Get Fit for Digital Business

Posted by: admin at 6:00 pm on February 27th, 2019

How to get fit for digital business – a new guide for SME leader’s

My new book is out today. It’s called Get Fit for Digital Business – a six step guide to getting your organisation in great shape to thrive in a connected commercial world. It’s a practical digital transformation guide for growth-focused leaders in every sector. It’s also a call to action.

Size matters

I wrote it primarily for leaders of SMEs – of any type, in any sector - because, although there’s plenty of digital transformation support for big businesses, leaders of small to medium sized enterprises have mostly had to figure it out for themselves.

In fact, most large organisations have been working away for a decade or more to retool, restructure and reskill for a digital age, ably supported by the major management consultancies, who themselves have been busy transforming for the digital business age. That doesn’t mean that they are all succeeding, but the leaders know that in a time of major disruption, such as the industrial or digital revolutions, it is those who fail to get the innovation balance right who end up losing their shirts and clearing their desks.

But while big businesses have been cracking on with their change programmes, many SMEs - those with a team of more than 10 but less than 250 people - have been slower to harness all the opportunities that a digital can deliver.

From doing digital to being digital

That’s not to say that SMEs haven’t adapted to digital, many have. Adopting the digital business basics (and often much more) has helped them survive. But often their digital mindset tends towards the tactical rather than the strategic. That won’t cut it for much longer. To thrive in the future every leader needs to treat digital as something more than a “bolt-on” to their traditional ways of working or risk gradually drifting out of shape, no longer in tune with the habits and demands of the modern connected customer.

But there are some formidable barriers for leaders to navigate. Lack of skills, time and financial resources to name a few. In ever changing market conditions, against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainties, it can be hard to effect change in the melee of day-to-day business as usual, particularly within SMEs where “all-hands-on-deck” is the rule rather than the exception.

Simple but not simplistic

As a result, in my experience SME business leaders do not have the time or inclination to work through a virtual MBA in digital transformation. But equally, they do want to avoid a long and expensive process of trial and error as they work to modernise their business approach for the 21st century. Over the years SME leaders have told me that want access to advice that’s low on jargon and acronyms but high on actionable steps.

The evidence that digitally mature companies outperform their less digitally savvy rivals is now well-established. If we were to dissect the digitally fit enterprises, we would see fundamental differences in the way they think, behave and act compared to more traditional SMEs. They treat digital as the main event rather than a side-show, the means to fundamentally change the way they work and how they deliver their product or service. In other words, they are not just doing digital but being digital at their core.

A call to action for SME leaders

That’s why, as well as laying out a practical programme for change, the book is a call to action. Getting fully fit for an increasingly digitised world, being digital rather than doing digital, is not something that can sit on the back burner any longer. It’s time for all SME leaders to act decisively because it takes time to get in great shape for the modern business world. It takes patience, persistence and practice to build the muscle memory for new ways of working. Old habits really do die hard.

Economic and political changes come and go. It’s always better to focus on the things we can control - like digital. We all know that it won’t go away. It has become part of the fabric of our society and will continue to reshape the way the world works – and with it, the world of work. Those who fail to get on the front foot risk a future as the squeezed middle, caught between new entrants who start from a digital-first mindset and larger organisations who have invested heavily in getting their digital business act together.

Digital has stacked the odds in favour of SMEs

The good news is that the odds are now stacked in favour of small to medium sized businesses. They are naturally closer to their customers, often more collaborative by necessity and less encumbered by legacy technology or complex hierarchies. That gives them a smaller turning circle than the business behemoths. They also now have access to the kind of tools previously only available to the big enterprises, made easily accessible and cost effective by delivery from The Cloud.

Think people before technology

But ultimately getting fit for digital is less about technology and more about people – leaders, employees, supply chain partners as well as - first and foremost – customers. The goal is to help those people use digital tools and technology more effectively, making it easier for them to collaborate and create more value together. Of course, technology is a pretty essential element, but it simply plays a supporting role as an enabler.

It’s important for leaders to remember that the machines we use in business don’t care who they work with or how they are put to work. But people care quite a lot. All change is stressful, even positive change, because it takes us out of our comfort zones into the unknown. People can be understandably nervous and often that presents as resistance.

So, as well as providing practical advice for leaders on where to start and what to prioritise, the book will help leaders ensure they are bringing their people with them. It will help them identify the new skills, tools, processes, business habits and techniques that are specifically relevant to their enterprise and their customers. Most of all it will help them effect real change in environments where resources are limited and the pressures of business as usual remain.

I don’t believe that leaders need to be experts in all areas of digital to drive change. They simply need to be good leaders, adapting themselves and their organisations to meet the demands of an always on digital marketplace. Any leader willing to ask the right questions and take a planned approach can make it happen. They can inspire their team to buy in, contribute and collaborate to modernise their business and secure its future.

Digital transformation really is like getting fit

Like getting physically fit, getting an organisation into great shape for digital takes some commitment and application. It requires planning and prioritization. But it should also be an enjoyable business reboot; an energising exercise of developing core strengths, speed and agility - one that will create an enterprise that performs and feels better in every department.

Today that is the path to faster growth, increased productivity, less waste and bigger profits. Not only that, but it is the only way to create a healthier, wealthier business that is better to lead, buy from, work with and work within.

Get Fit for Digital Business – A six step guide to getting your organisation in great shape to thrive in a connected commercial world is available from Amazon, direct from the publishers Routledge or all good bookshops.