibly and away from the office. In order to gain and retain new customers and talented employees, and to keep up with competitors, SMEs need to be able to quickly adopt new technologies, such as deploying remote work platforms for staff or personalization engines for customers.
To do this, they need to be flexible, and the digital transformation that makes this possible. In particular, it is adopting cloud technology, an infrastructure through which companies can deploy new servers and applications directly and which provides them with all the scalable resources they need to undertake their workload. Indeed, by migrating to the cloud, SMEs are addressing the need for expensive, internal infrastructure, making them even more resilient and putting them on an equal footing with their larger competitors.
Take advantage of AI
Artificial intelligence begins to permeate all areas of business and its easy accessibility is increasingly used in all sectors. Today, SMEs can use AI for many purposes. It can help find better ways to procure products or materials, make industrial processes faster and more efficient, monitor machine and system health, provide data that identifies new market opportunities, streamline logistics, human chat conversations provide with clients and identify risk, whether that is financial risk or risk to life.
An important element of digital transformation, AI is what most SMEs can get enormous benefits from. The good news is that adopting AI is no longer the most important technological leap it once was. Its popularity means that there are a growing number of both open-source and proprietary AI applications designed to integrate with enterprise systems – the majority of which are cloud-based. For SMEs migrating to the cloud, such technology is just a click away.
Being an SME does not protect a company against cyberattacks, nor does it remove the obligation to comply with regulations and ensure that data is secure. For this reason, SMEs need to develop a robust security strategy and put in place disaster recovery and business continuity plans.
Although ransomware attacks grab the headlines, there are several other ways companies can fall victim, such as through hacking, phishing, malware infection and DDoS attack. Data can be stolen, systems taken offline, websites taken over and money siphoned from company accounts. It’s a serious problem: 60% of companies that fall victim to a cyber attack within 6 months.
The growing sophistication of cyberattacks means that criminals can now purchase ransomware as a brute force service or software with built-in AI. As a result, SMEs need advanced tools to defend against them. The adoption of this tool is also an important element of digital transformation. However, providing this level of security in-house is not only expensive but requires expertise and this puts it beyond the means of many SMEs. However, in the cloud, both the expertise and advanced technologies such as next-generation firewalls, malware intrusion and prevention, etc., are part of the service. Companies will also find that suppliers provide solutions for backup, disaster recovery and business continuity to recover quickly if the worst should happen.
Data is essential for digital transformation because it provides the information that applications need to process to deliver enhancements. Today, companies collect enormous amounts of data, not only from customers and their online activity, but from the control of machines, cars, IoT devices, LED lighting systems, energy consumption, inventory systems and more. For digital transformation to work, finding the right storage solution for all that data is essential.
SMEs need to centralize data to control access, create customer journeys and ensure that employees have access to the latest versions of documents and files. As data grows, companies need expandable storage instead of the risk of rigmarole upgrading to a larger server when capacity is low. That storage must also be secure. Cloud storage is very fast, can be easily expanded, has security features like encryption and access control, and is more cost effective than buying dedicated servers. Importantly, in the cloud, it enables remote workers to access data wherever they have an internet connection.
More SMEs are undergoing digital transformation than ever before. Indeed, to remain resilient and adapt to change, it becomes a necessity rather than an ambition. However, it is a necessity that brings many rewards. The starting point for digital transformation lies in the adoption of cloud technology, because it is cloud infrastructure with its robust security and cost-effective pricing, on which the applications, tools and platforms of digital transformation run best.
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